Wednesday, September 20

Looping, Part 3: The 1980s

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Following is another installment in John Coyne's caddie series. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.


LIFE FOR A PROFESSIONAL CADDIE in the 1980s wasn't an easy gig.

As Mike Carrick explained to me, "You have to figure on paying at least $600 a week in expenses. Now if your player doesn't do well, then there is no way you can make back those expenses even if you're sleeping five or six in a motel room. It was a tough life on tour, unless your player was a winner."

Still, there were always 30 or 40 too many caddies going from tournament to tournament, hoping to grab a permanent bag.

Carrick had a winner and he worked hard for Tom Kite, who played 35 weeks of the 50-week PGA Tour. These, however, were long weeks, and required more skill than just being able to carry a golf bag.

While the pros took Monday off, or played in an exhibition match, their caddies were driving their cars or vans, filled with extra clothes and golf equipment, to the next event. Once there, the first job of all caddies was to walk the course with "The Book," which consisted of a diagram of each hole, marking the hazards, yardage from each sprinkler head, and location of bunkers, trees, and greenside traps.

In the early 80s The Book cost $10 and was designed by George Lucas of Florida, a former caddie who called himself, "Gorgeous George." While most caddies kept their Book from year to year, Lucas sold at least 150 new Books at the major tournaments that changed sites every year. Also, he updated his Book, and bought back old ones for $5.

On Tuesday the players arrived for a practice round as well as several hours of hitting balls and practicing putting. Carrick arrived on the course at eight o’clock in the morning, since Kite always played early on Tuesdays, and he didn't leave until eight o’clock that night. Wednesdays were Pro-Am events, and more hours spent practicing.

On tournament days there were always more hours of practice and Carrick was also available for Kite to run any necessary errands for his pro.

But the lives of professional caddies was about to get better. 

TO BE CONTINUED.

John Coyne is a bestselling author who has written several books about golf. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

Tuesday, September 19

Playing Golf in the School Cafeteria and Gym

By Fusion Media Strategies

AS SCHOOLS ACROSS THE COUNTRY welcome the return of students, TGA Premier Golf (670,000 participants to date) will be front and center with over 55,000 youngsters (ages 5-12) registering this fall for its school based golf enrichment programs. Among those registering, 65-70 percent of them and their millennial parents have never played the game before.

“TGA (Teach Grow Achieve) Premier Golf fills a void in the industry by delivering introductory programs and bringing the sport directly onto school campuses while solving junior golf’s primary barriers to entry: accessibility, cost, time, transportation and fun,” CEO Joshua Jacobs said.

The fastest growing junior golf program in the industry is bucking the mainstream trend of how to grow participation. By vesting local stakeholders to grow golf through a unique youth sports franchise model, TGA is growing faster than industry programs such as PGA Junior League (33,000), Youth on Course (18,000), and Drive, Chip, Putt, and at the same time becoming a significant feeder program into each of them.

Friday, September 15

VIDEO: Jason Day Explains Caddie Switch in Locker Room at BMW Championship



JASON DAY HAS REPLACED LONGTIME CADDIE Colin Swatton, a shock to Swatton and much of the golf world after more than a decade of toil on the fairways.

Well, guess what. Day is the current leader at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms. He fired a 64 in the opening round and followed with a 65 on Friday, for a total of 13 under.

Friend Luke Reardon is on Day's bag.

Wednesday, September 13

Golf on TV: Evian Championship (LPGA's Fifth Major) on Golf Channel

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From a Golf Channel press release.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The world’s top female professional golfers are converging upon Evian-les-Bains, France this week for the LPGA Tour’s fifth and final major of 2017, The Evian Championship, Thursday-Sunday, Sept. 14-17. Golf Channel and NBC will combine for nearly 25 hours of tournament coverage, the most ever for the major championship.

The Evian Championship will feature the preeminent players in women’s professional golf, with nine of the top-10 in the Rolex Women’s Rankings scheduled to compete, headlined by No. 1 So Yeon Ryu, No. 2 Lexi Thompson and defending champion In Gee Chun.

BROADCAST TEAM: Terry Gannon and Tom Abbott will rotate play-by-play duties the first two days. Hall-of-Famer Judy Rankin will join Gannon in the broadcast booth, and major champion Karen Stupples will join Abbott. Richard Kaufman will report from an on-course tower, and Jerry Foltz and Sandy Mackenzie will walk inside the ropes as course reporters.

DIGITAL COVERAGE: All four rounds of The Evian Championship will be streamed live on Golf Channel Digital. NBC’s coverage from Noon-1:30 p.m. ET also will be streamed on www.NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

NBC Sports Group (Golf Channel) Evian Championship Airtimes (all times Eastern)

Thursday, Sept. 14
First Round
5-8 a.m. / 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 15
Second Round
5-8 a.m. / 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 16
Third Round
6:30-11:30 a.m.

Sunday, Sept. 17
Final Round (Golf Channel)
5:30-11 a.m.
Final Round Special (NBC)
Noon-1:30 p.m.)

Tuesday, September 12

Looping, Part 2: Angelo Argea, 'Rabbit' Dyer, 'Killer' Foy, 'Gypsy' Grillo and Other Caddie Characters

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Following is another installment in John Coyne's caddie series. Read Part 1.

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.


ONE OF THE FIRST CADDIE "characters" to emerge was Angelo Argea, the silver-maned Greek and former Las Vegas casino hanger-on, who began to caddie for Jack Nicklaus in 1963, Nicklaus' second year on tour.

Argea had gone from Las Vegas to California to caddie for one of the Desert Inn owners at the Bob Hope Pro-Am, but when there was a shortage of caddies the following day for the tournament itself he was asked to sign up for one of the touring professionals. Argea chose Nicklaus, having heard the pro was suffering from a hip injury and might not show so he could be on his way back to Las Vegas.

But Nicklaus did play, and won, and Angelo Argea found a new career and life away from the gambling tables of Las Vegas.

I ran into Argea when the 1976 PGA Championship was held at the Congressional Country Club near Washington, D.C. As a former caddie writing an article for the Washingtonian magazine that was published in 1976 and entitled, "Caddy Calls Gary Player a Donkey!", I naturally gravitated to where the caddies were gathered when I arrived at the club. They were sitting out in the sun near the putting green, watching their players practice.

Argea was entertaining everyone within hearing distance, talking to strangers, chatting up pros, kibitzing with all the caddies. He had by then developed a friendlier reputation than Nicklaus, who was always accused by golfing aficionados of not smiling enough, and also, of beating Arnold Palmer too many times.

There were other "characters" at Congressional that day. One was Hale Irwin's longtime caddie, Sammy "Killer" Foy, a retired fighter who once boxed at the middleweight level and claimed to have knocked out Sugar Ray Robinson. Killer was famous for his hats and he varied them, depending on the tournament. That day, though, he was out-flashed by Gary Player's caddie, Alfred "Rabbit" Dyer, who was known for his sweeping panamas.

As I talked with Bruce Edwards about how Watson was playing, Rabbit, a tall, slim, good-looking African-American, was discussing in detail the outfit he planned to wear at the next day's practice round, the only time that caddies could deck themselves out. Once a tournament started, they'd all be wearing official uniform bibs for the event, stenciled with the name of their player on the back.

If I had been 14 back in 1976, it is possible I might still have had a career
as a "Bag Rat," what caddies called themselves in those years.

Today, professional tournament caddies are mostly college graduates with families and careers. But it was not always that way. Joe "Gypsy" Grillo, who I met in 1988 at the PGA event at Westchester Country Club, started caddying in the mid-sixties, and remembered being considered a third-class citizen.

"We had no identification system," he explained, "could not even get on the course without our players signing for us, and never could get anywhere near the clubhouse or locker room."

Grillo at first bounced from bag to bag, caddying for whatever pro wanted him. Then he got lucky and teamed up with Jim Simon, who during the late seventies and early eighties finished in the top 30 on the tour several years in a row, earning over $100,000 in 1981.

Also coming on tour about that time was Mike Carrick. Unlike Gypsy, who had been a full-time chef before going on tour, Carrick had graduated from college in Canada and taught physical education before he joined the tour in 1971.

Carrick picked up whatever bag he could until 1980 when he got together with Tom Kite. Carrick would go on to become one of the best-paid caddies, thanks to Kite's winnings of nearly five million dollars over the next decade. Carrick, in 1989, took home somewhere in the range of $80,000 based on a percentage of Kite's winnings that year and his base salary.

Unlike the former "hoboes" on tour, professional caddies like Edwards, Grillo, Dyer, and Carrick brought to their players reliability and steadying influence during the tournament, as well as a knowledge of the golf course and their player's abilities. In the middle of the fairway, framed by a densely packed gallery, the player has only his caddie to turn to. A yardage mistake by a caddie can mean the loss of a championship and thousands of dollars.

Bruce Edwards told me the story of how he knew he was in tune with Tom Watson during their first weeks together. They were playing the No. 2 course at Pinehurst in North Carolina and Watson had just birdied the 15th, 16th, and 17th holes. On the second shot into the final green, Tom asked Bruce if it was a 1-iron or a 2-iron to the pin. Knowing how pumped up Tom was, Bruce was afraid he'd overshoot with the 1-iron; he told Tom to go with the 2-iron and Watson drilled the ball within 15 feet of the hole, then made his putt for a brilliant score of 62.

"I knew then," Edwards said, "that I was part of his team. He had taken my advice and I had been right."

TO BE CONTINUED.

John Coyne is a bestselling author who has written several books about golf. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

Monday, September 11

VIDEO: The Presidents Cup 2017 Journey to Liberty National



THE TEAMS ARE SET AND THE 2017 Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey, starts in less than three weeks. The above video covers a brief history of the event.

Liberty National will be just the fourth golf course in the United States to host The Presidents Cup, joining Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Prince William County, Va., (1994, 1996, 2000, 2005), TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, California, (2009) and Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio (2013).

Thursday, September 7

VIDEO: Justin James Unleashes 435-Yard Drive to Win Volvik World Long Drive Championship



From a Golf Channel press release.

Justin James claimed his first World Championship victory after connecting on a 435-yard drive in the Championship match against Mitch Grassing (Ottawa, Ont., Canada). James – who becomes the new World No. 1 with [last night’s] victory – acknowledged his father Gerry afterward, a past World Long Drive champion in his own right in the Masters (age 45+) Division.

“They always say – when I watch games – ‘there’s no words’ and I think they’re stupid,” said James.” But now I’m the stupid one because there’s no words to describe this. It’s the best thing ever. I’m really happy to win for my dad. He never got this one, and I think he deserved it. So I’m really happy to be able to pull that one out for him. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be doing this.”

The victory was James’ third of the season, following his win at the Bluff City Shootout and Bash for Cash events earlier this summer.

Wednesday, September 6

Looping, Part 1: Bruce Edwards in 'Hog Heaven' and Caddying in Hogan Era

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.

IN MY TEENAGE DREAMS I AM STRIDING up the final fairway in the U.S. Open, matching my gait to the cheers that echo from the huge gallery circling the 18th hole. At my side is either Hogan or Snead, or sometimes Bobby Locke. And on my back, I'm lugging 40 pounds of irons and woods.

I never dreamed of winning the U.S. Open. I only wanted to caddie for the winner.

That was the dream of every kid who spent his childhood "looping" for rich members on the green lawns of luxurious country clubs, when golf carts were not yet invented and caddying double for 36 holes on a single day was like hitting the numbers in the lottery.

Though I dreamed of caddying for a champ, I didn't think of caddying as a profession. From the early thirties through the late fifties, caddies who followed the tour were one step up from being hoboes.

Well, times have changed.

Those tall, slim, good-looking blond guys you see today, carrying the bags for the tall, slim good-looking blond golfers, are living the good life, flying from one PGA Tour event to the next, signing autographs, and spending their days inside the ropes, on center stage with the pros.

Yes, times have changed.

'Hog Heaven'

Bruce Edwards and Tom Watson
in Dallas in 1975.
The first and most famous of these new caddies was Bruce Edwards who looped for Tom Watson until diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease in 2003.

Edwards' career began in the summer of 1973, when, fresh out of high school, he picked up Watson's bag at the St. Louis Classic. Watson was only 23 himself, a Tour sophomore who had not yet won a tournament. That week, Watson earned $6,500, and 18-year-old Edwards made $300. "I was in hog heaven," he told me.

His wealthy Connecticut family felt differently. His brother and sisters had gone on to college, and Edwards' caddying career, he said, "made him a black sheep at home."

That perception soon changed. Edwards had caught the right player at the right time and before he was 21, Bruce was earning $25,000 a year. Watson was named golfer of the year from 1977 through 1981, and throughout his long PGA Tour career Watsom made millions, while affording Bruce five percent of those winnings as well as a slice of Watson's fame.

The culmination of this pro-caddie relationship in many ways came at the 2003 U.S. Open when Watson and Edwards worked their way up the 18th hole at Olympia Field on the way to a 65 that put Watson in contention for the tournament, and spectators, flanking the fairway and knowing of Edwards' recent medical diagnoses, stood and shouted, "Bruuuuuucce, Bruuuuuuce" to honor and recognize Edwards' contribution to Watson's great career.

But to appreciate Bruce Edwards and other professional tournament caddies, you'd have to have been there, back in the forties, when golf was glamorous and caddies definitely were not.

Earlier Days

I got my first taste of what life might on tour when I was too young to caddie, but old enough to sneak under the fence surrounding the Midlothian Country Club in suburban Chicago to follow my older brothers as they caddied for the likes of Middlecoff and Ed Furgol and I was able to watch the legendary Bobby Locke win the 1948 Victory Open.

Locke won $2,000 and Kenny Burke, a friend and another Midlothian caddie, who was 13 years old that summer, earned $75 for a week of looping.

Later, I had my chance to caddie at the famous Tam O'Shanter Country Club, west of Chicago, carrying the bag of Midlothian's own club pro, Tony Holquin, who finished second in the All American Open, the closest I ever got to the winne's circle.

Still, I was just 14 and rubbing shoulders with great players, and hanging out in the caddie shack with a few old guys who traveled the country as professional caddies. They were wizened little guys with faces tanned from long days in the sun: they always appeared to be smoking two cigarettes at a time as they squinted down at us short-haired, shirt-tailed kids, who loved to listen to their stories of life on tour.

They regaled us with tales of Ben Hogan and Julius Boros, as well as Ed "Porky" Oliver, ice cool Lloyd Mangrum, and Doctor Cary Middlecoff. We had only read about the 9th hole at Pebble Beach, or the 18th at Olympic Country Club in San Francisco. They had walked those fairways and also brought home Ralph Guldahl, a winner at Cherry Hills and PGA Champion Jimmy Ferrier at Plum Hollow.

As thrilled as we were by those stories, it never crossed our minds to go on tour. We were summertime caddies at local country clubs, lugging heavy bags for doctors and insurance salesmen, players who never broke par. We only earned $1.50 plus tip for 18 holes. Caddying wasn't a real job.

In the early sixties, however, the PGA Tour changed and the life of professional caddies did as well. 

Television had discovered golf and the charismatic Arnold Palmer and his Arnie's Army. Television rights dramatically increased, tournament purses multiplied, and thousands of mostly non-golfing spectators came out to watch the pros. Suddenly, players' personalities mattered and a half dozen colorful caddies found their way into the spotlight.

TO BE CONTINUED.

John Coyne is a bestselling author who has written several books about golf. Learn more at John Coyne Books.