Friday, November 22

Caddie Movie Is Story of All Loopers, for All Times

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By John Coyne

Bestselling author John Coyne became a caddie at Midlothian Country Club near Chicago when he was 10 and oversaw the caddie yard as a teenager. Learn about his golf novels at

I WATCHED (AGAIN) LOOPERS: THE CADDIE'S LONG WALK on a flight returning to New York from London. It was on this Delta flight that I got to view the film "up close and personal."

I must say it had a real affect, bringing me to misty tears as I remembered my own caddie days at Midlothian Country Club, south of Chicago. starting at the age of ten to when I was made caddie master at 16. I had my last "loop" at 21, the summer after graduating from St. Louis University and just before I headed off to Texas and basic training with the Air Force.

Having written three novels all entitled "The Caddie…" I am, of course, attached to the role of the caddie in golf. I have seen what an enriching experience it is for anyone who has looped at one time or another. It changed our lives, whether we realize it now or not. Growing up as a caddie is an education about life and this film touches on that role. 

The film includes all types of caddies, from girls and boys' first jobs, to the ageless professional caddies. In doing so, it also tells how the caddie role has changed over time.

My first experience with professional caddies was in 1949 when I was too young to caddie in the last Victory Open held at Midlothian won by Bobby Locke. Locke's caddie, Kenny Burke, was a year older than me, and he earned $75 from Locke.

It was at this tournament that I met a few pro caddies working the tour, such as it was in those days. 

These men wandered into the caddie yard from wherever they had last been in the world. Old guys, grown men, who lived on the edge of society, earning what they could to make it through the day. They kept us kids enthralled with stories about legendary players like Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret.

Years later, writing an occasional article for a golf magazine, I got to interview the new professional caddies, guys like Angelo Argea who looped for Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player's Rabbit Dyer, and Tom Watson's caddie, Bruce Edwards. From Edwards I learned he was from an upper class family in Connecticut who decided he wanted to caddie for a living. Bruce met Tom, the year he turned pro, at a St. Louis PGA event. Edwards was told by another part-time caddie, a lawyer from Philly, to try and grab the bag of this new player on tour, Tom Watson.

The movie goes into that chance meeting and the beginning of their long career together, their friendship, and how Watson helped Bruce, financially and in other ways, during the last years of Edwards' life. 

The film does much more than just tell one story. It is the story of all loopers, for all times, and how professional (and amateur) caddies' lives have changed, as have the lives of their pros. Television and players like Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods brought real money into professional golf. 

We tend to forget that until the late 1950s there were only a few pros who could make a living playing full-time on the tour (and no caddie could). The majority of pros were "home pros" who "followed the sun" only by working at one private country club up north over the summer, then having a second job down south in the winter. Some pros got help from their club members who financed them money (for a percentage of their wins) to play events on the winter tour.

Golf money winnings, as we know, are still a long way from what baseball and basketball and other sports pros earn in a season. But the game has enough money in it today for players and their loopers in that televised roadshow that is the pro tour. It's a career. It's a way of life. 

And for caddies, regardless of their ages or place of employment, on the tour or at the club, it still means: Show up. Keep up. Shut up.

Yet, as we know from hanging around any caddie shack, and for having seen this film, loopers still have a lot to say.  

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