I'd like to be a pro golfer, but I know that's not going happen. As a kid I always
dreamed of playing like the pros (in any sport - mine being primarily hockey).The next best thing would be meeting and rubbing elbows with the pros. I figured the only way I'd get into a pro golf tournament would be by caddying. Lucky me - at the Toronto Golf Show I happened to meet Bob Miles, one of the organizers of the CPGA Samsung Buy.Com Tournament, and he was looking for volunteers to caddy.
So off to caddy school I went. Well,
not really caddy school, it was a clinic - run by Caddy Master Michael Jackson and a couple of Canadian pro golfers, Larry Longo and Darrin Johnson. I learned that the job of caddying is much more difficult than you would think. The book of rules of behaviour is quite thick. And did you realize that a caddy has to follow the rule "speak only if you are spoken to"? Now that is hard. I got the name "Tigger" because I can't shut up and can't stop moving. I'm one of those
guys that my partners would like to lose in the woods on the golf course (although they say this in a kidding manner, I'm sure there's some truth to it; and sometimes even I would like to lose myself on the golf course!). Nevertheless, during the clinic I gained much insight and respect for the job that caddy's perform on the golf course and how invaluable a good caddy can be to a pro.
Trained and primed for the job I was about to undertake, I patiently waited to hear who my pro would be. I was honored when I found that I'd be caddy for Mr. Jeff Freeman from LaQuinta, California (who had just qualified for the U.S. Open).
We started off together on Tuesday by playing a practice round at the host course,
Diamondback - a beautiful, but unfortunately a Club Link (therefore closed to the public) course - just north of Toronto. Mr. Freeman played with two other great golfers, Kevin Burton and Peter Morgan. I was very nervous and made some mistakes, but Jeff, a true gentleman, calmed me down and made me comfortable and assured me that when the tournament stared on Thursday, I'd be great (isn't this supposed to work the other way around?!).
Wednesday we played the pro-am tournament and besides being lots of fun, I had the opportunity to fine tune my caddy skills.
Show time was Thursday. We teed off with Kevin Burton and Lee Rinker. Kevin happened to be tied for the lead after three rounds. Jeff also had a great first round. He scored a 68 (and has the ability to do much better) - he missed only one green. He was on in 2 on two par 5's
and and missed eagles by centimeters. The most memorable moment was on the 569 yard 18th hole. He drove 320 yards. There was water up front and sand everywhere. I asked him if he was going to go for it and he gave me a funny look and asked for his 3 wood. He put it 10 feet from the pin. All Jeff Freeman saw from 230 yards was the green and the flag. I kept his score card.
Friday's round didn't turn out as well. Jeff scored a 76 and opted to go home. Before he left he said to me "Tigger, that's golf!". The game humbles you every time you think you have it figured out. Even Tiger Woods can be humbled by the game (as evidenced in the 101st U.S. Open).
Although I was disappointed that we were off the roster for the final rounds, I realize that I was
very lucky that week. I got to see pro golf in a way that most folks never do. I got to meet some great golfers. I felt like a kid in a candy store. If you haven't considered being a volunteer caddy, maybe you should. The knowledge and experience you gain will stay with you forever.
Another highlight (and bonus for volunteering) was getting to meet fellow Canadian Moe Norman. Moe is a two time winner of the
CPGA Samsung Tournament, was inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame in 1995 and is considered by many to be one of the best ball strikers ever. He promotes a method called the "Natural Golf Swing". Another gentleman that I met, Jerry Foltz of the Golf Channel, is one of his students and an avid promoter of the technique.
When Moe stepped up at the driving range at Diamondback all golfers stopped just to watch him. At 71 years of age, he hit approximately 50 balls - every one of them perfectly straight. I was impressed with this "Natural Golf Swing". When someone asked Moe if he ever missed a fairway, he responded in his jovial manner: "Once. In 1979. Something bit my butt and I lost my balance."
What I like about the Natural Golf Swing is that it is very simple. You move very few parts of your body. Being 49 years old and in only my third year of recreational golf, this sounds good to me. Perhaps it will be what I need to take me down to the next level in my game.
So thats the sum and substance of my experiences at the CPGA Samsung Buy.Com tournament in 2001. Till next time - remember
to replace your divots, repair your ball marks and respect other players.