Episode 23 - Caddies

Get an inside look at the stories behind some of the greatest caddies on Tour


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Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] NARRATOR: On this episode of "The Rural Golfer"--

-Most of the guys that we're going to have on our show today have been out here for 30 years or more.

NARRATOR: Elk gets the inside scoop straight from the caddy's mouth.

-If he has to worry about you, that's not good, because he has to worry about what he's doing.

-If you work for a guy for as long as I have, it says something about the guy.

-Your number one responsibility, show up on time, no hangovers during a tournament round. I want the numbers right, and take the blame for everything that goes wrong.

-Most of the guys I know that have been out here as long as me, they couldn't do anything else, for starters. And they wouldn't do anything else. And they love the game. And that's why they do it.

NARRATOR: "The Rural Golfer" is headed your way.

[TRUCK HORN]

THEME SONG: One, two, three, four. We got the big show revving, their eyes are on the map. Where we're going next we just can't say. Grab the clubs, let's hit some balls. We're making friends and playing golf. "The Rural Golfer" is coming your way.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

NARRATOR: What is a caddy? Individuals in this distinct fraternity are the concealed characters of the game. They are so much more than bag toters. The caddy is the man who gives, takes, and navigates. A caddy knows when to push and when to pull a player across a course. He may even know better than his boss. He makes the right calls and helps create that difference when it comes down to it.

He's a PGA tour caddy. And as vital as he must be, it boils down to simply show up, shut up, and keep up.

-I think getting to know the chemistry of the player and knowing when to say something and when not to say something.

-And that's the trick. I mean, it's nothing that can be taught. You just learn it from being around them.

-There's a lot of guys out here that are good caddies, but for whatever reason, they're not hooked up with the right person.

-The caddy always wants to get involved in the game. And sometimes you just got to keep your mouth shut.

-It's not sunny and 80 degrees every day. You know, you're dealing with the elements. You're dealing with delays. You're dealing with, you know, where did this guy go? Did he forget about me? You know, basically, a caddy is in the service business.

-Robert Thomas Burns, Bullet.

-Mark Huber, Stint.

-Andy Davidson, Sid, and then there's variations of that, Tel Aviv Sid, Sid Vicious, Squidney, and Android.

-John Buchna, Bucky, B-U-C-K-Y.

-Disco Dennis.

-Squeaky

-Alaskan Dave.

-And Fiddler.

-Shady Grady.

-Brother James.

-Used a caddy with no shoes on.

-Golf Ball.

-Reptile.

-The Hentai.

-Dogshark.

-Big League.

-Downwind Vick.

-Ox.

-They are in a little fraternity. And the fraternity is so closed.

-When I first came out, Dolph and Bruce Edwards nicknamed me Stint, because they didn't think I was going to be out here-- I wouldn't last.

BULLET: In my rookie years as a caddy, I was walking the golf course. I was running around. I had to be ready at a certain time. I had to know the golf course. So I was running and looked. One of the guys said, look, he's running like a bullet. And that's how it stayed.

SID: The original nickname started as Tel Aviv Sid. So then Bruce Edwards paired with him one time, heard me growl at a marshal, or a fan, or something. And he go Sid Vicious. And that was about when the Sex Pistols were big. And then there's Squidney and Android, which is a play on Andy. And so, take it from there.

-I'm just me, just me, you know?

BULLET: When I was a kid in Long Island, my dad used to drop me off at a golf course. And I used to go and see if I could caddy there. I like being outdoors. I like going to the golf course meeting new people all the time. And this is my 37th season. It's just a potpourri of everything that's involved with the game.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Bullet and I have been together 28 years.

-And in '86 or '87 when he was a rookie, our first week was in Kingsville, and we got to the last group on Sunday. We had a chance to do it. That was the first week. The last hole at The Players, and one of the best shots I ever seen in my life when he hit it out of a divot. That was really exciting.

STEVE ELKINGTON: He's a great caddy. And he's great at giving yardage.

-I always walk the golf courses. Every week I check out the golf course. I'm notorious for getting there early. I'm one of the first guys on the set every week. And I like that.

-You gotta to have a great caddy. When I first came out, I took on an experienced caddy like Bullet. He's been out here another 10 years than I have, because let's face it, if you've never been there, you don't know how to act when you're in there, you know?

-He needs you to be on time, be clean, be ready to go, have your equipment sorted out, yardages sorted out, everything right, timing right, feeling right. And usually, that will spur him on the do things right. So if he has to worry about you, that's not good, because he has to worry about what he's doing.

STEVE ELKINGTON: He's always thinking about golf. He's always in there with you. He would give anything if he could save us a stroke. And that's what I like about him the most. Sometimes, and he said it in his interview, sometimes he tries to help, and he's got to know when not to over-help, because sometimes he might reiterate himself in a certain way, but I'm not really looking for that, and I have to snap at him.

-Sometimes you get pissed off, and you cool down, you steam down, and then everything is all right again. I forget about things like that, because I got too many other things to do, you know, in golf.

-We probably fired one another 5 times that I can remember at least. And you know, I get pissed off about things. And he does too. So sometimes it's good to have a break up.

NARRATOR: Nowadays, caddies have plenty to keep up with. But here's a taste of how things used to be.

-We had a blast out there, but yet our job still got done. And I think our job was even tougher back than it is today, because we don't have the devices that we have today such as accurate yardage books, lasers, green levelers, and all that kind of stuff. But yet, we still found a way to get our job done. And the funniest thing about it is Tom Watson was winning tournaments then, and he is winning tournaments today.

-We used to stay four guys in a room, and we'd go by scores. You have two guys who get the beds and two guys who get the floor, lowest to highest scores. That's how we used to do.

-They'd be out to 1:00 chasing the ladies, just yucking it up. And you go out there the next day. You reeked of alcohol. And it's not that way anymore, because the money's gotten so good. And you've got to get that.

-I think there is more trust in caddies in nowadays. A lot of caddies were a bunch of hobos years ago. They'd get drunk, and they wouldn't show up. Some of them even would drink on the golf course.

STINT: The older players, they were pretty simple. I mean, you see these guys today with all their gurus, and their swing planes, and their cameras.

BUCKY: I remember when players had to pay for range balls. Now, you mean, they don't have Pro V Reds on the range?

-There's money involved now. And the economy's better. And there's just more money to be had nowadays. So things have gone up. Tiger had a lot to do with that. Ever since he came along, all the purses tripled and quadrupled. So now caddying is a good job.

-I think we've all mellowed out a little bit, and we've all seen where the sports come. And the media's been a big part of it. And those of us that have been out here a long time have learned to just go with the flow. What we did way back when is pretty much over and done with for the most part, and just have fun with it.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

SANDY SUCKLING: I just think it's their free spirit. They just seem to beat to a different drum. They do things a little differently.

-They have a lot of wit about them, because they are hustling money all the time. If they're not caddying for us, they are out hustling the foursome. They've got two bags on the shoulder. They've got a BS, both guys, got to get that guy around, because ultimately, if the guy breaks his handicap, they are going to get another $50, or another $100. And that's the way they make their living.

-They're vagabonds, let's face it. They just travel around. And their stories are wonderful to listen to.

-Raymond told me a story one time about Golf Ball. And Golf Ball was maybe one of the best greens readers.

-He had diamonds in his teeth.

-Yeah.

-Remember that?

-He could go pretty late into the morning. And he said, Raymond said, he never had problems showing up for those early tee times, because he'd just come straight from the party and walk on to the tee. And he said, one time, he was in the process of winning Pebble.

Golf Ball doesn't show up. And he shows up on the 17th tee. He says, comes through the crowd. He grabs a bag, and says, come on, fat boy, I'll get you home from here.

SID: Mark Hensby has a very sarcastic streak. I remember working for him at Firestone. And I'm not sure who else could have gotten away with this. Mickelson just won the PGA at Baltusrol. And he was on the cover of "Sports Illustrated." And Hensby takes the cover and writes a caption coming out of Mickelson's mouth that says, Tiger this is what the trophy looks like and puts it in Tiger's locker.

STEVE ELKINGTON: I'll never forget going to Greensboro. And Herman Mitchell is there with Lee Trevino at 17. There is people everywhere. And Lee hit that shot off the tee, you know, he is walking up there. And some guy from Greensboro says, hey, hey, Lee, what do you feed that-- what do you feed that Herman Mitchell? You know? And Lee just said, rednecks. He kept walking.

-One day we were playing with Nick Price and Vijay Singh. It's on the 34th hole, which was the seventh hole at Hilton Head, South Carolina. And Vijay hits it up there 10 feet. Nick Price hits it 15 feet, Pulte 6 feet. They both make it. He doesn't even touch the hole. And he's screaming-- he wants to-- on the way to the tee, he says, Bullet, give me something to break. I said, how about par?

-Trying to finish strong Sunday, Royal Liverpool. We're walking up to find what is that? His fourth shot. And this guy out of the corner of my eye starts running at us. So he's coming at us. Then there is one of those cops. He's grabbing him at the time. Mark is so focused on where his shot is, he kind of gives it a lookover, and he's annoyed. I'm looking over. Now that I see the cop's got control of the guy, I'm laughing.

Maybe a month later, someone finds that picture and sends it to me. And I'm like, this is the funniest thing. The way that they have him, he's in the air pulling the pants off, a little bit of the stuffed animal showing. Mark's annoyed. I'm laughing. I'm wearing red. We've got red on. And I'm like, this is going to be the greatest Christmas card ever. I made that our Christmas card in 2006. And it said, have a "Hairy" Christmas and a Happy "Nude" Year.

-Their environment has made them-- put it this way, there's no solitude, quiet, rich caddies out there. They're all got a lot of joke going on. And the most fun ones are the guys that have been the around the longest, because they can tell you the stories that were great. And they can make fun of all the young guys.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

NARRATOR: One man's jaunt expected to be a brief stint has today become a 20-year and counting journey, taking him further than he ever imagined.

-My brother has been caddying since the early '80s. I was getting ready to change jobs. And I was going to go back to school. I was going to come out for six months. So now, it's been 26 years.

NARRATOR: Little did this man from Illinois know what his future in sports held.

STINT: My very first bag was Phil Blackmar at the Honda Classic in Eagletrace. I made $525 for the week. And I thought it was just heaven.

NARRATOR: Since then, scores of players for whom Mark Huber has caddied have brought countless learned lessons and tales to be told.

-Probably when Murph won his first tournament out here in Birmingham, I worked for him in '88, his last year on the PGA Tour. He withdrew more times than he finished, because he had real bad arthritis. And he never knew if he was going to play golf again. And then he wins Birmingham.

And his wife was in tears. Jim Kelly was in tears. Murph was in tears. But it was one of those days-- the only thing I did that day was give him the yardages and make sure he drank plenty of water, because he was playing so well. And that was my first win. I mean, I was rattled coming down the stretch.

And on the last hole, I remember he asked me to take a look at this putt. What's it going to do? He hadn't asked me to read a putt all week. And I said, it's going right in the hole. That's all I said. And he knocked it in, and went on to the win, and had a big old party that night. Coming down the stretch inside the ropes, it's kind of that vicarious relationship with the player and being able to be involved.

NARRATOR: As the road of life continually bends and turns, so to does the life of a PGA Tour caddy.

-Tough times are kind of right now. I've had a pretty good run over the years with a number of different players out here. But that's gone away. And I'm having to bounce around a bit and find a different guy each week. But there's also the thin weeks where like this week I came in without a job, spent the day over at the qualifier nothing, and then John Harris texts me this afternoon. So I've got a job. Last week, I didn't have a job.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

NARRATOR: Though there are many similarities, the path each caddy takes is his own to walk.

-I started for fun. You know, I grew up caddying at a country club back in Akron as a kid. And I wanted to try it one summer. Well, that one summer after college has been 32 years now. So it's been a really long summer.

My first bag, Rocky Thompson, 1982 in Memphis. First full-time job with Bobby Watkins. I've worked for Sandy Lyle, Tom Purtzer, Blaine McAllister, Carlos Franco, Andrew McGee, Corey Pavan, let's see, how about Frank Conner? Dave Eichelberger, Sammy Rachels, who else? Elk.

I think one of them that helped me quite a bit when I started was Big Money Griff, who was working for Lanny. Big Money taught me a lot of about what went on the course and caddying there, and actually how to put up with some of the guys.

NARRATOR: When this maverick's caddy career took off, he sharpened his skills to hone in on what was best.

-Every guy has some kind of competitive, athletic streak in him. And what do you have? Maybe 1/100 of 1% that ever become a pro athlete. Well, this is about as close as you can get without ever doing it. As far as on the course, you got your basic caddying skills, giving them the yardage, making sure clubs are clean, helping them with club selection, wind selection, all that kind of stuff. And then there's keeping them calm.

A lot of it is really saying the right thing at the right time. As far as the relationship with the player, when you're coming up 18 with a chance to win the tournament, you feel it just like the player does. That's a hell of a feeling.

Some guys get closer to their player than others. Some guys, they'll go out to dinner with them and do that kind of stuff. I've never really been into that too much.

NARRATOR: Being part of that proverbial marriage can be difficult. At times, the delicate we mentality undoubtedly creeps into the thought process.

-The players are pretty good at joking around about how caddies say, we shot 64. He shot 75. But you try not to do that. If you've been with a guy, it's a team effort. And it really is. It can be strenuous at times. It can be really strenuous.

I mean, when we're out on the golf course and something goes wrong, we're the one that's going to get screamed at, whether we're right or wrong, it's going to be us that gets yelled at. And sometimes you just gotta suck it up. You know that they're not mad at you. It's just what's going on in the moment and everything. You just gotta suck it up and take it. In more ways than one, you've got to be thick skinned.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

NARRATOR: Now, in his 34th year as a professional tour caddy, John Buchna, AKA, Bucky, holds the record for longest player-caddy relationship on the pro circuit. He's been with Joey Sindelar on the PGA and Champions Tour since 1984.

-I really would not trade this job that I've had, because I could write a list of probably 500 names of people I've met-- athletes, actors, politicians, CEOs, and you can't beat that.

NARRATOR: Meeting famous people is one of the perks of the profession. But caddying is a physically and mentally demanding job.

-What so many people don't realize is how hard it is to win. He's had seven wins out there on the PGA Tour. And when a guy is playing well, say, he's got 280 to carry the bunker. And he hits it, and it's going right at that bunker. And it carries it by 3 inches. And when it ain't going so hot, it buries right underneath that lip.

So there are so many ups and downs. I think showing up is the most important thing. Shut up, I disagree with. And sure, you gotta keep up with the guy. But shut up? No. You got to know when to talk. I'm his best friend out there, whether he likes it or not for five hours. What's a nice thing about him is he will introduce me to somebody. And he will go this is my friend. And this is my caddy also. And you know what? That's pretty cool.

KIDS: Elk's Vintage Vault.

-I love the terminology back in the day where they said they rang the bell--

MAN: Right.

-The ringing of the bell.

MAN: Right.

-And if you've ever seen someone that rings a bell. They grab the rope. And they ring it, because you can do this all day. Most people-- you ring it this way. And back in the day when they rang that bell, it was up and they set. And they set the ringing of the bell.

And I just love that expression. Now, you can set it here ringing the bell, here ringing the bell, here ringing the bell. Let me see if you can see. I want you to tell me if you see me ring the bell.

MAN. Sure.

[BELL RINGING]

-I felt it, didn't you see it?

-Mhm.

-Did you it, Sam?

SAM: Yep.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

NARRATOR: On the next episode of "The Rural Golfer."

-Well, this is a real treat, Ed, I haven't seen you in a long time.

NARRATOR: Elk meets up with the Byman brothers and learns how their passion for golf has lasted a lifetime.

STEVE ELKINGTON: The Byman's, they are a wonderful golf family. There was a lot of history in the beginning for them. For a lot of people that don't know Bob, him and his brother, Ed, are still in the golf business. You won the Bay Hill Tournament. You're on tour.

-Mhm.

-When you won, what was it? The Mexican Open?

-Yeah.

NARRATOR: He discovers how to turn old clubs into new opportunities.

-And I see the value, $95 you give me on the trade.

-That's exactly right.

-Trade in our old stuff, get money for it, and buy new stuff. Now, what could be better than that for a golfer.

NARRATOR: And as always, manages to squeeze in a little time for golf.

-You know, It's embarrassing when I get beat in the show, and I got guys that sell clubs wanting to beat me. I've got girls doing flips that want to beat me.

-And nobody can get there, can they?

-No, they did.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

[GOLF SHOT]

[BIRDS SINGING]