Yes, that is me caddying for Cathy Sherk – 1979 – LPGA Tour
A few weeks ago, our trusted leader Luke sent me a link to an upcoming movie that is dedicated to the true followers of the game, the caddy. It’s called Loopers, The Caddies Long Walk. After watching the trailer, I was carried back in time, remembering some cherished rounds not just as a golfer with a caddy at my side, but as a caddy with a trusted golfer at my side as well. True confession time, if I wasn’t playing the game, I enjoyed being a caddy a close second. There is something magical about being part of a team of two.
In an earlier lifetime it fell upon myself and my professional staff to train a new crop of caddies each year. We would run an advertisement in the local paper and begin the process of collecting names and phone numbers. Once enough names were accumulated, we scheduled a date for the first training session. My big moment came during the opening orientation. I did my best to inform these young people who were glad to be out of school for the summer and looking to score a part-time summer job at their parents’ insistence. Staring into their smiling faces I let them know of the three most important up's. Keep up, shut up and put up. If they could remember these words of eternal wisdom, then they at least had a fighting chance of surviving as a caddy.
Simply stated the caddy was to stay close to their player, speak when spoken too, and golfers can be passionate about their game, but don't take it personally. Oh, yes and smile, always smile. A smile is a curve that can straighten out any not so pleasant situation.
As a caddy you learn that although you do not have a Physiology degree yet, you are on the fast track to earning one. You learn how to read your player and make those subtle adjustments in behaviour and attitude to bring the best out of said player. Learning that a well-timed phrase here and an encouraging word there can make the biggest of differences in whether the player will have you on the bag for longer than just this one round.
The privilege fell upon me to loop for Cathy Sherk in 1979 and aid her in making it through Q School and then on to the LPGA Tour. I thought I know something about the game of golf, but boy was I wrong. The biggest unlearning was me forgetting all that I thought I knew about the game and then being humble enough to learn from not only an amazing teacher and golfer, but a truly beautiful person. People come in and out of our lives from time to time, the truly great ones like Cathy never really live. You see, Sherky had an entire amateur career in one season. In 1978, she won the Canadian Ladies Amateur, the US Ladies Amateur, North/South Ladies Amateur, Low individual at the World Team Championships and to top it off Golf Digest crowned her the World’s #1 Lady Amateur for 1978!
One memory has stayed etched upon my golfing mind to this day. We came upon a par 3 at this course in Miami. Fairly straightforward, 174 yards mostly all carry to a tucked pin behind a menacing Sand trap. Having witnesses Cathy dispense with a number of these par 3’s in the past I knew she could handle this one with ease as well. She settled on a 4 iron as her club selection to which I concurred.
Her typical shot pattern was to draw the ball into the pin. She executed the shot perfectly. To a thunderous applause of the crowd she landed the ball less than 2 feet behind the pin. Looking at a tap-in birdie for sure. My smile quickly faded as I looked over at Cathy who seemed to be distracted as we made our way to the green. Since I was closest and I was her caddy I tried the age-old question, “Sherky, what’s wrong?” She shook her head and mumbled, “I hit it to far.”
Ok, call me crazy (don’t answer that) but my World Class player just stiffed a tap-in birdie on a difficult part 3 and I detect that she is not pleased? What could have gone wrong? I was about to find out quickly enough. Again, I found the resolve to inquire once again, “teach me why you are not well pleased with a tap-in birdie.”
“Its simple Fries, look where the ball landed? (the ball mark was about 8 inches past the hole with the ball coming to rest a few inches further that the mark. Still a tap-in birdie) I answered back saying, “I see the mark, but isn’t it a good thing to be so close?”
What I am about to share with you is one of the differences in the way Champions think and how we mere mortals think.
Sherky looked me in the eye and said, “Fries, the ball was in the air when it landed past the hole. Albeit 8 inches past, but past it was. You see the ball never had a chance to go in the hole since it landed past the hole in the air.
I like my shots to land short of the hole and then roll to the hole which always leaves open the possibility of it going in the hole. And may I remind you that any shot that lands on the green should have that chance to go in the hole, since that is the object of the game.”
I had to confess my pea size brain was almost short circuited on that par 3 in Miami Florida. Up until that time I was just satisfied on hitting the putting green never mind trying to find a way for the ball to disappear into the hole! Well my learning has continued from that day forward.
If you have ever walked a round of golf with a trusted caddy at your side, you have indeed experienced one of the great joys of the game. You may need to remind your caddy of the three ups’ before hitting the links. Keep up, put up and shut up!
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