Friday, June 3, 2011
Tips to Help You Caddie Better
A reader e-mailed me saying he was caddying for a buddy of his in a U.S. Open sectional qualifier on Monday, and wanted to know if I had any tips for him so he looked less stupid out with the pros. I figured this would make a lot better post than e-mail, so Josh, I hope this helps you out.
As some of you might know, I spent a summer caddying at St. Andrews, and have carried the bag in multiple LPGA events over the years for both Erica Blasberg and Irene Cho. As a caddie, I've missed only one cut (by a shot!). So, #humblebrag, I'm not exactly saying I'm great at this thing, but both playing and caddying has helped me pick out a few pointers. Here we go ...
Don't Be Nervous -- Well, that's crazy, right? You're going to be nervous the first time you're looping the bag for someone, but one of the early rules you must remember is, you're not playing! This isn't about you, it's about the person you're looping for, so showing that you're nervous is only going to get in the mind of the player. If you are a little skittish, keep it to yourself, and just act like you've been there before.
Follow The Lead -- Most likely, a person caddying in your group has done it before, or has more experience than you. Like a first-timer at the gym, it never hurts to just watch what they're doing. Stand on the same side of the tee as them. Walk when they walk. It's easy to let a veteran take the lead and make yourself look professional in the meantime.
Don't Be Allergic to Graphite -- This is a term a lot of the pro caddies use when a newcomer is scared to take the pin. If your player is the first up to putt, take the flag out, making sure you don't step in anyones line or through-line (the two feet past the pin that someone might miss it from if they roll their birdie putt past). Also, if another caddie has the pin, and their player putts out, go snag it from them. Always remember - last in tends the pin, meaning, if your player is the last to putt, you should be holding the flag.
A funny side-story - a few years back I was in a Byron Nelson qualifier, and one of my best friends from Texas offered to caddie for me. He was an athlete, and a golfer, but not much of one, but he made me comfortable and I figured it would be fun if nothing else to have him loop. On the second hole, I had about a 40-footer up the hill, and I asked him to tend the flag for me. Puzzled, my friend calmly walked over, yanked the flag out, and walked off the green. I was too amused to tell him what to do, so I slapped the putt up there in the direction of the hole and made par. I explained to him after what exactly "tend the flag" meant. Now he knows.
Don't Stand in Sight -- It's easy to avoid putting lines on the green, but it's tougher to keep up with where you should be standing; easy rule of thumb - don't stand where someone can see you, or you can be a distraction, and hang out in the shadows if possible.
Help When Asked -- If someone asks you for help on a yardage or a club or a line, do it, but don't unless they ask. Most players at this caliber know their game way better than you ever will, so adding advice will only confuse them or hurt their confidence. Again, you're a helper, just trying to make them as comfortable as possible.
Never Be Negative -- I learned this one from one of those golf books, but you never want to say something negative, or bring something up that will put fear in your player's head. When you say "don't hit it in the water," the mind doesn't register that, it just hears "hit it in water," so if there is danger left, tell your player, "a good miss here is just a little right," and then assure them of the shot.
Another side-story -- I was playing in a qualifier once and my caddie was a good friend. All he did all day was talk negatively, to a point that I had to say something. He would talk about "how hard this hole is," or "man that's a tough chip," when we got up to the ball. It really does throw people off.
Have Fun With Your Friend -- While you aren't the player, you got picked for a reason. Either you're smart or calm or you make the person laugh, and all of those things are good. Have fun when you can, and it'll loosen up your golfer.
Wear Running Shoes -- I once saw a guy at a LPGA event try to caddie in Vans. This isn't a good idea. Wear comfortable running or walking shoes, and never golf shoes. You don't want to be "that guy."