Have you ever wanted to be a Caddy, but thought it impossible? Think again. Let Michael McLaughlin, a local pro caddy show you how.
"Keep up and shut up."
By Michael McLaughlin.
Curled into your cozy armchair, you’re watching the latest PGA or LPGA tour event on the Golf Channel, when suddenly the announcers fall silent allowing the microphones to pick up the interaction between the player and his/her caddy. It goes something like this;
“You’ve got 152 yards to the front of the green; the pin is back left 20 yards, so make it 172 to the pin. Nice smooth swing”.
It’s at that moment, that it suddenly dawns on you. You’ve been watching golf for years, you know this game in and out. Maybe being a caddy is something you’ve always wanted to try. Well, I know exactly how you feel. Because I felt it too. And through perseverance and hard work, I am pleased to call myself a caddie.
How it all started
Twelve years ago I read an ad in the local paper seeking volunteer caddies for an LPGA event in Portland, Oregon and realized that this was my big chance.
“I’ve watched thousands of events on TV, and I’ve played the game for years. I can do this!”
I wanted to be the guy in the bib, providing exact yardages for the top female players in the world.
But what I didn’t realize at the time was that it is not as easy as it seemed.
As a volunteer Pro-Am caddie, I’ve been fortunate to volunteer or caddie for the LPGA’s best known players, Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie, Laura Davies and former Worlds #1 player Yani Tseng. Through this experience, I was able to walk the course inside the ropes with the game’s biggest players.
And you can do the same.
I’m what they call a Local Caddie. Unlike a LPGA tour Caddie, a local caddie may be more familiar with the golf course lay-out, the slope or contours of the putting green and more importantly, hidden course secrets that give a player an advantage over the competition.
Pay your dues!
Now, I’m considered a Local Pro Caddy. Sounds professional right? After a few years working the Pro-Am’s, alongside the pro caddies, I thought to myself, “I can do that, it doesn’t look that tough.” Sure enough, after a few years volunteering as a caddie, I was finally inside the ropes, realizing my dream of being a professional caddy for an LPGA event.
But getting there wasn’t easy. I had to pay my dues.
I spent a few years inside the caddie tent, hoping the Caddie Master would call my name to carry a bag with a world class player. Year after year, my patience wore thin as I watched younger guys getting a bag before me. I understand that my age may have held me back. I mean, what player wants a fifty-something guy carrying their bag? But perseverance, hard work, reliability and most of all, patience, finally landed me a bag and the opportunity I most desperately wanted.
Now in my fifth year as the local pro, the Caddie Master enthusiastically calls me “steady Eddie” for my punctuality. Each year, I schedule a vacati0n from my full time job to be available for this event. The Portland Classic is the longest running golf tournament on the LPGA tour. This year’s event begins June 27th. The usual schedule of events begins with a Monday Pro-Am, followed by Tuesday practice and another Pro-Am on Wednesday. As with all professional events, the Tournament runs Thursday through Sunday.
All tournament players are required to have a caddie. Players who need a caddie inquire at the caddie tent. The Caddie Master will choose from a group of around fifteen or so hopeful caddies. When your name is called, you meet your player, shake hands, and off you go carrying an over-weighted golf bag. Not sure why they have to carry so much junk inside the bag!
My five years have earned me the distinction of one of the “Top five local caddies”. As the event nears, there are a handful of players that call the Caddie Master prior to the tournament and request the best caddie. Last year, 2015, I walked in the tent and was told from my Caddie Master, “I got you a bag for the week”. At that point, I knew I was one of the top five. Naturally, that makes me feel like one of the guys and a pro.
Normally the Portland Classic is held in late July or early August when it’s hot. Although you may think it always rains in the Northwest, you’d be wrong. Summer temperatures can reach 100 degrees.
And carrying an LPGA bag in the blistering heat is no picnic.
A course loop is usually five miles or 15, ooo steps on my Fit Bit. Fortunately, tournament sponsors provide water or power drinks on every tee to help us stay hydrated.
The pro-am is all about fun. A scramble format that includes four lucky guy’s or gal’s (usually high handicappers), a LPGA pro and her caddie, me! Usually there’s a guy who can bomb every tee shot and believes every hole is a long drive contest or the guy, who believes he’s a pro, asks “what’s the yardage Mike?” and coolly shanks his shot to the adjoining fairway while the pro lands her shot on the green close to the pin. But it’s all for the fun. For the most part, the entire round is relaxed, though at times you can feel the hint of serious competition. With cash prizes and corporate bragging rights on the line, you can bet the “sticks” in the group will want to win.
Now that the Pro-Am’s, range, putting and course practice is behind you, and all your notes are written in your yardage book, it’s tournament time.
It’s Thursday. You meet your player two hours before tee time for range and putting warm-up. During the putting time, you head over to the caddie tent to collect first round pin sheet (pin location), check the day’s weather forecast, and note wind direction and speed. Maybe poke your nose in on some caddie chatter, anything that might give you and edge on the field.
Standing in the first tee I look around and admire the two other tour caddies. I see in the corner of my eye the Golf Channel tower with the camera square lens pointing right at me, goose bumps start to rise and tingle. I instantly tell myself, “please God, don’t let me mess this up.”
The tournament officials start with a check list of questions; ball brand, club count and any devices such a range finder, oh and the coolest part, the sponsor’s bib! My player declares her ball brand, number and with a round of handshakes with the players, the tournament begins. As her name is announced, the crowd applauds with enthusiasm. She acknowledges with a sly wave, and with driver in hand she zings the ball right down the middle of the fairway.
I collect the driver, slide the head cover on and pick up the bag. As we stride down the first fairway, I remember the advice Colin Cann (Paula Creamer’s long time caddie) gave me;
“Mike, keep up and shut up.”
About the Author
By nature, Michael is an avid sports fan. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest and watching his beloved Seattle Mariners play many games in the former King Dome; he turned his love of sports into a passion that he shares with his wife, four children and three granddaughters.
Never one to back down from a challenge, Michael turned his hobby and knowledge of golf into an exciting adventure when he became an LPGA Local Pro Caddie. When he’s not working, Michael can be found following the local high school basketball teams, or traveling to various sporting events that include watching his granddaughters play basketball.