Every year, I make sure the second week of July is open on my schedule.
Why? To help out with the Mackenzie Tour - Canada's The Players Cup. The tournament is held annually at Pine Ridge Golf & Country Club, which is 10 minutes north of Winnipeg and situated on some of the best golf property in the province.
My usual job with the event is to be a grunt. Literally. Caddying at Pine Ridge G & CC is not like a walk at my home course. The course sits on a sand-based gravel hill, and while it drains superbly well, it is very undulating. Combined with 85-degree (30 degrees Celsius) heat and a 50 lbs staff bag attached to your shoulder, the job is not for the physically weak.
And that's one thing I like about it: It's not easy.
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At times, it's not fun either. Weather, a player's personality, the course -- they can make a beautiful walk humiliating.
So why would a grown man be so giddy about torturing himself every year? Well, it's more complicated than that. It's not about the money. Definitely not. The pay usually covers the gas to get to the course and not much else. Is it about notoriety? Well, in all honesty, most people (including my wife) think I'm nuts for wanting to do this every year, so no to that, too.
What makes it so addicting is being there, not outside the ropes or hanging out in a VIP tent, but being right next to the player handing him his club for the next shot. The challenge of making sure the clubs are clean, the bunkers raked to perfection and the water always cold only adds to the experience.
It is rare to get asked about club selection or read a putt as most of the players have their own method, and a good caddie doesn't interfere. In virtually all tournaments on the Mackenzie Tour, the players meet the caddie on the range literally 30-60 minutes before they tee off. Unlike the PGA Tour, and Web.com Tour for that matter, the caddie-player relationship isn't intimate, and most of the first round together is more like an awkward first date than a golf tournament, getting to know each other while competing. For some of the players, the feeling-out process provides a good distraction to the pressure of playing well on the first day.
It can also make for some interesting drama as the player and caddie can have a difficult time figuring each other out. Caddies are trained to show up, keep up and, most importantly, shut up. When a caddie gets an unusually chatty player, they almost feel guilty responding as it seems they are breaking one of the golden rules.
Each player's idiosyncrasies are vastly different. I can remember one year standing a good 10-12 feet away from my player, not in view and not saying a peep and getting lashed at for being noisy and “fidgeting." I've been blamed for walking on the putting line while standing 3-4 feet away. It can be frustrating, like you're an alibi as much as a partner.
Having caddied for players who have gone on to PGA Tour careers, it is special to be a small part of their journey and knowing that you had a hand in getting them there. This past year I had a great time looping for a player named Matt Hansen. While he missed the cut by a single stroke, he played valiantly and, if it wasn't for an ill-placed spike mark, would've made the weekend. The shot that Matt hit that will stick in my mind was off a downhill lie, 220 yards to the flag, over water and into a decent wind. Matt stuck it to 8 feet and made the eagle. With a 4-iron! It's shots like that one that make me come back year after year.
If you ever get the chance to caddie at a professional tournament, jump at the opportunity. It is the best way to see the tournament and helping someone else live their dream just makes it that much better.