When I first decided to become a Tour caddy in 1992, I figured, how hard could it be? I’d played golf for 12 years up to that point, including a couple in college, and despite never club caddying, I knew it couldn’t be that difficult. Oh man was I wrong. The only time I was more wrong about something was when I predicted Ryan Leaf would be a better NFL quarterback than Peyton Manning. Caddying is a very unique skill that’s only acquired through experience. To get there though, I was fortunate enough to have a few guys show me the ropes. Well, actually a lot of guys, but a few in particular.
I never carried a yardage book on the Hogan Tour when I caddied for Henninger. I was just a bag toter who enjoyed life on the road with my new friends. The following year on the PGA Tour, I realized I needed to do more … and that started with carrying a book. As a rookie caddy, I had never been to any of the venues, which is a big disadvantage right out of the gate, nor had I ever walked a course, but Andy Martinez and Pete Bender, two iconic caddies, took me in early on to show me the ropes.
Andy is very detailed oriented … probably accentuated because of his time with Johnny Miller. I spent a lot of time with him learning how to walk courses. He showed me different methods of walking greens based on shape and undulations. He gave me his opinions on how certain holes might be played, or things to pay attention to, and took notes accordingly. He basically showed me everything about getting to know a course. The only piece of advice that we differed on was he doesn’t look at a leaderboard until the 15th hole, with the assumption that his pro is near the lead. I don’t mind looking at it all day. His reasoning is that he would rather caddy without being influenced by the current situation. My reasoning is that, to me, it doesn’t matter, I’m going to caddy the same regardless.
Pete provided many one on one moments of instruction or theory much like Andy, but I learned more from him by just watching. He is the quintessential “feel” caddy. I remember we were paired together once, and he and Rocco Mediate were haggling over a club. After he waited for Rocco to give his thoughts, Pete explained why his club was the correct choice and completely convinced Rocco with his words and tone, so that he had his full trust. Then, unsurprisingly, Rocco hit it close. I was very impressed. I guess my point is that there are so many different ways to caddy that watching someone like Pete work can provide an added dimension to my own style.
The resumes these two have is quite impressive also, and aside from being great guys, when they say something regarding golf, you’d be wise to listen. Andy is in the Caddie Hall of Fame, and Pete soon will be. The players they’ve caddied for are legendary. They have major victories, PGA Tour victories, Ryder Cups, they’ve pulled thousands of good clubs and made thousands of good decisions. Of course, they have also made their fair share of blunders. You can’t do this job without them. Plus, that’s where you get your experience.
I’ve learned a lot from my brethren over the years, many of whom have no idea of the wisdom they bestowed on me just by observation. From raking techniques, to locating the next day pin placements on the greens, to proper flag and group etiquette, I owe almost everything I know about this business to the guys that were there when I started. But, I’ll always be grateful for the knowledge Andy and Pete passed on to me, and am blessed to have these two great men as my mentors and friends over the years.