Wayward Shots – A Caddy’s Basketball Diaries

Those of you that know me, know that I’m a (basket)baller. I started in fourth grade, played organized through high school, and pick up ball in college up to the present. I’ve had my ACL in each knee replaced, I have plantar fasciitis, I’m 46 years old and I absolutely love to play ball, and still play today after walking around the world with a golf bag on my shoulder … literally.

A few years ago, in Jacksonville, Fla., my good friend and caddy Danny Renneisen, found a game at the 24 Hour Fitness. We took the first game without problem. As the day progressed, a few of the better locals rolled in and saw us on the court with these hacks. We could see them assessing the competition and basically came to an agreement that they would be holding court all night. We decided that wasn’t going to happen, and we absolutely destroyed them.

By the time it was over, we hadn’t lost a game all night, and the locals were in heated arguments about who was to blame. It was a memorable and satisfying evening.

I was in Lafayette, La., for a Hogan Tour tournament early in my career, and asked a local caddy if he knew of a place to play hoops. He pointed to a guy in the gallery named Bret. I introduced myself, and that night we were at the local college playing ball. Bret suggested I join him and his buddies the next day for a two-day basketball tournament in Alexandria. I was in.

The games were held in an old church gym with wood floors that had to have been decades old, and varnished hundreds of times. I had no idea if these guys were any good, but didn’t really care because it was a fun adventure for a 25-year-old kid. As it turned out, they were amazing! We easily won the first game, and squeaked out a hard fought win in our second game against a formidable team. On to Sunday’s semi-finals.

Sunday was incredibly hot and humid, and when we got to the gym, the floor had a thin layer of water on it. They had put four huge industrial fans in each corner to dry it out, but to no avail. We played the game anyway, and won, advancing to the finals.

Incredibly, they got the floor back to normal, and the game started. Our boy Bret, who was averaging about two points a game, scored 42 points!  We rode him all the way to the title. Bret won finals MVP, they handed us a trophy, and all the guys got “championship” t-shirts. We drove back that night, talking about all the games and had a great time. They dropped me off at my hotel, and I never saw or spoke to any of them ever again.

NPR radio in the mid-nineties interviewed Chris Ballard, author of “Hoops Nation.” He and some friends spent seven months driving around the US playing pick up ball and wrote a book on it. It’s basically a road atlas of pick up hoops across the country. I used this book religiously for years, and, in Atlanta, it helped me find the Run and Shoot.

The Run and Shoot was an old warehouse on the other side of the freeway from Turner Field. They gutted it, and built in seven full courts, a track and a small weight room. It was open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and charged $6 to keep out the riff raff. Many of the Atlanta Hawks and Georgia Tech players played there, along with other top-notch players from the area.

I rolled into town early Monday morning for the Bell South Classic at TPC Sugarloaf, but went straight to the Run and Shoot. I didn’t really expect there to be any people there, but when I walked in there must have been 100 guys in there. Every court was taken. It was the Holy Grail of hoops!

I got on this great team, but noticed that I was the only white guy. I asked someone how often he saw white guys down there. He just laughed. It was one of the coolest places I’ve played; unfortunately, it no longer exists. Kudos to Chris Ballard and his gang for documenting 24 straight hours at the Run and Shoot.

I’ve been playing hoops for over 35 years now, and my better days are behind me, but I still manage to play at home with the college kids. One of my unfulfilled wishes is to play with NBA players or former NBA players. So, if Michael Finley, Mark Aguirre, or even the great Mark Cuban reads this, please get in touch with me so I can play with guys that actually know how to play basketball, and aren’t out there hacking it around. That would make me happy.

Chris Mazziotti is a veteran Tour caddie with more than 20 years experience. He has caddied for players such as Jeff Overton, David Gossett and Kirk Triplett, and currently loops for Paul Goydos. He has worked all four majors on the PGA Tour, as well as the Senior PGA Championship and the Senior Players Championship. Mazziotti currently resides in Milwaukee, Wisc.