Wayward Shots — Another Face in the Crowd

Typically, when I show up for an event on Tour, there’s not much thought into what I’m doing or where I’m going. I’ve been to most events numerous times and rarely need GPS to get from the airport to my hotel or the golf course. Most guys who have done this awhile will tell you the same thing, and all you really need to get on the grounds is your caddy badge. However, the U.S. Open is a different animal because the venues change every year. If your pro qualifies, you will receive initial information on where to park, and you’ll be given a bar code via text, email or slip of paper that will get you in the gates initially. From that point you will register in the caddy hospitality tent, and then make your way to an office where your photo is taken and your ID badge is made. Once you get your ID you can pretty much go wherever you want. This year, the U.S. Open was on the outskirts of my hometown, Milwaukee, and I thought I’d go out to Erin Hills and see some of my old friends. I just didn’t realize how hard it would be.

I procured a few sets of tickets from “my guys” and decided to head to the course on Wednesday, which is a good day to see the boys, because everyone is just lightly practicing. My tickets and caddy parking pass were by the front entrance in will call, but getting there proved difficult. I tried initially to get into caddy parking with my PGA ID, but the cops basically laughed at me. After driving 10 minutes south, I paid $20 to park in some guy’s yard, got shuttled to a school, and then walked half a mile to the security entrance. After 10 minutes to get through security, I then made it to will call. Another 15 minutes went by before I made it to the window, and then another 15 minutes for them to locate my tickets. Finally, I made it in … surrounded by 50,000 golf enthusiasts.

Being in the crowds at the U.S. Open was a new experience for me, and I’m just talking about the clubhouse/practice area. As a caddy you’re used to walking fast and free inside the ropes. I wasn’t walking fast and free…it was more of an abbreviated bump and shuffle. As I made it to the putting green I saw a few of my pals, but the fences were so far back, I couldn’t get their attention. This was awful!  Exasperated, I fell back in line with the herd and went to the range. After a ridiculous amount of time to go a short distance, I was met with the same predicament. So I said enough is enough. I decided to employ the ID snatch and flash method, first taught to me by “Scruff”, who made it back stage at a Bruce Springsteen concert with his Honda Classic badge years ago. It worked like a charm, and before you knew it, I was walking up and down the range giving out man hugs to all my bros. Once I was in, I spent about 2 hours catching up with players and caddies before I finally decided to leave. I never once stepped foot on the course. Thank goodness.

I saved that for Friday when I went back with my kids. Justin Rose’s caddy Mark is a great friend, and I wasn’t able to see him Wednesday. He had an early tee time Friday, so I timed it so we’d be there when he finished. We headed over to the par-3 ninth where Justin Rose, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy were completing their round. Now this group was made up of the Nos. 2, 3, and 11 ranked players in the world, and if I had to guess, I’d say 90 percent of those fans in attendance happened to be around this hole. I thought the walk up to the hole was hard, but it wasn’t even close to the throngs of people who left after they finished. The only thing I could equate it to would be driving on the 405 in Los Angeles at 5 p.m. on a Friday. It was a human traffic jam that never seemed to move or end. By the time we made it back to the caddy tent, Mark was finished with his lunch.

Despite my complaining about the crowds and selfish lack of ease, it was great to see the Wisconsin fans show up in droves to support the event. Sadly, the weather proved tame and the golfers produced some record breaking low scores led by the new U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka. Those of us who watch, love the carnage … those of us who participate, not so much. As fun as it was for me to see my friends, and attend a U.S. Open as a patron, I never want to be part of those crowds again. It’s a lot more fun inside the ropes. Just ask Brooks Koepka.