After playing for Fred Funk on the golf team at the University of Maryland and earning degrees in finance and economics, Mark Long studiously avoided choosing what he calls "a real job." When Funk went the pro-tour route, Long followed as his caddie, earning access to the biggest names in the game.
With almost 25 years of experience caddieing for tour pros at more than 600 events, Long, 48, has developed a keen sense of humor and has been on the bag for 11 PGA and Champions tour victories. "Never made a mistake," he jokes. "Not a single one." The star players, he says, are "just normal people with abnormal skills," but hanging out with them has its perks: "I've led a jet-set life," Long says, "without ever having any money or any jet." Want to experience the loopy side of life on tour? Read on.
MY NICKNAME on tour is Seve, because I do a pretty good imitation of Seve Ballesteros--I've done it on television, at tournament parties and had a lot of fun doing it with Seve when people could close their eyes and not tell us apart. One of my favorite Seve stories is when he was a young player just starting to get appearance fees around the world. He was playing in Europe, and Pete Coleman, who caddied for Bernhard Langer for years, was working for Seve. Back then you had your own shag bag and balls. Pete goes out and shags balls, and Seve typically is hitting a few in the bushes. Pete comes back and drops the balls down, and Seve counts 'em and says, "Pete, you're six balls short; you owe me for six balls." The next day, Pete goes by the range early and picks up two dozen extra balls and shoves them in his pockets. Later he goes out with Seve. Seve's firing a few in the junk, and Pete's not even going in to look for them. He comes back in, dumps out the bag, Seve counts the balls--and there are 14 extra. Pete says, "You owe me for 14 balls, Seve."
A FEW PROS make the tour an all-day, everyday job. For all the money in the world I couldn't work for Vijay Singh. It would drive me crazy to stand there and watch a guy hit 7,000 golf balls a day--I couldn't have watched Ben Hogan hit 7,000 golf balls a day. Paul Tesori is a former tour player who worked for Vijay until Vijay called him one Christmas morning to see if he wanted to meet at the range. Paul said working 366 days a year was a bit much. He's now working closely with Webb Simpson.
YEARS AGO I asked Bruce Edwards how it was being back with Tom Watson after a couple of years with Greg Norman. Back then Greg was the man, but they'd gone a couple of years without a win together. Bruce said, "Let's say you're three under for the day but you drive it in a divot at 16. Norman would look at me and say, "Bruce, can you believe my bad luck?" Tom would look at the ball, look at the divot and say, "Bruce, watch this!"
BRUCE TOLD ME you will never see a bird in flight during the Masters--that the course is a no-fly zone. I said, "Come on." And he said, "Have you ever seen a bird on this golf course?" I said, "No, I hear them, but I don't see them." He said, "There you go."
ONE OF MY FAVORITE player-caddie combos was Fulton Allem and Bullet Bob [Burns]. Bullet is a pretty tough guy. The story has it that Bullet grew up with Bob Costas on Long Island, and in grade school Costas used to buy Bullet lunch all the time--though not necessarily voluntarily. Bullet and Fulty were made for each other. Their skin's so thick it's more like armor. Fulty was having a terrible day and said, "Bullet, I'm so frustrated, I just want to break something." Without hesitating, Bullet said: "How about par?"
ANOTHER TIME Fulty said, "Bullet, I know your head is hollow, but it still casts a shadow. Move out of the way."
IT ALWAYS CRACKS ME UP when an amateur in a pro-am asks how far it is to the hole. To keep it simple I'll say, "You're 132." He'll say, "This sprinkler head says 121," not realizing that the pin placement affects yardage. Sometimes I wonder how some of them have been as successful in business as they have.
SOMETIMES A CADDIE will say "72" instead of "172." You know, pretty much assuming everybody knows it's not actually just 72 yards. That happened once to Bones [Jim Mackay] in a pro-am, and the am hit a lob wedge, came up 100 yards short and said--I kid you not--"Man that played long!"
SOMETIMES even great athletes in other sports get extra nervous playing in pro-ams. We were playing with Joe Montana, and his drive hit a lady in the gallery. She was OK, but Joe, being a real nice man, spent a long time with her before he ran to catch up with us. On the next tee he said he was so nervous he couldn't swing--he topped the ball and picked up. So I decided to give the greatest pressure quarterback of all time some advice on how to handle pressure. I said, "Joe, don't worry. Every pro out here has hit somebody." He said he was just so afraid of swinging at it. I looked at him thinking, You're Joe Montana--you can't be scared of a golf ball.
FLUFF COWAN looks a little like Jerry Garcia and is a huge Grateful Dead fan. I asked Fluff what the concerts were like, and he said with a smile, "Tell you the truth, I don't remember."
FLUFF'S A VERY, very good golfer. I think when Tiger dropped him, Fluff entertained the idea of trying to make the senior tour, but he put it on the shelf pretty quickly when Jim Furyk picked him up. Fluff has a reputation of being the par-3 king after Peter Jacobsen called him that. Fluff would always hit a shot on a par 3 during practice rounds, just pull a club out of a player's bag and hit, and Jake claims Fluff beat Curtis Strange every time on closest to the pin. This day Fluff appeared out of the early-morning mist on the 16th hole, wearing high-topped tennis shoes, and pulled the 4-iron from Nolan Henke's bag during a practice round at Poppy Hills. It was about 190 to the hole. Fluff set up and hit Nolan's ball three feet from the hole. Put the club back in the bag and walked away with a little smile. Never said a word.