It was the fourth hole of the third round, I was in pocket (out of the hole), standing behind the green, and like I did too often for a 7-handicap, I was watching the action. One of two amateur partners was chipping up from the left side of the green; Kelly was on the right side of the green, waiting to hit his long birdie putt. My best friend from high school, Todd Curran, was my caddie, and at that moment, Todd decided he would monitor the flag while the amateur partner hit his chip; then, in theory, he would pull the pin for Kelly's putt. The chip came up, went by the hole, and Todd, with an energetic tug, pulled the flag. Job well done, except the metal cup came up with the flag. "WHOA, WHOA, WHOA," said Kelly, from across the green. Todd froze. The gallery leaned in. I had long stopped breathing. We've all done it, but not in a pro-am. Todd had the flag in his hand, the cup was up and leaning on it's side, halfway inside the hole in the green. I looked down at my toes. Friends for life, but sophomore year in high school, when I got hauled off by the cops for throwing eggs at a car on Halloween night in Healdsburg, Calif., I made the trip to the station by myself. Now, it was Todd's turn to go it alone. Kelly broke the absence of motion by walking up to the hole--slowly--and he pried the flag from Todd's sweaty palms. Then Kelly got down on his knees. He performed a modified version of superintendent surgery. He dropped the cup back into the hole--very carefully--and looked closely to make sure the lip of the hole had not been affected. Overall, Kelly was cool about it; he knew no one felt worse than Todd. The lesson: When amateurs mix with professionals, which goes for players AND caddies, let the pro or the pro's caddie do most of the work around the green. Which gets me to my point of this blog: should you ever be lucky enough to play in a pro-am, congratulations. But I'd advise you tread cautiously, because it's more involved than just showing up and putting a tee in the ground. These are 10 things you should know: __No. 1__ Your caddie can and should rake bunkers, clean your ball, wipe your irons, help you read putts, figure yardage, pick you up when you're down, and celebrate with you when you make a 2-net-zero, but defer to the pro's caddie when it comes to everything else, especially when it involves the pro. __No. 2__ If you're not sure, ask. "Am I up?" "Do you want me to come up?" "Do you want me to finish?" All could be considered inappropriate depending on the context, but I can assure you, they're all appropriate in a pro-am. ("Am I up?" is especially popular in La Quinta.) The pros appreciate being asked. And I could tell, they all love a quick and clean ending to a six-inch putt.
Courses & TravelFebruary 10, 2011