The Loop

Caddie's Diary: U.S. Girls' Junior Golf Ch. (Day 1)

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Final preparations were made yesterday during an uncomfortably humid practice round for the 59th U.S. Girls' Junior Golf Championship. This week's host course, The Hartford Golf Club in West Hartford, Conn., presents a difficult test for the field of 156. The Donald Ross/Devereaux Emmet layout is tight, quick and rugged. But, as the girls made their final acquaintances with the course set to yield a national champion, Hartford's sky began to rumble. Afternoon wind awakened talk about the day's forecast, and before anyone knew what happened--with lightning threatening the area--the USGA sent everyone home for an extended evening of nervous anticipation.

I'm caddieing this week for San Diego native Beth Sellers, a 17-year-old who has won two tournaments this year in the San Diego County Junior Golf Association. As the excitement built yesterday for the 36 holes of stroke play that will be played Monday and Tuesday, there was a readiness in Beth's voice as we slugged through a sweaty 11 holes. Her game plan is simple and repeated often: "Keep the ball below the hole." With that thought keying our preparation, we carefully paced our yardages knowing that the winner this week will be a girl who correctly judges when to attack and when to lay back. This type of golf, a demanding test of golden-age design, is commonplace in the Northeast but unfamiliar to many girls in the field. However, with 11 girls who have competed in a U.S. Women's Open (six this year at Interlachen), the field is hungry and experienced. Our first goal is to make match play (the low 64 after stroke play move on), and from there we know anything can happen.

Although Beth and I only met this weekend, there is an unspoken contract between player and caddie that transcends the traditional rules of acquaintance. Out on the course it's "we," not "you and I." Even when I caddie for a weekend four-ball match (never mind in a national championship) I might not be hitting the shots, but I will live and die with every swing. To me, the image of caddies in an amateur championship encapsulates the ideals that established golf in America. It was once a game played only for the thrill of competition, at the highest level a sport residing above the pettiness of monetary consumption. As golf carts continue to roll over the game (literally and figuratively), caddies connote a time long passed but still remembered.

-- Jon Terbell