DUBLIN, Ohio - First-year Ohio State University golf coach Donnie Darr has found a great recruiting tool this week at the Memorial Tournament: He's the caddie for 36-hole leader Rickie Fowler.
Darr, 37, was the assistant golf coach for three years at Oklahoma State University, where Fowler was an All-American until turning pro last fall. Fowler decided to give his regular caddie, Joe Skovron, a week off so that he could enlist Darr's services.
"I've always wanted the opportunity to have him [Darr] or the other two coaches [from Oklahoma State] on the bag," Fowler, a rookie on the PGA Tour, said.
A native of Coshocton, Ohio, Darr succeeded longtime Ohio State coach Jim Brown last year. He had the week off because his Buckeyes didn't advance to the NCAA Division I Championship in Tennessee.
Carrying Fowler's bag wasn't much of a job change from when he coaches at Oklahoma State. He walked with Fowler and other Oklahoma State golfers in collegiate events, but he didn't have to carry the bag.
"We've done this before. [But] I didn't read any putts then, and I haven't this week either," said Darr, who has played Muirfield Village a number of times, most recently last month. "I can help club him, and if nothing else remove doubt. When you don't have much doubt you tend to play pretty well."
With a second-round 6-under-par 66, Fowler tied the Memorial 36-hole record of 131 that Scott Hoch set in 1987. Fowler, 21, of Las Vegas, is 27th in earnings and 28th in FedEx Cup points, and is in a stiff battle for Rookie of the Year honors with Ireland's Rory McIlroy, 20, who won the Quail Hollow Championship.
Fowler's quick rise in the pro ranks is no shock to Darr. "I'm not really surprised, because he's a really good ball striker, especially with his irons. He flights his irons well, so he has good control of his irons, and he putts it good. He's not afraid of this stage, so that's made the transition a little easier.
"I think his game is exactly the same," Darr added. "The only thing I see is that he is more patient now. That comes with maturity."
It's the kind of maturity Darr wants to see in his Buckeyes. "We had a nice first year. We didn't do as well as we liked; we have some growing to do as a team," he said. "I hope my guys come out and watch Rickie and learn how to be patient and how to be confident."
-- Dave Shedloski