Loopers: The Caddie’s Long WalkTOM WARD

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, June 1st, 2019

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TOM WARD
TOMPWARD@SBCGLOBAL.NET

When Kevin Na’s last putt dropped on the 18th green to wr
ap up his big win at the Charles Schwab Challenge last weekend in Ft.
Worth he was embraced by longtime caddie Kenny Harms. Na pointed over
to the specially restored 1973 Dodge Challenger that goes to the
winner and told Harms that car was his. Na earned $1,314,000 for the
victory.
On the PGA Tour, a caddie traditionally gets 10% of what their
player wins, but that deal can vary from player to player. Either way
it was a great week for Na and his caddie. However, that wasn’t always
the case for caddies.
There is a new movie coming out in select movie theaters
nationwide on June 7th called Loopers: The Caddie’s Long Walk. Actor,
avid golfer and former caddie Bill Murray is the narrator in this
fascinating film that examines the role of the caddie throughout the
centuries and the significant role they played and impact they’ve had
in the game. Murray states in the movies opening that, “The greatest
golfers,, the greatest of golf moments… if you look again a caddy
was standing right there. They don’t just whisper advice in the
shadows. They are the secret integral part of the game. It’s finally
time for the story of the golf caddy to be told.”
Watching the film you’ll get a history lesson on the game of golf
and who invented it and how caddies came to be. By the 1700’s, the
word caddie (Kad-ee) was used for porters. A Scottish historian
mentioned that they would carry the bags for strangers and find a
hotel. Golfers would then begin using them for looking for their golf
balls. Caddies were known as an unruly bunch and frequently drunk,
spewing lots of curse words. They were part of the lower classes in
those days. Ironically, it was a caddie named Tom Morris (1821-1908)
who became the greatest golfer of his era.
I particularly enjoyed the stories told by some of the old caddies
from places like Ballybunion and Lahinch in Ireland.
There was one man profiled that came from four generations of
caddies. Rick Reilly (Sports Columnist, author of Who’s your Caddy?)
talked about European caddies being the best. Reilly said,“They would
rather get off a great line than get their tip.”
Reilly tells a funny story he heard over there, about a caddies
response to a guy who continued to three putt, that is absolutely
priceless. There is an old familiar disparaging saying in golf that
goes, “there are only three rules for caddies, Show up. Keep up and
Shut up.”
Michael Collins who was a former caddy who now works as a golf
analyst for ESPN.com gave some valuable insight about what players and
caddies talk about during a round. Collins said,“People think they we
must be talking about shots and how to hit them. No, it would give you
a migraine that would be uncontrollable by the end of the round if you
tried to stay that focused for 5 hours on the course. It would be
impossible so you talk about news, sports, girls, movies. You talk
about anything and everything.”
Making appearances throughout the movie are golfing legends Tom
Watson, Nick Faldo, Ben Crenshaw and Fuzzy Zoeller. Each of these
major championship winners talk about how important their caddies were
to their success.
Faldo said if he had a choice between a cart or a caddie he would
take the caddie because walking is an important part of the game. He
also discusses hiring Fanny Sunesson as she was the only female caddie
on the tour back in 1989.
Tom Watson talked about his initial dislike of links golf. He
ended up hiring a caddy named Alfie Fyles and together they wound up
winning the British Open five times in a nine year time span.
Fuzzy Zoeller won the Masters in his first appearance in 1979
because he ended up using a local caddie.
Ben Crenshaw talked about how caddies and players have to mesh
personality wise. He stated,“You have to have that intrinsic something
you can’t define.” In 1995 Crenshaw had an emotional win after his
mentor, Harvey Penick, died earlier in the week. Carl Jackson, his
local caddie, helped him navigate through his emotional rollercoaster
ride on the course to win the coveted green jacket.
One of the producers of the film, Ward Clayton who authored Men
on the Bag: The Caddies of Augusta National, discussed Willie “Pappy”
Stokes who was a black caddie at Augusta National. When the course was
being constructed Pappy would watch the rain running down the
hillside. He came upon an invaluable secret that no matter where a
golfer was on the course all putts tended to break towards Rae’s creek
which was the lowest point at Augusta. He was 17 years old when he
helped guide Henry Picard to victory in 1938. He would go on win five
Masters caddying for four different champions.
There are other caddies featured that played instrumentals roles
in the numerous victories for players like Arnold Palmer and Jack
Nicklaus.
As TV popularized the game a new breed of caddies were born. I
enjoyed this part of the film when it addressed the caddies in the
1970’s and 80’s because I knew a few of those guys who lived that
nomadic lifestyle. Pete Bender said, “I remember in 1970 taking
greyhound buses to each tournament. Other guys had vans that three or
four guys would travel in.
Professional caddies are on the go 35 to 38 weeks a year which can
be hard on family life.
In the past few decades professional caddies have become well
known. Steve Williams talked about his relationship with Tiger Woods.
One year Williams was the highest paid athlete in his home country of
New Zealand. He helped Tiger win 13 major championships until their
partnership came to an end in 2011. Woods emergence on the golf stage
starting in 1996 brought about the biggest change because he put more
money into caddies pockets than anyone. Tiger’s presence doubled the
crowds, pursues and money for caddies.
Other prominent caddies showcased in the movie include: Jim
“Bones” McKay who works for Phil Mickleson and Michael Greller who
caddies for Jordan Speith. Greller was a 5th grade math teacher before
hooking up with Spieth. Greller said, “My biggest role is to get him
to  believe in himself.” There is a terrific moment in the film that
Greller talks about when he and Spieth first made it to the Masters
that I found quite insightful and involved Augusta caddie Carl
Jackson.
Golf has definitely become a team game and these guys are critical
to their players success.
There were many poignant moments in the film that really stood out
to me. A gentleman named Mike Kiely was featured in a segment about
Caddie Masters. He has been the caddiemaster at Canterbury Golf Club
in Cleveland, Ohio for more than a half century.
Also, the segment on the Chick Evans Scholarship Foundation was
powerful. Evans was a great amateur golfer who started a scholarship
program for caddies to go to college. “ You’ve got to learn to serve
before you can lead.” He said. There were some touching scenes
featuring some of the girls who were recipients of those scholarships
and how it changed their lives.
Another great piece was on Greg Puga, a caddy from Bel- Air C.C
who grew up in east L.A, who qualified to play in the 2001 Masters.
Talk about a Cinderella story.
As a golf professional the theme that resonated the most with me
was how thegolfer bonded with their caddy. One caddy who works at
Pebble Beach says that people share so much information about their
lives with him…like a hairdresser does.
Michael Collins summoned up things best about caddies. He said,
“We live in a world where what’s someone doing for me? It’s humbling
to be in a profession that is the complete opposite of that. Where
it’s always what can I do for you?”
I highly recommend this film not just for golfers, but for
everyone. Golfers will appreciate the film immensely, but I believe
that non-golfers will be drawn into the heartfelt and compelling story
lines. There are some great life lessons being shared in this movie
from people from all walks of life. What other sport can you play
where you can have a friend or colleague with you in the field of play
as you battle against your opponents? Having a friendly face to share
the journey and having a voice of reason in difficult situations can
do wonders in making your time on the golf course memorable.
This movie captures all those elements and more making it a must
see, feel good film.
The film is showing locally in North Texas on June 10th and 11th.
Locations include in the Studio Movie Grill at 452 Lincoln Sq and in
Plano at 4721 W. Park Blvd.
To learn more visit their website at www.loopersmovie.com.
Tom Ward can be reached at www.teetimewithtom.com

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