ERIN, Wis. – Colin Gassner was on the couch watching television last Wednesday in Naples, Fla., when he received a call. It was from an agent — Joel Stalter’s agent.
“He needed a guy to caddie,” Gassner said of Stalter, a European Tour professional and Frenchman who qualified for the U.S. Open last week. Gassner, a 40-year-old Mayville native who has caddied at Erin Hills for more than seven years, was that guy.
Of the 156 players in the field, five have Erin Hills caddies on their bags, including Stalter. Other local caddies have assisted tour caddies by walking the course with them, too.
Sam Weber is one of them.
On Sunday, Tim Tucker, Bryson DeChambeau’s caddie, met Weber. Tucker is a former caddie at Bandon Dunes in Oregon, so prior to his arrival at Erin Hills he knew he wanted to walk the course with a local caddie to glean knowledge he couldn’t have otherwise. Weber provided that opportunity and provided insight as the two walked 18 holes.
After Weber pointed out where the left and right edges of the fairways were, Tucker better understood the correct sight lines on tee boxes, a crucial strategic obstacle for golfers this week.
Justin Kordus, Erin Hills’ caddie manager, believes the caddies have and will help on the greens, too.
“At a place like Erin Hills, when you’re a virgin course on the circuit, I don’t think you can ever have enough information,” Kordus said from his office in a barn just steps off of the range.
To get to the office, Kordus had to walk around desks for photojournalists, a space that typically houses ping-pong tables and couches for the 125 caddies staffed by the course.
“Any little tidbit that can give you a half-stroke advantage on the rest of the field, that’s the difference between first and second sometimes,” Kordus said, “and I believe our guys will do that.”
After the initial call last Wednesday, Gassner — who has caddied at Calusa Pines in Florida while Erin Hills was closed in preparation for the U.S. Open — packed his stuff.
On Friday, he, his fiancée and his two kids made the 1,500-mile trek to Wisconsin. The trip spanned two days.
When he arrived at the course Monday, Gassner said it was a “holy cow” moment. He’d caddied for qualifiers before, but nothing like the 117th playing of America’s championship.
“It’s cool just being around the atmosphere — just the buzz and the guys you see on TV all the time,” Gassner said. “It’s a different caliber of play.”
Before Tuesday, Gassner had never met Stalter, nor the agent who had received Gassner’s name third-hand.
As he stood on the range with a white towel over his shoulder, Gassner made clear his hopes Stalter would make the cut and play on the weekend. He admitted it felt like the Super Bowl with the cameras and the people. Yet he felt right at home.
“I’ve been out here a thousand times,” Gassner said. “I know this place without even looking at it.”