The Caddie Blog: A day of lessons

Paul Richards is caddying for George Zahringer at the USGA Senior Amateur at The Beverly Country Club in Chicago. Richards will file daily reports for Golfweek.com detailing his experience on the bag and inside the ropes.

CHICAGO – Today was a real learning experience for me as a caddie.

Of course, we at Beverly know to “treat your caddie as you would your son or daughter” – it’s a motto that the club has adhered to since maybe the 1930s or 40s. I’m not sure of the exact year, but I do have a matchbook that has it on the cover and it is OLD. Beverly also has the most Evans Scholars graduates of any course in the country and continues to have a very fine caddie program today.

However, it struck me today how different it is to caddie for a player as good as those participating in the USGA Senior Amateur. The exact yardage DOES matter. Players at this level know the difference.

When I was a full-time caddie, I was a regular caddie for an ex-alderman. His group played very fast and paid very well. He was a great ‘deal’. The drawback was that there was no tolerance for errors – no lost balls, no terrible reads, no awful yardages. If you made a mistake like that, you got paid that day, but it was the last time you were with them.

Today, I learned that a distance of 77 yards meant leaving it short of a shelf that had a false front. Seventy-nine was the right yardage, not 77. Par can still be made, but birdie was taken out of the equation. Lesson learned.

George started his day on No. 10 with a solid 7-iron for an easy par, followed by pars at Nos. 11 and 12. At No. 13 I got my first proud caddie moment as I read his putt as a left-to-right break over an old ball mark. He made the putt. Whether he made it because of my read is a mystery. A double bogey at 15 was followed by a birdie at 16 and two pars for a solid even-par 35 on the back nine (his front nine).

The front side was a bit of a struggle as we experienced a couple of three-putts (I had no part in these, of course!) as well as two solid putts that just did not fall. Our front-nine total of 38 gave us a first-round 73. Not bad, as there was only one player in the morning group who played under par. That was Jeff Burda with a 69. A handful of 72s were in front of us and we tied for sixth with a large group for the morning play.

With the course drying out in the sun, it will play harder and faster for the afternoon contingent. There will probably be more good scores to come out of the afternoon round than we had in the morning.

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