Life Karma

December 19, 2008

The little things you do in life can make a big difference for others.

I found this to be true one year in Chicago at the Western Open.

After several years of looping for the same player, I found I could take a few liberties with the equipment.  One of my favorite actions as a tournament caddie was getting to dispose of the golf balls my player used during the course of a round.  This was in the days of the Tour Balata, a ball that was so soft it could be nicked by your fingernail.  Try that with today’s balls!  (Don’t send me the doctor’s bill.)  Since they were so soft, a player would have to switch to a new ball fairly often between the green and next tee.  My player at the time, Chris Perry, would ask for a new one after two, maybe three holes tops.  That left me with seven to nine unwanted golf balls in the bag after each round.  At first, he would keep them for his shag bag to practice at home.  But, once he had enough and got tired of transporting all the extra weight in his luggage, he would leave it to me to find a home for the rest.

That’s when I started having some fun.

It started innocently enough.  At the end of the round, I would join Chris in the scoring tent to check his card, making sure he was signing for a correct number.  Then, I would grab the bag and start “The Walk.”

The area where the players signed their cards was always roped off from the gallery.  The marshalls would also create a “rope tunnel” to get the players and caddies back to the clubhouse.  Along those ropes would stand hundreds of fans of all ages looking for an up-close view of their favorite golfer and maybe a signature or a memento from the pros.  They would wave posters and hats, even the occasional banana peel (that’s a whole other story!).  The younger ones could really get into it.  What would start as a murmur, would quickly cascade into screams and yelling.

“Can I have your glove?!”

“Can I have your hat?!”

It never took long for kids to start asking for your towel, shoes, shirt or anything else that was visible.  But, I soon found that nothing would send them into a frenzy more than if you simply held up a golf ball.

Instant bedlam!

“CAN I HAVE IT?!”, nine kids screech.

“NOOOoooo!  I WANT IT!!”, twelve more go ballistic.

I could never just hand it to someone.  If I got that close, the throng would grab everything on the bag that wasn’t screwed down tight.  So, I would get them worked up, then toss it high and watch them scramble for it like a Barry Bonds homer to straight away center field in old Candlestick Park.  The mob never disappointed.  I did this often and thought I was making the youngsters and myself happy until my wife interjected one day, “Don’t you worry about the kids getting hurt in the pile?”

“I guess I never thought about it, honey,” I said.

“Well, they might and it would be your fault!”

Time for Plan B.

I still wanted to give the kids all the used golf balls, but needed a way to do it without all the hubbub.  The galleries tended to be a bit more orderly during the round, rather than outside the scoring tent.  So, now when a ball would be taken out of play on the walk to the next tee, I would immediately look around for a pair of eyes that that said “Me, please!”  I could always find a worthy candidate and would drop it in their lap or toss it to their parents for them.

Problem solved!

Now, I don’t usually remember who I toss the balls to in those situations, since I am concentrating on the work at hand, but there was one I couldn’t ever forget.  It happened on the third tee box of the second round of the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, MD.  Chris had just bogied the difficult par three second hole after a long wait on the tee.  Neither of us were particularly chipper at that point. We were walking to the next tee in the “rope tunnel” strung together by the marshalls when Chris asked to switch to a new ball.  I looked around for someone to toss it to.  To my right at the edge of a group of small pine trees was a quiet, wide-eyed kid about ten years old watching us walk by.  Bingo.

“Hey kid, you want a ball?”

He kind of froze at being singled out, but then nodded slowly.  So, I tossed it to him.  I certainly didn’t expect what followed.  The kid caught the ball, looked down at it and then suddenly screamed,  “OH MY GOSH! I GOT A BALL!” and tore up the hill to find his parents, yelling at the top of his lungs the whole way.  So much for no hubbub!  It was like watching a kid get the one thing he just had to have on Christmas.  It was a priceless moment.

Which leads me back to the Western Open and the whole point of the story.  In 2000, the week after the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Chris competed at Cog Hill.  After a 69 in the second round to make the cut, I took the bag to the caddie area to get a quick bite before joining him for his afternoon practice session on the range.  This area was set up at the front right side of the smallish clubhouse.  It would normally be the club drop for patrons, but now was bound in on three sides by a temporary three-foot high white wooden picket fence and the building on the backside.  A white tent big enough for twenty people sat on a third of this space and housed sandwiches and cold drinks for the hot and weary loopers.  The rest of the caddie area housed outdoor tables and chairs to lounge upon.  We joked that it looked like a pen for goats at the zoo.  So, we called it the “Caddie Petting Zoo.” The only thing missing was the straw.

I got something to eat and drink, then sat down for a while at one of the tables along the fence.  I kept Chris’ bag within a few feet of me, the name facing outward.  Within a short bit, I was tapped on the shoulder by someone outside the zoo.  I turned to find a man in his mid-forties standing there, obviously with something to say.

“You’re Chris Perry’s caddie, aren’t you?”, he asked.

Uh oh.  Who’d my boss go and tick off now, I thought.

“Yes, I am.  How can I help you?”, I replied skeptically.

“I just wanted you to know that Chris Perry is my son’s favorite golfer and you gave him one of his balls three years ago on the third hole at the U.S. Open that he keeps as his most prized possession!  He’s more into golf now than ever thanks to you. Thank you!”

With that, he turned and melted back into the crowd…

Man, did that make me feel good inside.  Little actions can make a big difference.  That’s life karma.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: