Romancing the Caddie

By Randall MellJune 11, 2009, 4:00 pm
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McDonalds LPGAHAVRE DE GRACE, Md. ' Nicole Castrale wasnt sure what her father would think of her dating a caddie.
Actually, she was worried what he would think if he found out she was dating at all.
Imagine the stern father Gus and the Portokalos family in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding and you have the right imagery in understanding her trepidation.
Thats my life to a T, Castrale said. Both of my parents are 100 percent Greek. My grandmother, whos from Greece and speaks no English, lived with us. That movie, thats us in a nutshell. Its fun, though.
Nicole Castrale
Nicole Castrale has one career LPGA victory. (Getty Images)
With a 7-under-par 65 Thursday, Castrale seized the first-round lead at the McDonalds LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock Golf Course.
Listen to her, though, and shell make you believe golf is a team sport.
Castrale married her caddie, Craig, four years ago.
Watch them, and youll see the teamwork. Craig doesnt just clean clubs and spout yardages. He lines up Nicole before every shot.
Theyre inseparable on and off the course.
Even some of our close friends say they could never work with their spouses, but I wouldnt want to be out here with Craig at home, Nicole said. Thats not an option. It works out for both of us.
It worked out thanks to the help of Castrales very Greek mother.
Before Nicole married, her last name was Dalkas. She grew up in Glendale, Calif., outside Los Angeles and went on to play at USC. Her mother, Patricia, hit the LPGA circuit as an escort after Nicole graduated.
Anthony, Nicoles father, wouldnt have it any other way.
My dads very strict, Nicole said.
Patricia didnt just help pick Craig as a caddie, she practically played matchmaker in helping grease the track for their marriage.
My mom liked Craig, said Nicole, 30, a fourth-year LPGA pro looking for her second tour victory. But I said, `Mom, I cant have a boyfriend. Dads not going to accept it.
Patricia told her daughter not to worry about it.
Ill take care of your father, she promised.
Boy, did she.
Its neat the way it worked out, Nicole said. My dad adores Craig. Hes like a son to him. Im very blessed and grateful to have the people around me I do.
Husband-wife tandems can be tricky in golf. The games pressure can ruin relationships. Its why you dont see a lot of such teams.
Those who dare to team up include Kevin/Laura Diaz, Rob/Marcy Hart, Graeme/Catriona Matthew, Pete Upton/Stacy Prammanasudh and Patrick Byerly/Jill McGill.
Its like any other player and caddie, we have good days and bad days, Craig said. Ultimately, Nicole is the boss out there. Im just cleaning the clubs and getting the yardages. She knows she is the boss and all the major decisions come down to her. At the end of the day, Im there for support, giving yardage and checking wind.
Craig played golf at Southern Illinois and became a club pro. He was working as a caddie on tour when he met Nicole. He was on Heather Bowies bag before picking up Nicoles for the first time in a Monday qualifier at the Canadian Womens Open six years ago. Friendship preceded romance.
Their first date?
Weve talked about that, and I dont think we had a first date, Craig said. There was no day where we said, `Do you want to be boyfriend-girlfriend? It was like it was just meant to be.
Nicole said Craigs best quality is that hes so positive.
From the start, I trusted him, she said. He was a very well-respected caddie out here. Hes one of the best caddies. Im fortunate to have been able to snatch him on and off the course.
This is our sixth season together, and we keep growing and we keep getting better.
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