Notes The Story of Bambi


TROON, Scotland -- Ron Levin is called 'Bambi' by his peers because he first went to work as a tour caddie when he was 17 and looks young compared with most other loopers. He has spent half his life as a caddie, working on just about every tour imaginable.
Still, he would not have been on the 18th green at Royal Troon hugging his boss - British Open champion Todd Hamilton - if not for a freak encounter a dozen years ago at Muirfield, and visa problems involving another caddie.
The strange sequence of events started when Hamilton won the Asian Tour money list, which got him into the 1992 British Open at Muirfield. Levin was working for D.A. Weibring that week, but Weibring didn't make it through final qualifying.
'He had met a girl that was working at a bed and breakfast that we were staying at,' Hamilton recalled. 'She mentioned to him, 'There's a golfer staying at our place that is looking for a caddie.' I was told to look for him in the parking lot.'
Hamilton missed the cut with Bambi on the bag, although they stayed in touch over the years.
Now, fast-forward to the start of the season. Hamilton got his PGA Tour card through Q-school, but his regular caddie in Japan (a Canadian resident) has been having trouble getting his visa sorted out.
'I saw him (Levin) out earlier this year and I told him the situation,' Hamilton said. 'I said, 'You're more than welcome to caddie for me if you'd like for the rest of the year.''
The rest is history. They won together at the Honda Classic, which got Hamilton into the Masters and secured his PGA Tour card for two years. And they won the biggest of them all at Royal Troon, which makes Hamilton exempt on tour and for the majors the next five years.
'He was very instrumental,' Hamilton said Sunday. 'He kept me calm. He knew what today was all about. If I could saw that claret jug in half and give him half, I'd gladly do it.'
British Amateur champion Stuart Wilson was flirting with the lead in the first round of the British Open, but ended his week at Royal Troon with rounds of 75-77-76 and tied for 63rd.
Still, he wound up with the silver medal as the low amateur, and the only one to make the cut.
'This is what I came here to achieve, and to pick up the silver medal is a special honor,' he said. 'I've played alongside a lot of good players. The reception from the crowd has been fantastic. And to play all four rounds was really special.'
The only tough moment came during the practice round, when security made him park in a different lot.
'I think the marshals were looking for something a bit plusher than a Ford Fiesta,' he said.
Next up for Wilson is the Masters, which gives an invitation to the British Amateur champion. He also wants to play in the Walker Cup next year before deciding whether to turn pro.
K.J. Choi is trying to speak English in more of his interviews, a noble effort considering it makes the amiable South Korean feel uncomfortable.
He has lived in the United States the last five years, moving to Houston in 2001. His best teacher is 7-year-old son David, who is in school and speaks English better than Korean.
'David tries to teach me a few phrases, and I try to catch them,' Choi said. 'He's like an American kid. He's forgetting his Korean. I'm worried about it. English is perfect. Korean, 40 to 50 percent. Sometimes, he doesn't understand me.'
As more college players are leaving school early to turn pro, two-time U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Ryan Moore says he will stay at UNLV all four years.
'It's always been something I thought about,' Moore said of playing on the PGA Tour. 'But I really want a team championship. That's what you play college for. You don't go there for all the individual titles. This is your one time, four years of your life, you get to play as a team.'
Moore now has even more reason to stay in school. His second victory in the Publinx gets him back to the Masters, where he made the cut two years ago.
That's also where he played a practice round with Arnold Palmer, who had a word with Moore's father about not rushing into professional golf.
'He said that too many guys make the mistake of going a little early instead of kicking back and enjoying themselves ... which is what I'm looking forward to next year,' Moore said.
Going into the PGA Championship, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson are the only players who can finish in the top 10 in all four majors this year.
A dozen others will try to make the cut in all majors, still exclusive company. They are K.J. Choi, Vijay Singh, Chris DiMarco, Nick Price, Retief Goosen Charles Howell III, Steve Flesch, Shaun Micheel, Scott Verplank, Jerry Kelly and Tiger Woods, who has never missed the cut in a major as a pro.
On the other side are the five players who have missed the cut in all three majors - Thomas Bjorn, Brian Davis, Nick Faldo, Australian amateur Nick Flanagan and Chad Campbell, who missed the last two by a single shot.
Ernie Els looked distraught after losing the British Open in a playoff. Imagine how the guy felt who placed the largest single wager ever in the Open - 62,500 pounds on Els at 8-1 odds at the start of the week. He stood to get about $935,000. ... Mark Calcavecchia, who made birdie out of the rough just to make the cut, had a chance to finish in the top 10 at the British Open, but he was knocked out when Tiger Woods made a 6-foot par putt on the final hole. ... Most people commonly refer to hybrid fairway metals as the Rescue club, which is made by Taylor Made and was the first prominent product on the market. Todd Hamilton is sponsored by Taylor Made. So what was that club that he used to save par on the final hole of the playoff? A hybrid club made by Sonartec. ... Fred Funk, who skipped the British Open so he could try to get Ryder Cup points at the B.C. Open, tied for 40th.
Phil Mickelson, who leads the money list, would be 12th based on his performance in the three majors alone. He has earned $2,350,965 from the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open.
'This course has a lot of history.' - Fred Funk on En-Joie Golf Club, site of the B.C. Open, which he played instead of the British Open.
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