My Final Tune Up

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ChildrenLAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- First of all, I never thought Id receive so many e-mails and responses regarding a week on the PGA TOUR caddying for my buddy Jay Williamson. Thanks for the kind words and support ' Wednesday was a very good day of preparation.
 
Tuesday night was actually spent on the ball field in Windermere, Fla. I manage my sons Little League team after hours which is one of the great thrills for me. PGA TOUR pro Carl Paulson is actually my assistant coach. Hes on the shelf these days with a back injury and has become a good friend ' and a heck of a baseball coach as well. The game was actually a good thing. It kept my mind off the caddy job for a few hours. After a four game win streak ' we lost a close one which ' as it turns out - was easier to take than the overnight weather that has turned golf courses in Orlando into soup kitchens. Tons of rain, making the courses nearly unplayable.
 
No worries getting to the course this morning. Dropped off the kids at school, hopped on the interstate and headed for Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and the Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World to meet the boss. I grabbed a Diet Coke and a USA Today, talked to Paulson on the phone about how well put the loss behind us, and waited for Jay to come from his room.
 
Were meeting at the Polynesian each morning and driving in together ' which keeps me from hopping on a shuttle from the tournament parking lots and gives us a chance to warm up before he actually warms up.
 
First stop was the PGA TOUR players dining area for some breakfast. He can bring in a guest, which gave me the fortune of some scrambled eggs and bacon while watching the Weather Channel to see if the rain would hold off. Jay had a brief interruption for a phone interview for The Grey Goose 19th Hole, talking about us working together this week.
 
Basically, Wednesday was dry ' but overnight rains had the Palm Course soaked beyond belief. Its built on a swamp to begin with and doesnt drain like the Magnolia Course. If today was Thursday ' I cant see that the Palm Course would have been playable. Heck, even the range was closed until late morning.
 
Jay spent much of the morning tweaking his equipment and handling a few errands and phone calls (gosh these guys get a lot of calls) while we waited for the range to open.
 
When it did, he spent about 15 minutes hitting balls, as I cleaned the clubs. Some players like the grips wiped and cleaned each day ' others dont. I did it on Tuesday; Jay said no thanks on Wednesday.
 
We played the front 9 holes of the Magnolia Course in the morning. Again ' Im taking the yardage book and focusing solely on the yardage to the front. Were comparing numbers to make sure were correct. The fairways are very wet ' lift, clean and place for sure on Thursday and Friday. The good news was the heavy dose of wind and some sunshine for the first time all week ' which is great news for the course conditions.
 
Every PGA TOUR pro hits it great ' we know that. Ive played with Jay before, but it seems like hes onto something this week. (Ive kept that quiet.) After winning on the Nationwide Tour earlier this year and nearly winning in Hartford on the PGA TOUR, Jay had his clubs stolen from the trunk of his car in Salt Lake City, Utah, during a Nationwide Tour event. Gone was the driver that he said had him more confident than ever. Since then its been tough finding the same magic. But this week, he had those weighted screws adjusted and is finding some quick results. (Lets keep that quiet too.) Jays a notorious tinkerer with equipment ' bending and checking clubs each week to the point that I joke with him about how he knows what hes even hitting.
 
The key this week seems to be the driver and the putter. He likes them both. Well see.
 
The Childrens Miracle Network Classic is a pro-am format for the first two days ' split between the Palm and the Magnolia. Then its just the Magnolia over the weekend. Thus, we spent all day today on the course well see the most (provided we reach the weekend.)
 
Long, long, long. Wet, wet, wet. A par 4 of 495 which theyll never play that far back.
 
Among the things he taught me today. stand 3 yards to the right while hes hitting, dont talk to the other guys golf ball, and dont fix the ball marks on the green ' for either player. Two hands when putting in the flag ' especially when its windy. And by the way, it was blowing 30 mph today.
 
Pros dont much care about playing for a score on each hole during a practice round. Id have three balls at all times on the tee, and ready to go in the fairway. Sometimes wed use them all, sometimes wed use just one. And when we reach the green, sometimes we never putted at all ' just chip shots from around the greens and shots from the bunkers.
 
By the way, I asked him to grade my rake-job today and got a strong passing grade. The key is to be good, but also quick as players might be ready to play from the fairway.
 
Today we had lunch in the caddy van ' a great concept which is basically a motor home with a kitchen/diner feel. Seating for about 20 and it includes players too. Tuna melts for both of us ' I bought.
 
After lunch we played the back 9 at the Magnolia Course with Steve Marino and his caddy Matt. Marino hits it a ton! He Monday qualified his way onto the Nationwide Tour last year, went to Q-School and earned a card. Hes made more than $1 million this year and it shows.
 
In between shots wed see other players like Tripp Isenhour and Kent Jones with fishing poles throwing in some lures chasing bass. Believe me ' the pressure this week is intense. Both of those guys are outside the top 125, and I dont blame them for taking their mind off things.
 
At 3:30 we did an interview for Golf Central, and met with the GOLF CHANNEL live tournament production team about Rd. 1. Apparently they are putting a microphone on me for Rd. 1 in hopes of some good banter. Then we finished up on 18 at the Magnolia, and hit the range for about 25 minutes.
 
At the end of the day, Jay said he needed to hit a few buckets to find some rhythm. With the stops and starts from the weather and the interviews and the meals and the banter with players ' it has to be tough to get a true gauge on your game.
 
I watched him hit a variety of irons. At one point he asked me to check his ball position. He wants it back a bit if its going to be windy. He hit about 30 drivers it seemed and then called it quits about 4:30pm.
 
Jay took me back to the hotel for my car. telling me not to be late for Trick-or-Treating tonight. Believe it or not he went back to the course to work on his putting before the sun set.
 
Remember, he loves that putter. Maybe that will be his biggest treat this week. Off we go on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. from the No. 1 tee at Magnolia. J.P. Hayes is our professional partner ' with top-125 pressure which will make my experience even more interesting than it already has been.
 
I think Im ready. We had carts for two practice rounds. Thursday its time to put the big bag on the back and make it work. Well meet at the Polynesian Resort at 10:30 a.m.
 
My confidence is up, and it cant hurt that I found a lucky penny on the ground today ' heads up.
 

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Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Children's Miracle Network Classic