Back to Where It All Began


Editor's note: Michael Collins has been a stand-up comedian for 15 years and has more than seven years experience as a professional caddie. He currently covers the PGA TOUR as a correspondent with XM Satellite Radio and takes his turn on The Turn Mondays on GOLF CHANNEL.
Relax... it's Hilton Head!
There is a huge difference in the week of a major and the week after.
First of all I have to be honest with all of you, I wasn't at the Masters. I've never gone. Ive been invited but there are only two ways I want to see that course, caddying in the Masters or playing with a member. A caddie at heart I couldn't bring myself to be stuck in a tower for four days on one hole calling shots off a TV screen. My feet have to feel the grass, I have to be with a guy for a few holes to see his demeanor and how he walks and interacts with his playing competitor. OR... if any of you reading are members and need a comedian in your group The place is, for any true golfers, after St. Andrews, our Mecca.
Now this week, on the other hand, is when the party on the east coast gets started. The west coast party was Bob Hope (I highly doubt that'll hold true anymore since George Lopez was let go as the host). Now the guys get a 'break' week after Augusta ' a lot of alcohol consumption after the round at the Quarter Deck by both caddies and players. That's even after a good round. It's almost like spring break for the PGA TOUR. Yeah, the guys at the top of the leaderboard on Friday night may slow down a bit, but even then you just go to Aunt Chiladas for great Mexican and extremely large margaritas. Guys let there 'guard' down for a week and try to remember how much fun this crazy game is we play.
Hilton Head is a special place for me; it's where my introduction to the PGA TOUR began. I remember it like it was yesterday (queue the memory music).
In 1998 I get a comedy gig at a club named Coconuts the week of the tournament. A kid I had gone to high school with was an assistant pro at one of Nicklaus' courses on the island and told me if I was ever there the week of the event he'd get tickets. I get there Monday night, call him up and he says, 'Let's go tomorrow.' Now at the time I know NOTHING about professional golf so I say to him, 'I thought they only play on the weekends ' my extensive TV watching coming in to play. After being scolded and berated, he picked me up in the AM and off we went.
We get to the course, walk to the practice green and some guy stops putting and walks over to me and starts talking me up ' asking how I'm doing, if I have a show this week, am I gonna be around for the tournament. Now my buddy, who was a golf nut back then already, looks like he's gonna mess his pants cause this pro is talking to me like we're old friends. After this golfer walks away my buddy says, 'You know....?'
I said, 'I have never seen that guy before in my life.'
I think it's hilarious, but my boy is in a panic (I still don't know why). For the sake of saving embarrassment, I'm not gonna tell you who it was, I'll just say later that week I found out he thought I was Darius Rucker (Hootie from Hootie and the Blowfish). Subsequently, my caddie nickname, 'Little Hootie,' was born.
So later that day we meet Omar Uresti and his caddie/brother Rusty (caddie nickname 'Hoss'). We hang out with them for a few holes, have some laughs (he's friend with a comedian I've performed with) and exchange numbers. That night O and Hoss come to the show, have a blast, and give me clubhouse badges for the rest of the week. Here's how the rest of my week goes:
Wednesday: hangout at the course during the day; at night go to dinner and who joins us at the table... Ken Venturi. Now HIM I knew (saw him on TV). I did not know, at the time, the whole story of his U.S. Open victory. OK, I won't lie: I didn't even know he played back in the day. I think it was better I didn't know who he was cause I was myself (that's happened a lot in my life) and we had great conversation about golf and life.
Then Friday night a bunch of us go to dinner at Aunt Chiladas and the hostess gets us seated in front of everyone in line; she had been to my show and hooked me up, which cracked me up because I'm not famous or rich like all the people waiting in line! As we sit down Payne Stewart (I knew who he was!) comes over to the table and asks Omar how we got seated so quick since he's been there 40 minutes.
'Him,' O says and points at me.
Payne says, 'Come here kid.' And we walk up to the hostess.
'I know him, too. Can I get a table now? Payne says to the girl as he puts his arm around my shoulder. She gives him a look like, yeah right, and looks at me.
'This is Payne Stewart; he's playing in the golf tournament this week and yeah, he's my friend.'
She says, 'OK, Mike, for you, I'll get him the next table open. But I wanna come to your show tomorrow.'
Now as we walk back to my table Payne looks at me and asks, 'Who the hell ARE you?!'
I just laughed, trying not to pee my pants, 'Just the comedian performing at Coconut's Comedy Club.'
'I guess I better come see your act.'
What a week. Someday I'll tell you about sneaking on the driving range and Tom Watson asking me to look at his swing. But not now, I gotta go book a flight to Hilton Head. Telling yall this story has made me wanna go. AND I'M NOT EVEN WORKING THIS WEEK!
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