Caddies Get Nervous Too

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. ' I wonder what its like for the caddie standing on that first tee. The player asks, What club do you like here? Your answer is not just for him but for your country. You look down at an unfamiliar bag that doesnt have a Nike, TaylorMade, or Titleist logo on it. You reach for the headcovers that now are emblazoned with the stars and stripes or the European flag. A part of you has to be thinking, What have I gotten myself into.... and another part of you has to be thinking, THIS IS FREAKIN AWESOME!
 
You think the players are the only ones to have dump trucks driving around their bellys on that first tee?
 
This is my first Ryder Cup experience and I got butterflies just landing at Cincinnati airport knowing this week is here.
 
Of course, that couldve been because the guy sitting in front of me had a seizure while we were 50 miles out and almost ended up in my lap. You know its hard to talk to a really pretty girl sitting next to you on a flight when youre making an emergency landing. I guess his Ryder Cup fever was just too much to take! Hes fine I hope.
 
But thats the thing: I guess its one thing to play for yourself or for your family. But golf, especially for caddies, isnt normally about team. As a caddie, he is me, and I am he. I am the guy (sometimes angel, sometimes devil) sitting on the shoulder being the re-enforcer, comforter and guide for one player.
 
But this week, the shoulder is shared: captain, teammate and country.
 
Now if you give a yardage, and a shot goes long or comes up short, there are three guys staring at you: your player, his teammate, and the other caddie. Oh, and the whole country (or countries if youre in Europe). And dont forget about the crowds.
 
Ive been paired with Tiger Woods at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock on Saturday when he holed out on 18 for eagle which was the loudest roar I had ever heard. Ive been told thats nothing compared with whats coming. In most cases when youre caddying you dont notice the roars too much, but sometimes...
 
I was caddying at the Byron Nelson a few years ago, its Sunday and on the par-5 seventh weve got a putt for eagle to tie for the lead. Now I havent let my player see a scoreboard all day because for this player that would be bad, but I know where we stand. He asks me for the read; I give it. He makes the putt, I heard that roar. Problem is, I cant get excited like I want to, because itll freak him out, too. He only gets a fist bump from me, and a serious look to let him know, we aint done yet.
 
I do, however, as Im following him to the next tee, high-five a couple of his family members when he cant see me do it. But on the 15th hole, a tough par-4 were right of the green in the deep stuff, hole is cut front left but the green slopes away from us so its not any easy chop/chip. I tell him. Nothing cute here, just get us on the green. We will make the putt, OK? But I said OK with a tone that said I am not asking.
 
He nodded yes as I stepped away. He flips it up on the green and it starts tracking right at the hole. Now there are about 8,000 people around this green, were one shot off the lead in Texas and hes from Texas. The crowd starts building as the ball is getting closer, and as it gets to the lip of the cup every fiber of my body is feeling the screams of this crowd. The ball hangs there and doesnt drop, but I look at my guy and his eyes are as big as an octopus. As he walks over to tap in for a par, I take the flag out and say to him sarcastically, I thought I told you nothing cute! He looks at me and says, Sorry. We both laughed our way to third place that day. But I remember those roars and the pressure of trying to get it done just for him. I will guarantee you all this: even the caddies will here the roars this week, and no matter who wins, if they celebrate a little bit after a big moment, thats cool with me.
 
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. He also has his own Web site, www.funnycaddy.com
 
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