Good Times and Good Guys

By Michael CollinsJune 5, 2008, 4:00 pm
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.
 
So this week Im gonna write a little about everything thats happened to me so far. Since I was approached to do this column last year I have to say, some weeks are much easier than others to write ' I didnt realize the impact it would have on people. Players, caddies, players wives, caddies girlfriends, volunteers, fans, and even PGA TOUR big wigs have read this.
 
Who knew?! I had no idea the amount of new friends and enemies you could make writing. I want to thank all of you for reading it, and even when you dont agree with what Ive written, most understand that its in fun. I think more than anything most of you have been surprised when I respond to your e-mails. I guess most real writers dont read and respond to their e-mail, something I learned since talking to some of the writers that follow the TOUR. I always figured I was being polite, but Ill tell yall this, people who hate me, REALLY hate me.
 
What has made me giggle the most about the angry people is they keep reading and writing me. That to me would be like getting milk out of the fridge, taking a sip, realizing its sour and has chunks in it, but putting it back in the fridge. I got bad news for ya: that milk is not gonna go good, but they just keep drinking.
 
This week the boys are in Memphis, which incidentally has one of the best practice tee cookouts all year, ribs (dry or wet!) from Rendezvous that are good enough for a caddie to miss a tee time. OK, player, too, but it was just a practice round. I wonder if this week well have a Sunday charge like Woody put on em last year? I mean Adam Scott did crash and burn, but still, Woody was impressive and I love it when a guy whos as nervous as a cat in a dog pound has a great round. Its almost like watching figure skating; were waiting for the fall but impressed when that 12-year-old Romanian girl lands the reverse triple toe loop with a decaf twist. There just isnt much better than watching someone who admits how freaked out they get when they know theyre near the top of the leaderboard, because at some point theyre either gonna snap or reel off four birdies in a row ' either way its entertaining. Unless youre caddying for the guy.
 
Speaking of caddies
 
Last week I had to print a retraction for a friend of mine and I want to tell you my best friend/broadcast/interview moment last year because it happened with/to this man.
 
Last year at The Honda Classic Chris P. Jones (caddie nickname Crispy) had a brain freeze on a par 3 on Friday and told another player what club his boss Mark Wilson had just hit. Mark called a two-stroke penalty on himself (going from a par to a double bogey) and continued on. You all know Mr. Wilson went on to win the tournament and into legend for sportsmanship and keeping this game at a level of honor that separates it from all others. What you probably dont know is what happened right after the round.
 
See as most caddies know, costing your player two strokes during a round is grounds for IMMEDIATE dismissal and in some cases, a caddie wouldnt make it through the round! Not Mark and Crispy, though. Mark had to console Crispy on the course and tell him, lets just finish this round strong. Well thats like a girl saying, We need to talk tonight. You know whats coming. But in this case they actually did finish strong and made the cut, but that was no consolation to Crispy, who I saw visibly upset and shaken on the practice green after the round.
 
Now as my friend I had to go to him to find out what was wrong and after he told me what happened I put my hands on his shoulders and told him, Listen, everything happens for a reason, you guys were loafin out there all day and it took this to get your focus right. You shot -66 after it happened so believe me when I tell you: Something special is happening.
 
I shook him, and made him look at me and said it again. Now, I have to go tell everyone on XM what happened, because I am an on-course reporter and they need to know. So I break the story on air Friday night before our broadcast is over. Friday night GOLF CHANNEL relays the story on TV with props to XM for breaking it (first time wed ever broken a story). Saturday morning NBC runs the story again, but I dont care about that; Im at the practice green looking for Crispy.
 
When I find him before he and Mark go play, we have another heart-to-heart. Hes feeling a little better now since he didnt get fired last night but still doesnt expect to work for Mark after the week is over. I just keep telling him, stop worrying, stay focused and let it happen on the course. Sunday morning, same thing. Now I didnt cover Mark in the playoff so when he won I was free to head back to the booth. I asked my producer if I could interview Crispy and he said thatd be cool. As I walked over Crispy saw me and a BIG man hug was exchanged. I told him I wanted to talk to him on air and as the tears started to well up in his eyes as he took the flag off the flagstick (thats the caddies trophy for a win, the flag from the final hole) and we started.
 
It was his first win as a caddie and to have it happen the way it did was just too much to handle. But hearing the emotion in his voice and the gratitude towards Mark for staying with him through the incident and then he thanked me (which I neither expected nor wanted on air) and now we were both crying and laughing at the same time. Ill admit it, when it comes to stuff like that I have a hard time being professional.
 
It was the third time Ive seen a caddie cry when their player was holding their emotions in check. The other two times were me. Shut up. Anyway, afterwards, I go back to the broadcast booth and three people were crying as the interview was being played on the air. The next week, a good friend of mine who works for the TOUR told me she was crying in her car driving as she was listening, then she slapped me and told me, dont ever do that to me again! Crispy and Mark got a flag from the course and both signed it for me. It hangs in my house with pride, just to remind me that no matter what else, sometimes the good guys do win!
 
Email your thoughts to Michael Collins
 
Related Links:
  • Michael Collins Archive
  • Getty Images

    Snedeker still in front on Day 3 of suspended Wyndham

    By Associated PressAugust 18, 2018, 11:21 pm

    GREENSBORO, N.C. - Brandt Snedeker held a three-stroke lead Saturday in the Wyndham Championship when the third round was suspended because of severe weather.

    Snedeker was 16 under for the tournament with 11 holes left in the round at the final event of the PGA Tour's regular season.

    Brian Gay was 13 under through 12 holes, and Trey Mullinax, Keith Mitchell, C.T. Pan and D.A. Points were another stroke back at varying stages of their rounds.

    Thirty players were still on the course when play was halted during the mid-afternoon with thunder booming and a threat of lightning. After a 3-hour, 23-minute delay, organizers chose to hold things up overnight and resume the round at 8 a.m. Sunday.

    When things resume, Snedeker - who opened with a 59 to become the first Tour player this year and just the 10th ever to break 60 - will look to keep himself in position to contend for his ninth victory on Tour and his first since the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open.


    Wyndham Championship: Full-field scores | Full coverage

    Current FedExCup points list


    The 2012 FedEx Cup champion won the tournament in 2007, the year before it moved across town to par-70 Sedgefield Country Club.

    Snedeker's final 11 holes of the round could wind up being telling: In seven of the 10 previous years since the tournament's move to this course, the third-round leader or co-leader has gone on to win.

    And every leader who finished the third round here at 16 under or better has wound up winning, including Henrik Stenson (16 under) last year and Si Woo Kim (18 under) in 2016.

    Snedeker started the day off strong, rolling in a 60-foot chip for birdie on the par-4 second hole, then pushed his lead to three strokes with a birdie on No. 5 that moved him to 16 under. But after he sank a short par putt on the seventh, thunder boomed and the horn sounded to stop play.

    Gay was 12 holes into a second consecutive strong round when the delay struck. After shooting a 63 in the second round, he had four birdies and an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole. He placed his 200-yard second shot 10 feet from the flagstick and sank the putt.

    Getty Images

    Lexi charges with 64 despite another penalty

    By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

    Lexi Thompson ran into another awkward rules issue while making a bold charge at the leaders Saturday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    She hit a speed bump at Brickyard Crossing Golf Course when she was assessed a penalty for violating a preferred-lies local rule.

    Five shots off the lead at day’s start, Thompson birdied six of the first nine holes, making the turn in 30 to move two off the lead, but that’s where she got her second education this season on the implementation of local rules.

    At the 10th tee, Thompson blew her tee shot right, into the sixth fairway. With preferred lies in effect, Thompson picked up her ball, cleaned it and replaced it within a club length before preparing to hit her second shot at the par 5.

    According to Kay Cockerill, reporting for Golf Channel’s early live streaming coverage, LPGA rules official Marty Robinson saw Thompson pick up her ball and intervened. He informed her she was in violation of the preferred lies rule, that she was allowed to lift, clean and place only when in the fairway of the hole she was currently playing. She was assessed a one-shot penalty and returned her ball to its original spot, with Robinson’s help. The local rule was distributed to players earlier in the week.

    Cockerill said Thompson handled the penalty well, shaking her head when realizing her mistake, and chuckling at her gaffe. She then crushed a fairway wood, from 215 yards, up onto the green. She two-putted from 50 feet and walked away with a par.


    Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship


    “Thankfully, Marty intervened before she hit her next shot,” Cockerill reported. “Otherwise, she would have been hitting from the wrong spot, and it would have been a two-shot penalty. So, in a sense, it saved her a shot.”

    Thompson is making a return to golf this week after taking a month-long “mental break.” A year ago, she endured heartache on and off the golf course, with her competitive frustration having much to do with being hit with a controversial four-shot penalty in the final round of the ANA Inspiration. She appeared to be running away with a victory there but ended up losing in a playoff.

    Earlier this year, Thompson got another education in local rules. She was penalized in the second round at the Honda Thailand after hitting her ball next to an advertising sign. She moved the sign, believing it was a moveable object, but the local rules sheet that week identified signs on the course as temporary immovable obstructions. She was penalized two shots.

    In her pretournament news conference this week, Thompson shared how difficult the ANA controversy, her mother’s fight with cancer and the death of a grandmother was on her emotionally. She also was candid about the challenge of growing up as a prodigy and feeling the need to build a life about more than golf.

    Saturday’s penalty didn’t slow Thompson for long.

    She made back-to-back birdies at the 13th and 14th holes to post a 64, giving her a Sunday chance to win in her return.

    Getty Images

    U.S. Amateur final comes down to Devon vs. Goliath

    By Ryan LavnerAugust 18, 2018, 9:45 pm

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – On his family’s happiest day in years, Nick Bling stood off to the side of the 18th green, trying to collect himself.

    His oldest son, Devon, had just advanced to the U.S. Amateur final, and he surely knew that, at some point, the question was coming. Of the many members in the family’s boisterous cheering section that came here to Pebble Beach – a clan that includes Nick’s brothers and sisters, his in-laws and the teaching professionals of his hometown club – one person was conspicuously absent.

    So for 22 seconds, Nick couldn’t utter a word.

    “She’s watching,” he said, finally, wiping under his sunglasses.

    His wife, Sara, died in February 2013 after suffering a sudden blood clot that went to her brain. She was only 45, the mother of two young boys.

    The news took everyone by surprise – that day Nick and Devon were together at a junior tournament in southwest California, while Sara was at home with her youngest son, Dillon.

    “That was bad. Unexpected,” said Dillon, now 16. “I don’t even want to think about that. That was a rough year.”

    Sara was a fixture at all of the boys’ junior tournaments. She organized their schedules, packed their lunches and frequently shuttled them to and from China Lake, the only course in their small hometown of Ridgecrest, about two hours north of Los Angeles, where they’ve lived since 1990.

    An engineer at the Naval Air Weapons Station, Nick picked up the game at age 27, and though he had no formal training (at his best he was a high-80s shooter), he was the boys’ primary swing coach until high school, when Devon was passed off to PGA instructor Chris Mason.

    “Devon has world-class raw talent, and there’s a lot of things you can’t teach, and he’s got a lot of that,” said UCLA assistant coach Andrew Larkin. “But his dad looked at the game very analytically. He was able to break down the golf swing from a technical standpoint, and I think that has helped him. His dad is a brilliant man.”

    Devon watched his dad hit balls in the garage and, at 18 months, began taking full swings with a plastic club, whacking shots against the back of the couch. Once his son was bigger, Nick put down a mat and built a hole in the dirt on the family’s property.


    U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


    Once it was time for the next step, there was only one option in town. China Lake is more than 300 miles from Pebble Beach, but in many ways they’re worlds apart. The course is dead in the winter, picked over by the birds in the spring and baked out in the summer, with 110-degree temperatures and winds that occasionally gust to 60 mph. Devon still blossomed into a well-known prospect.

    “Growing up in Ridgecrest,” Devon said, “some could say that it’s a disadvantage. But I could use the course and take a shag bag and go out and practice. So I used it to my advantage, and if it weren’t for that golf course, I wouldn’t be here today.” 

    Nor would he be here without the support of his family.

    Asked how they survived the tragedy of losing Sara so suddenly, Nick Bling said: “Brothers. Kids. Friends. Half of Ridgecrest. The town. They all came together. What do they say, that it takes a village to raise a boy? It did. Two boys.”

    Devon carried a 4.2 GPA in high school and played well enough to draw interest from UCLA. He played on the team last season as a freshman, winning a tournament and posting three other top-10s. The consistency in his game has been lacking, but the time spent around the Bruins’ coaches is starting to pay off, as he’s developed into more than just a swashbuckling power hitter. He has refined his aggression, though he’s offered more than a few reminders of his firepower. Last fall, the team held a Red Tee Challenge at TPC Valencia, where they all teed off from the red markers. Bling shot 28 on the back nine.

    In addition to his awesome game, Larkin said that Bling was one of the team’s most mature players – even after arriving on campus as a 17-year-old freshman.

    “I think his mannerisms and his charisma really come from his mom,” Larkin said. “It was a super hard time in his life, but I think it helped him grow and mature at an early age. He’s such a good big brother, and he took a lot of that responsibility.

    “There’s a blessing in everything that happens, and I think it made him grow a little young. I think he’s the man he is today because of her.”

    In his player profile, Bling wrote that his mom always wanted him to play in USGA championships, because of their prestige, and she would have loved to watch him maneuver his way through his first U.S. Amateur appearance.

    After earning the No. 41 seed in stroke play, Bling knocked off two of the top amateurs in the country (Shintaro Ban and Noah Goodwin), edged one of the nation’s most sought-after prospects (Davis Riley) and on Saturday traded birdies with Pacific Coast Amateur champion Isaiah Salinda.

    In one of the most well-played matches of the week, Bling made six birdies in a seven-hole span around the turn and shot the stroke-play equivalent of a 65 to Salinda’s 66.

    The match came down to 18, where Bling bludgeoned a drive over the tree in the middle of the fairway, knocked it on the green in two shots and forced Salinda to make birdie from the greenside bunker, which he couldn’t.

    Bling was a 1-up winner, clinching his spot in the finals (and the 2019 Masters and U.S. Open), and setting off a raucous celebration behind the rope line.

    “He played as good as I’ve ever seen,” Larkin said. “The talent has always been there, and I’m glad it’s coming out this week.”

    Another difficult opponent awaits in the championship match. It’s a mismatch on paper, a 36-hole final between Oklahoma State junior Viktor Hovland, ranked fifth in the world, and the No. 302-ranked Bling. Hovland had won each of his previous two matches by a 7-and-6 margin – the first time that’s happened since 1978 – and then dropped eight birdies on Cole Hammer on Saturday afternoon.

    But he’s likely never faced a player with Bling’s resolve – or a cheering section as supportive as his family’s.

    “This means a lot to us,” Dillon said. “It was finally Devon’s time, and I knew one day it’d come down to the finals. He’s been playing awesome. Mom is probably really happy right now.”

    Getty Images

    Report: Fan hit by broken club at Web.com event

    By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 18, 2018, 9:12 pm

    A fan was hit by a broken club and required stiches Friday at the Web.com Tour's WinCo Foods Portland Open.

    According to ESPN.com, Kevin Stadler slammed his club in frustration causing his clubhead to break and it struck a fan in the head.

    The fan required six stiches and was released from the hospital.

    Orlando Pope, a Web.com Tour rules official, spoke with ESPN.com:

    "It was a very freakish accident. Kevin is devastated. He had trouble trying to finish the round. He was quite worried and felt so bad.''

    Former PGA champion Shaun Micheel was in Stadler's group and posted this message on Facebook:

    "One of my playing partners played a poor shot with a 7 iron on the par 3 fifteenth hole this morning. In a fit of anger he slammed his club against the ground and the side of his foot which caused the club to break about 6” from the bottom. I had my head down but the clubhead flew behind me and hit a spectator to my right. It’s been a while since I’ve seen so much blood. We stayed with him for about 15 minutes before the EMT’s arrived. The last I heard was that he had a possible skull fracture but that he was doing ok otherwise. [Stadler] was absolutely shattered and we did our best to keep his spirits up. This was not done on purpose and we were astounded at the way the club was directed but it shows you just how dangerous it is to throw or break clubs. Each of us in the group learned something today!"