Commentary

First round of tourney caddying is a 'we' thing

Updated: October 19, 2007, 5:37 AM ET
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- A wise man once declared, "There is no room for excuses or explanations on a scorecard." So let's get right down to the basic facts. In my first competitive tournament round on the bag of Roland Thatcher, I didn't cough in anyone's backswing, didn't lose any clubs, didn't tire out after four holes and throw down the bag in disgust, leaving my man on his own. No, I did the job, helped my player as much as I could, and we shot a respectable albeit topsy-turvy score of 3-under 69.

That's right. "We." As in, he and I. Together. Of course, our opening round of the Nationwide Tour's Chattanooga Classic would have been one helluva day for a member of the "We He Gang" of caddies, as discussed earlier this week.

It's a reference to those loopers who want to share in all of the glory, but refuse to shoulder any of the blame. Written from their perspective, Thursday's round would have been described very much like this:

Thatcher
Dan Henry for ESPN.comWith Sobel on the bag, Thatcher shot an opening-round 69 in Chattanooga.

We started out hot, with birdies on four of the first eight holes. Sure, he missed a few putts during that stretch, but we persevered to shoot a front-side 32. Then he failed to capitalize on birdie opportunities on 10 and 11 and made bogey on 12. He really blew up on 13, getting a bad break that resulted in triple-bogey. But we regrouped quickly, carding eagle-birdie-birdie on the next three holes before he three-putted the last two greens to end the round.

Whew, good thing I'm not one of those guys.

Anytime a professional golfer's scorecard lists an eagle and six birdies but the final tally is only 3-under-par, you know there was some entertaining stuff going on. And that was the case here. This wasn't just a roller-coaster round. It was the entire theme park.

The fun started before the initial shot was even hit. I was greeted at the first tee by one playing partner, Mario Tiziani, who promptly shook my hand, stared me down and whispered, "You'd better do a good job, dammit." Either he knew I wasn't a regular tour caddie or that's just his usual pre-round greeting. Good times!

Even with that sort of pressure hanging in the air, it's hard to feel nervous when a round is about to get under way with approximately three spectators in attendance. I handed Roland a 3-wood, he swatted it down the left side and we were off. Made par on the first hole, birdie on the second (wedge to 2 feet) and pars on each of the next three. Then came a nice little birdie run of three in a row, which spurred my proudest moment in three career days (including a practice round and pro-am) as a professional caddie.

Walking down the ninth fairway, Danny Ellis' caddie sidled up next to me and without a twinge of sarcasm asked, "So, you been caddying for Roland all year?" I felt like Donnie Brasco infiltrating the mob to the point where even the inside guys believed he was legit. "I'm not becoming like them. I am them."

Things got ugly on the par-4 13th hole. After driving into a bunker, the 5-iron approach failed to catch the right side and bounce toward the green, instead caroming off the cart path and into some tall, thick grass. A wedge could only be gouged out to well short of the green. Another chip and three putts later, we were in the hole with a triple-bogey.

It takes a great caddie to help his player bounce back from a major mishap, but Thatcher was able to do so without one, as I simply lugged the bag next to him and handed him three clubs -- first driver, then 5-iron, then putter -- on the way to an eagle. Yep, from triple to eagle in the span of about 10 minutes, leading Roland to ask, "Feeling seasick yet?"

It was a joke, sure, but really I'm feeling great so far. Perhaps all the forewarning I was given concerning the treacherous job of carrying a 40-pound bag for 18 holes each day scared me more than necessary. My neck, back and shoulders don't ache, my feet feel fine, my heart hasn't stopped. (Yet.)

And I haven't gotten fired. "We discussed every club we were hitting into all the greens. I don't think I pulled out a single bad club today," Thatcher told me afterward. "You did a good job."

I started to thank him, but decided to correct my new boss instead. "No," I said. "We did a good job."

See, I'm starting to get the hang of this caddying thing already.

Coming Friday: Round 2

Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.