How much should teens, caddies be expected to know?
Michelle Wie is just 13, an age when most aspiring golfers are first learning to grip a club, not playing in the year's most important tournament. Her father, B.J., is a transportation professor at the University of Hawaii, not a caddie trained in the nuances of an ever-demanding and lucrative profession.
So it is quite conceivable that Wie, the prodigy who hits 300-yard drives, her father or both committed some egregious errors of golf etiquette at the U.S. Women's Open, where LPGA Tour veteran Danielle Ammaccapane apparently wasn't going to stand for it.
Or maybe Ammaccapane, she of the feisty demeanor, had already had enough of Wie, her prodigious drives and all the attention bestowed upon a teenager who has yet to attend her first day of high school.
The truth likely lies somewhere in between.
No matter where it falls, however, the incident that occurred during the first round has already had repercussions.
B.J. Wie was not on his daughter's bag on Sunday at Pumpkin Ridge, site of the final round of the Open. He handed it over to Gary Gilchrist, the director of golf at the Leadbetter Academy in Florida and Wie's instructor.
The incident could lead to a closer look at the ever-growing ranks of youngsters competing in golf tournaments, and how much they should be expected to know, along with their caddies.
First, the background. On Friday, B.J. Wie said Ammaccapane had bumped his daughter on the 14th hole, then berated her in the scoring tent. The elder Wie later retracted the physical contact part, but stood by his story that Ammaccapane gave his daughter a tongue lashing.
Apparently, Ammaccapane was upset that Wie had allegedly walked in the line of her putt, but beyond the hole, something the Wies did not know was wrong. Players don't like that part of the green stepped on, in case they miss their putt and must try again.
Whatever happened, perhaps Ammaccapane could have handled things in a more reserved manner. A simple reminder while walking down the fairway would suffice. Of course, Ammaccapane might have done that and been frustrated that nothing happened. We don't know the whole story, because she wouldn't say.
This is not an isolated incident. Two years ago, then 13-year-old Morgan Pressel was chastised by a playing partner for a similar breach of etiquette. At the 1998 U.S. Open, Justin Leonard was ready to explode over the antics of Peter Kuchar, father to reigning U.S. Amateur champion Matt Kuchar. And it even happens among competitors. Tom Weiskopf blew up at the 1996 U.S. Senior Open at amateur Jim Stahl Jr. for failing to mark his ball with a non-reflective coin.
No matter, the more teenagers who qualify for the U.S. Women's Open, the more amateur caddies will be out there, which creates the potential for more incidents. There were 14 teenagers in the field at the U.S. Women's Open, and not all of them have the means to hire a professional caddie.
"We may have to take another look at that for the very same reasons that we insist that parents can't caddie in the (U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Girls' Junior),'' Fay said. "Having said that, there's a real cost involved, too. It's one thing to say go out and get a professional caddie. That's a lot of money, and not everybody is a star in waiting.''
B.J. Wie said he can't afford to hire a caddie for his daughter. He estimates spending some $50,000 for her to play tournaments this year, and another $70,000 next year.
"The caddie is a very tough situation,'' Gilchrist said. "In a round of golf, not everything is going to go according to plan. That's a guarantee. Some days, the ball goes in, and other days, whatever you are looking at isn't right. For them, from what I see, it is very positive. She is very comfortable having him on the bag and she feels his support, which is very important.''
Nothing wrong with that.
Perhaps all it takes is a simple refresher course at the start of tournament week. Who would have to attend? Any first-time competitor in a tournament and their caddies. At least it's a start.
Really, getting down the etiquette part is far easier than actually playing the game. At least it should be.
Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times, and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com
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