Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Caddy on the LPGA

It's an odd day in my life when I have to get up earlier than my usual time to get up for work for anything, but that was my situation on Monday morning, the 18th. Because of the heat, I didn't sleep much on Sunday night, so by the time 5:45 AM rolled around, I was a zombie right after getting up. But I had to be at the course at 6:45 AM to check in.

As part of my employment with the bank, they pay for a day of volunteer service in order to promote giving back to the places we live in. I love this idea, as it really reinforces that we should all do our part to help out our towns and communities. An email had been circulated about for volunteers to help caddy for the LPGA Safeway Classic this week in Portland, and I decided to use my volunteer day for this. One, it is a great charity, the Trillium Family Services; two, I play golf so why not watch people better than me to get some pointers; three, it's normally nice weather in Portland so a day outside sounds like a great time to volunteer.

Well, one and two came true, but mother nature had other thoughts about number three. After three straight days of over 100 degree heat, Sunday came along and the thunderstorms and clouds began to appear, and there was a bit of unsettled weather all day. On Monday, they had expected a chance of thunderstorms with temperatures in the 70s. Ok, a 30 degree drop in a matter of 48 hours, with the chance of rain. August is usually one of the most non-rainy months in Portland, so seeing showers in the forecast meant for me to just grab a jacket on the way out as I left for the course.

I arrived at Columbia Edgewater at 6:40 AM, and proceeded to the pro shop to check in. Columbia Edgewater is a private country club, and walking through the gates, it was obvious this was a different type of golf course. The main clubhouse had large oak doors at the front, and a driveway porch where folks were ready to collect clubs for the day's round. There were plenty of Benzes, BMWs and Audis in the parking lot, getting special parking in the main parking lot. For people that work very hard and have earned their monies, I think something like joining a country club can be an enjoyable thing. For me, I'm a public course low-key kind of guy, so the opulence just were a bit much for me. I suppose I would really suck as a rich person, because if I had loads of money, I'd probably be doing the same things I do now just with more money. To me, money helps you get the things you want out of life, but it shouldn't be an obsession or used as a status symbol.

I checked into the caddy desk, grabbed a cart, and waited. It was 7:00 AM and my group was starting from the fourth hole at 8:02 AM. My guy was part of a golfing buddy group that decided to participate in Monday's Pro-AM for charity, and there would be one LPGA pro included with our group as well. It sounded like a recipe for a load of fun, and so I headed off to the fourth hole after fueling up with some coffee and fruit with a smile on my face. The day was nice enough, not too warm, and the rain had held off so far in the day. As I arrived at the hole, I was joined by the three other caddies, and we shared some talk about the day, our golfing experiences, and the fun we were going to have for the day. Soon, our golfers showed up, followed by our pro, Angela Jerman.

Angela showed up, and had a big smile on her face and a spring in her step. She was ready to play, and proceeded to meet all of her group and then spoke to each caddy for a few moments before the round. She was extremely personable, and thanked us all for coming out this morning. Then, without too much warning, a few thunder rumbles started up and she looked around, asking if we were actually going to start play. Then, a couple of lightening flashes filled the sky. I had left my jacket in the car, and decided I was going to take my chances with the weather. Within a few minutes, a large horn blew alerting everyone to come back to the pro shop. Apparently, a weather system was coming and they wanted to suspend play until it had passed. The golfers and Angela were soon off in their carts, while me and my fellow caddies started walking towards the pro shop.

It didn't take more than 5 minutes and the rain floodgates opened. It was coming down in buckets, and I was soon soaked from head to toe. We found a hospitality tent to hide in for a few moments, until course security came by looking for us. They said it's great that you were out of the rain, but being in a large metal tent with lightening about wasn't very smart. They piled us into a few carts and took us back to the pro shop. By then, I was fully soaked and looking like a drown rat. I soon was munching on a granola bar and some coffee, trying to dry out and checking the weather forecasts on my phone's browser. It appeared it would let up for a bit, but not for an hour or so. The rain didn't stop until almost 8:45 AM, and we were soon told that the round would resume at 9:30 AM. I scurried off to grab my jacket and change from my golf shoes to regular running shoes. My golf shoes are actually sandals, which are extremely comfortable shoes but yes, if it rains, the socks get wet. I was back at the pro shop at 9:15 AM, and was soon walking off to hole 4.

As we made it back to the tee box, our golfers and Angela were already there and waiting to go. The chatter resumed, and Angela was charming the group with stories about her university, Georgia, and SEC football. The guys soon teed off, and then Angela got ready to go. She just walked up to her ball, flexed her knee, swung and BAM, the ball was flying straight as the day. Her swing was compact and effortless, and I was simply amazed. As the day wore on, she chatted with group members about various topics, saying over and over she was a chatty person and liked to have fun on the course. But she was extremely professional in her approach to her game, hitting good shot after good shot while being very charming and personable.

I had impressed the golfers by me saying I was not working today because I was being paid to volunteer for the day, and that my golf game was actually walking around and occasionally hitting objects towards a target. My humour was apparently on, and as they asked me about my golf game, I was able to share the courses I played, all public, and my best golfing experience, which was playing in Scotland back in 2006. But as the day wore on and the stories kept flying, what impressed me was Angela's demeanor. She was having fun, engaging the group, and just out there enjoying herself.

My brushes with professional athletes haven't been too many, but I respect the ones I've been able to talk to. John Stockton served me food and beer at his old tavern in Spokane, I've interacted with members of the Portland Timbers over the years and found them to be upstanding gentlemen, and meeting some of the Sunderland players earlier this year on my honeymoon, they were impressed that we would come all this way just to see them. And now, I can add Angela to that group, because she impressed me with her attitude. She treated everyone so well, and showed that she's got a good amount of golf talent. Plus, in researching her on the interwebs, she's involved in charitable causes and does a lot of great community work. Additionally, we found out that Monday's Pro AM was strictly attended by LPGA pros on a volunteer basis, so only the pros that wanted to be there came. And there were lots and lots of them about. And I think that the ladies tend to go out of their way to make themselves available to the fans, as I saw many of them chatting with fans, signing autographs, and enjoying the light drizzle.

The game itself was fun, and I enjoyed participating in a charitable event, but what I gained on the day was a greater appreciation for these very talented ladies, and how professional they truly are. Mind you, while I play golf, I hate watching it on television and I tend not to pay that close attention to various tournaments. I know the main people that play, but honestly for me, golf is an activity that you do, not watch at home. I enjoy being on the course, challenging myself to not lose all of my golf balls during a round and enjoying the once in a while great shot that keeps me coming back. My experience, though, showed me that there is a lot to seeing the game live, and I may have to take in some tournaments now and then in person. Maybe there is more to this game than I first realized, and at the very least, I'll remember that carrying metals sticks during a thunderstorm is never a good idea.

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