Friday Scottish/Deere Semi Live Blog

12:45 pm Thoughts on the Golf Industry, Minorities, Caddies

I don’t know enough about ultra-elite golf courses to know if caddies are viable there or not, but I do know they have little chance anywhere else.  It’s a hassle to deal with other people, truth be told; we like pumping our own gasoline, going to ATM machines, using self-checkout at retail stores.  Also, when four coworkers get together for a Saturday morning round, they want to make crude jokes about people at their office without worrying about four strangers (the caddies) repeating any of it.

Was it always like that?  When did caddies even begin?  Didn’t people carry their own clubs in the early days in Scotland, and don’t people in the U.K. still primarily use pull-carts today?  At any rate, we know (at the least) that there were caddies at the elite golf courses at one point, but there no longer are.  Electric riding carts eliminated them.

Without checking the exact date and number, I can say that eight PGA Tour players in 1975 were African American, many of whom had links to caddying.  (Hogan and Nelson also came from the caddy ranks.)  Today there is one, with another (Joseph Bramlett) on the web.com.

Now, here are two narratives; one was very public and a source of great pride, one was invisible:

  1. Tiger Woods’s great success at golf will encourage minorities to take up the game, eventually changing the way the game looks (i.e., more black golfers) at its top levels.
  2. We the Golf Industry can make more money and get rid of a lot of headaches by replacing caddies with electric riding carts.  This will discourage minorities from taking up the game, eventually changing the way the game looks (i.e., fewer black golfers) at its top levels.

Reality always tops wishful thinking.  There was little substance to #1; the game was changed in a big way by #2.  The first narrative made people feel good but had no substance.  The second wasn’t even considered; it happened because of dollars and cents, along with society’s growing comfort with DIY.

I find all of that interesting on its own, but there is a “moral to the story” as well: Every time you hear someone in the golf industry wax poetic about “growing the game,” you should realize their concern for the future is pretty much the same as that of a carnival barker urging you to toss rings around pegs to win a teddy bear.

And even if they — the “grow the game” mouthpieces — did have the best long-term interests of the game at heart, it’s unlikely they would actually steer the game in the right direction.  People truly believed Narrative #1, and no one even considered Narrative #2.

5:30 am Update:  Coverage has begun!  Justin Rose with an early move — 4-under through eight holes — is tied for the lead.  Dubuisson is looking to get back into contention, going 3-under through nine.

4:30 am Ole Lanny woke up in the middle of the night with a severe headache.  That’s the bad news.  The good new is twofold: Tylenol and Advil seem to have helped, and I’ll likely be awake for the start of the Scottish Open coverage.  Now would be a good time to check the Scottish leaderboard.  Notable names among the leaders:

  • Alexander Levy: His name seems to perpetually be on the leaderboard.  He’s OWGR #63.  I’m sure jalnichols would consider him unworthy.
  • Shane Lowry:  He’s playing well these days.  Growing the lumberjack beard was a good move; it gives him a distinctive appearance.
  • Jimmy Walker, Rickie Fowler:  Well, well, lookie here.  These two Americans certainly spice up the leaderboard.  Matt Kuchar is contending, too.
  • Graeme McDowell, Emiliano Grillo:  Two favorites of mine.

This tourney is looking pretty darn decent.  Must have a decent strength of field, too.  Here’s a stat Justin Ray would never tweet: This Scottish Open is equal in strength to the two most recent PGA Tour events combinedjalnichols must be in a “Does not compute, does not compute, does not compute…” loop.

I’m way more into this event than I was yesterday.  Maybe getting relief from the headache has made the world seem sunnier.

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12 Responses to Friday Scottish/Deere Semi Live Blog

  1. Ken says:

    I understand your thinking, but I can’t root for Spieth to miss a cut. -6 through 13 today. Back to normal.

    • lannyh says:

      Yeah, he’s shot himself back into it today. I’m cool with that. : ) And he just picked up another birdie.

      I just wasn’t keen on him making the cut on the number then chopping it around for two more days, thinking he might as well be in Scotland.

  2. HennyB says:

    The absence of caddies has done a great disservice to America’s youth as well. From an early age it gave young kids the opportunity of earning an honest days pay as well as teaching them many life lessons that cannot be learned by playing Xbox. Spending your days at the golf course keeps kids off the streets and out of trouble.

  3. Ken says:

    I know that the more exclusive private courses in the Pittsburgh area still have caddies available. My nephews caddied at one of those clubs.

    I’ve only been to a couple of places where I’m aware that they were offered: Pinehurst where I had my own caddie, and Harbour Town where my partner and had shared a caddie. (Some other courses that I’ve been at probably had caddies available if you made prior arrangements.) Interesting experiences, but not something that I’m overly comfortable with. I just feel weird handing my clubs to a guy who keeps them all clean, washing off my golf ball between holes, etc. I guess my middle-class upbringing doesn’t mesh with that. Plus, I’m not the worst player. I don’t keep a handicap, but it’s likely 13-14 and at times I can put together an impressive string of holes and I have very good power. But when a caddie tells me that I need to draw or fade it around that tree over there, I just laugh. I hit a pretty straight ball with just a hint of a draw and I’m happy with that. But I can’t bend the ball at will, not by much anyway.

    I’m 51 and still walk and carry clubs for my 9 hole rounds, which I play at least once a week. I’ll never understand why more people don’t walk. I carry my clubs once in a while for 18, but for that I really should use a pull cart; that gets a little hard on my back. For 18, my partners are almost never willing to walk. Walking actually makes a round of golf pretty decent exercise and I just feel more into the game when I walk.

    • lannyh says:

      I have to admit I have never even seen a caddy outside of a pro tourney setting. For me, the interaction with the caddy would definitely be a distraction. I’m not even all that comfortable with the guys who grab the clubs out of the back of your car!

      One year, in the fall or spring, I bought a tiny little carry bag. I’d take five or six clubs and walk nine after work, timing it so that I would finish right at dark.

      My golf buddies all want to ride these days. A bunch of us used to walk with pull carts every Saturday. We played as fast as lightning. Nowadays, courses often make you keep your pull carts on the paths (which basically forces you to rent a riding cart).

      • Ken says:

        I’ve been doing the after work 9 on Wednesdays before dark for a long time.

        Yeah I’m not comfortable with the guys who rush to carry your clubs from the trunk either. I can handle them. And inevitably I won’t have any small bills.

  4. Jaybird says:

    If you don’t know about the Evans Scholarship, google it.

  5. JoseyWales says:

    #1 is false…#2 is true. The game changed in 1962 when private clubs all over the US discovered they could make more money with electric/gas golf carts than with caddies (they made zero money with caddies). Caddies disappeared and became dinosaurs. When golf carts came in, caddies went out. A few high dollar clubs still offer caddies, but for the most part caddies are ancient history. And I don’t have to Google the Evans Scholarship…I donate to it every year. I am an ex-caddy.

  6. Jaybird says:

    Part of the problem has to do with golf course design and the involvement of real estate. Nowadays you have courses where you have hundreds of yards between holes. The courses you still see caddie at are generally old school courses where you walk off one green and 20 yards over to the next tee.

  7. JoseyWales says:

    The problem is always the same problem…money, money, money.

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