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Kaddy Korner Dispatch

Professional Caddy Mark Huber at the LPGA in Mobile, Al

Posted May 09, 2011 by Chris Stewart

The call came in from Korea from Jimin Jeong somewhere west of Tallahassee, “Changing schedule, sorry Mark, not playing Mobile.” It was like an emergency on the Star Trek Enterprise Bridge, I had no job late Sunday night heading for Mobile. My first call was to brother Dan and Rubble, they put the word out I was looking and the possibilities started opening up. Katherine Hull’s caddy Vern wasn’t making the trip from Ireland; she’d be a great job for the week but learned later she was already committed. We changed plans, Pricelined a cheap room in Mobile and drove straight through.

The last thing you need late Sunday night is a disgusting hotel and no alternative but that’s what we got. The manager searched at least a dozen rooms before one passed the menial caddy test for respectability. Luckily, my buddy Kevin Archer with Marriott bailed us out and the Town Place Suites were home the rest of the week. Priceline caught a piece of my mind, Kevin and Marriott received our praises.

I had a late night call from Nicole Jeray, a career fringe LPGA player who plays the Futures Tour mostly but was in this week because all the Koreans stayed home. Her boyfriend, Jody, caddies the tours and Augusta during his off weeks and I’ve known him for awhile but wasn’t very familiar with her. I checked her out with my brother and returned her call the next morning. Since I had nothing in the hand I committed for the week at a bit under my usual salary. A couple hours later a few more jobs opened up but I stuck with Nicole, caddy etiquette you know.

We made plans for a late afternoon practice round which fit my schedule but not the Rendezvous’. It decided to conk out just before I left for the course but quick calls to AAA, Guy at Bright’s Auto Repair and Nicole took care of things. The van was towed in, taken care of reasonably after a few days and the Jeray’s provided my transportation till Wednesday morning. Good folks sure do help rough weeks on tour and this was definitely one of those weeks.

Nicole hadn’t played in awhile, she was rusty and it showed. We practiced as much as possible in and around the dangerous weather but were lucky all the tornadoes went north of us. Nicole suffers from narcolepsy and few back ailments but has kept plodding along her twenty year pro golf career making ends meet wherever she can and enjoying life. I can’t quite remember a more pleasant person on and off the golf course who enjoys the game, the people and the process of playing professional golf. All her endorsements, corporate connections, and financial backing are from her efforts with no support from family or an agent.

There was conversation with anyone who was in earshot, volunteers, caddies, players, tour officials and fans. For an unknown player she was well respected and admired by her peers. It was another look at LPGA golf I hadn’t seen in awhile. The last few trips to the LPGA I watched young Koreans selfishly go about their work paying no attention to anyone and definitely giving nothing back to the game. This was refreshing and I enjoyed the company though the golf wasn’t very good.

It wasn’t from the lack of effort or mental attitude just one of those weeks the driver decided to misbehave. Jody said her driving was her strength but it got us in deep trouble twice in the opening round and we struggled to an easy 80. A seven on our sixth hole and double on our last was tough to take but our group helped ease the pain.

We were the only all-American group, players and caddies, in the field plus we were entertained by the funniest caddy on the LPGA, Jeff, working Allison Hanna. His quick wit, subtle comments, jokes and casual dissertations kept things light. After someone unleashed a great drive on a long par five Jeff mumbled, “Nice club, I was thinking one more for us but I guess driver is okay.”

Golf is a fickle game but you have to accept it and keep moving on. The course record holder at Magnolia Crossing, Danielle Downey, shooting a 64 a few years ago, was caddying this week. Our group collectively missed the cut, two of us badly and the other bogeyed four or five holes on the back nine including the final two to miss the cut by one. It’s tough but you keep going.

After firing her 80 Thursday morning Nicole took a break and we practiced late. Friday morning she was up early coordinating a Monday outing in Memphis for Breast Cancer Awareness. She was helping raise money for charity instead of moping about her golf. Nicole also does a lot of work for the Narcolepsy Foundation and was trying to make ends meet playing in a Saturday pro-am. Her budget is tight but she definitely gives back to the game.

There’s not much to do in Mobile, AL after missing the cut. We had cruised around the area during the week visiting Pensacola for a little work, stopping by the Florabama in Orange Beach and a quick trip to Dauphin Island so Sunday we headed for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. A little jazz, blues, rock and roll, gospel with some overpriced local food and cold beer was quite relaxing. Arlo Guthrie was the festival highlight but the week’s highlight was sitting in a dive restaurant off Bourbon Street munching on crawdads and having the kitchen staff erupt, “Bin Laden is dead!”

You get the unexpected out here. I didn’t think I’d become a new fan of someone who shot twelve over for two days and didn’t pay very well but Nicole may be one of my new heroes. She’s the type of player you don’t hear much about but should.

- Mark Huber

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