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Mark's Kaddy Korner at the US Senior Open

Back on the Trail for Mark Huber

Posted Jul 25, 2012 by Mark's Kaddy Korner

I was scheduled to leave Pebble Beach Sunday evening 7:10 p.m. but for the first time in forever the First Tee Open arranged a late finish and I had to rebook a Monday afternoon flight arriving in Detroit 10 o'clock. What a hassle and the airlines aren't as lenient as they used to be, scheduling a new flight late Sunday evening was cheaper than rescheduling on the same airline, please explain this to me some day. Luckily, I had friends on either end, Lo and Jim in San Jose put me up for another night and the Butler family stuck me in their basement for a week. Caddies aren't allowed on the main floor when company is around.
 
Sean picked me up, watered and grazed me at the local barn then let me borrow the car for the week. A lot cheaper - a few dozen free Titleists, beers, dinner, flowers for the girls - than a weekly hotel, car rental and dining out every night, plus a lot homier and much more fun. Hanging out with the Butler's, Karen, teen-age MacKenzie, 8 year old Delaney and Tonka beats the heck out of any Mom & Pop I've found on tour. My basement couch sucked me in every night and there was a fridge full of refreshments close by, heaven on earth for a caddy. It was non-stop family fun at the Butler household last week.
 
Indianwood CC in Lake Orion has been around since 1925, back then it was in the middle of nowhere and when development encroached the perimeter was planted with thickets of pine and oak. It's an exclusive club with a clubhouse next to none and a membership based on family and friendship. Most courses hosting U.S. Opens are a bit pretentious but Indianwood members, many of them volunteering their time, were so happy to have us they even invited caddies into the clubhouse, completely unheard of any where on the USGA rota. They battled the USGA officials for a nice caddy hospitality area, much appreciated, and Frances, Director of Club Affairs, plus Mike, a longtime member who doubled as caddy and caddy master for the week worked their "behinds" off making sure the caddy crew was in good hands.
 
I had an early call Tuesday morning, Kaddy Korner had to be shelved, Bob's paying me a few bucks. We were supposed to meet around 8:00 am but the text at 8:15 read, "rough night, see you around noon or one." Sure wish caddies could do that, years ago there would have been many messages like that. Thought about writing a quick KK but decided a trip around the course was more beneficial to the bank account.
 
A new course, especially one tricked up by the USGA needs a lot of attention and I thought we'd spend a lot of time on the course figuring strategy. I walked the back nine carefully, taking my time noting all the proper target lines off the tee, places to avoid on and around the green and admiring the thick, unplayable rough the USGA grew for our Senior Open. Sure wish those no-golf playing SOB's would try to hack their way around just one of the courses they set up. Their penal concept makes for a lot of disasters, especially if your not on your best game and you have no patience. At the moment we fall into both categories but Bob's a battler and he doesn't quit. He may get frustrated, pissed, lob a few clubs my way but he never gives up.
 
We had early - late tee times, a good draw but I didn't feel like we were properly prepared. Nine hole practice rounds each day isn't enough for a U.S. Open track. I had been around twice but Bob only saw the course once, not enough to be comfortable, plus it was course that didn't fit his eye. Positive thoughts were there but a lot of trepidation crept in as we warmed up Thursday morning. At Pebble we played three 18 hole practice rounds on courses we knew like childhood poems, here, I felt like we were going in partially blind.
 
We were paired with Bruce Vaughn, a journeyman who won the Senior British a few years ago, and Tom Pernice, one of the top Senior players who still has PGA Tour status. Tom recently fired his caddy, or got fired by his caddy depending on who you talk too, and Tony "Mouth of the South / Apple Head" Sheppard has been on the bag. I threw my name in the hat for the job but no calls yet.
 
Tom's a great player, demanding to work for but I'd love the challenge. It was nice getting a personal look at how they work together, I was taking notes while watching out of the corner of my eye and listening with my good ear. They could have shot nothing that first round. Every putt looked like it was going in and Tom saved par from spots anyone would have taken a bogey and run to the next tee. We started calling him "thief" toward the end of the round.
 
I ran into trouble off the 5th tee. We had a long wait and nature was calling so I rotated my hips toward the thick woods and took advantage of the respite. It was a quiet, pleasant, aromatic spot not as nice a view as Pebble Beach but greatly appreciated at that moment. Later in the round the spot came back to haunt me, luckily the poison ivy/oak was only on my arm. It erupted violently and by the time I got to the caddy shack it was bubbling on my right forearm. Frances, ever present, smiling in her cart hauled me off to first aid and helped drop off tickets at Will Call. Everyone took good care of me and I was back in the saddle Friday afternoon.
 
All week I'd been heading straight back to the Butler's in Farmington, about a 45 minute drive but Dan Beard, NBC camera man, Frank Beard's son and fellow Wisconsinite told me about a little spot, Opa's, where I could squelch my thirst, grab a sandwich and wait for my poison ivy prescription. I'm always looking for a good excuse to stop in a little place and the sports bar behind two garage doors was perfect. The beer was cold, they bandaged my arm and offered skiing/inner tube trips around Lake Orion. Dan and the camera crew took them up on the boat rides, I behaved myself and headed home to the Butler's but couldn't pass by without stopping the rest of the week. The small town was extremely proud of hosting the event and they enjoyed watching the Met Life Blimp shots of their lovely community on the NBC telecast.
 
We fired 72 Thursday and were coming down the stretch late Friday right on the cut line, four over par. With about five holes to play I asked our USGA walking official what the cut was going to be. He said he couldn't ask over the radio but would keep an ear out. Three holes later he said, "the Secret Service (USGA) predicts +4, maybe 5", the pressure was on. We found the high rough on the short par four 8th hole after a decent drive, hacked it twice to about 12 to 15 below the hole, then he drained the putt, boom right in the center with some authority. He may not be playing well but the "Kahunas" are large, Bob loves the pressure.
 
Our finishing hole, the short dogleg right ninth hole is either a long iron or rescue club lay up or a driver up and over large oaks, traps and O.B. staring you in the face. It's a blind shot we hadn't practiced but after Pernice put a 4 iron through the fairway Bob wanted to go up and over the trees. I was choking, controlled my negative thoughts and we discussed the options. He finally grabbed the big stick, teed her up, and with no hesitation took it right over the "V" in the oaks. The ball settled in the light rough short of the green with an easy chip, easy two put par and we were playing on the weekend.
 
We played way to early and not very well so I'm going to forget about the weekend and set sights on my week off, Dr's. appointments, time at home and trip to the cabin before heading for Scotland next week. Finally made my decision to go over the pond and the flights were cheaper than months ago. I'll never figure out flights or golf sure enjoy trying to figure out golf.
Mark Huber
PGA Tour Caddy

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