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Mark's Kaddy Korner : Des Moines Trip
Professional Caddy, Mark Huber at work in Des Moines
Posted Jun 08, 2011 by Mark's Kaddy Korner
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Golf is hard to explain sometimes, you never know when a triple is going to grab you or the putts decide to start falling. The week started rather precariously, driving across I-80 Monday evening a small deer rammed the Rendevous leaving only traces of hair, no major damage done but scared the hell out of me. My hotel manager was less than accommodating when I checked in at 1:00 a.m., the curry odor in the lobby should have been my first clue. Then my computer wouldn’t fire up the next morning, that’s why there was no Kaddy Korner last week, sorry.
We were supposed to meet at nine Tuesday morning but Bob pushed it back to one o’clock, a meeting with his financial advisor took precedence over practice, it gave me time to catch up and get organized. The PGA Tour IT support guys dealt with my computer, Doug in the fitness trailer adjusted my broken body and Ron Keener, along with his wonderful caddy concierge staff, welcomed us to Des Moines.
Caddies are treated better than the players at the Principal Charity Classic, well almost, we’re still not allowed in the clubhouse but who cares when the caddy tent provides better food and smiling, helpful faces are there for all your needs. There’s a nice gift package with all sorts of local coupons waiting for us, our clothes are cleaned free of charge (the first time my stuff has ever seen a drycleaners), breakfast and lunch are catered by local restaurants and the caddy concierge staff treats us like family. I hated to leave the tent and go to work.
Our first trip to Des Moines was the 1999 U.S. Senior Open, the crowds were tremendous then and Glen Oak CC still hosts the best event on the Champions Tour. The Bruno Event Team and the Midwest hospitality create a down home atmosphere you really don’t feel at other tournaments. The 71 par layout provides a spectator friendly walk but the rolling hills and gusty winds creates quite a challenge.
I knew the track well so I didn’t walk the course, chart the greens or do anything extra. We enjoyed ourselves during the two pro-ams and decided to relax, letting our instincts lead the way. Bob’s wife and financial advisor told him to loosen up and play like he didn’t need the money. We agreed he’d been putting too much pressure on himself, we were being a bit technical and it was time to go back to his old right handed putting stroke. It was time to play golf, not work at it.
Both our pro-am teams were a lot of fun and I could sense Bob was gaining confidence in his putting stroke. We had a late Friday time, battled the 30 M.P.H. gusty winds and fired a 68 with one bogey leaving us tied for fourth three shots back. A nice start so I headed for the Prairie Meadows Casino and a tournament sponsored caddy Texas Hold-em tournament. No luck there or on the Blackjack tables. The cards beat me up till four in the morning; hopefully the golf would be better Saturday afternoon.
I’ve never seen Bob play better. He didn’t miss a fairway, had birdie putts on every hole (14 putts inside 15 feet) and we were both thinking very well. You could tell things were gelling, we talked through the in-between-club shots and nothing was said when the number was right, he’d pull the club then fired at the pin. It was the easiest 66 I’ve ever seen.
We were in the last group Sunday with Mark Calcavecchia and the leader Mark Brooks. I thought we were three shots back but “Brooksy” had bogied the 18th Saturday. Three shots are tough to make up, especially the way Mark was playing but two was definitely doable. Saturday night Bob, his wife Peggy, my buddy Todd and I watched an Iowa Cubs AAA in a luxury sky box along with a few other players. The hot dogs were excellent, the beer was cold, and the peanuts fresh, golf was not discussed and the Cubs actually won.
It’s been awhile since I’ve been in the last group on Sunday. The butterflies were floating in my stomach but I tried to keep them in formation. This is what’s fun, every player and caddy looks forward to late Sunday tee times. “Calc” had a buddy working for him and “Disco”, a longtime veteran looper, was with Brooks. “Calc” and Bob are both career Ping guys, pretty good friends but there wasn’t a lot of conversation, we kept to ourselves and went about our business.
At the turn we were only one back but Brooks birdied 11, 12 and 13 and we were four back standing on the treacherous par 3 14th hole. Brooks and “Disco” were first to hit and I sensed a bit of hesitation, almost doubt, about what club to hit. Pulling a club when you’re first to hit on a par three, especially with gusting, variable winds is extremely difficult. They hit too much club landing in the rough long and left but got it up and down for a par. That little bit of doubt and hesitation crept into the next four holes.
After knocking our 20 degree hybrid on the par 5 15th on the green, Brooks and “Calc” were preparing for their third shot. The large scoreboard glared at me, I didn’t like our chances to win but a birdie here and three more pars would give us a 2nd or 3rd place finish, a nice week and a pretty good paycheck. We got our two putt birdie, split the fairway with our drive on 17 and watched the two Marks disappear into the right trees.
A tremendous calm came over me. I gathered our yardage information then disappeared behind the gallery while “Calc” punched out and Brooks topped his second shot in the water. Usually the heart starts pumping and the mouth gets dry about this time but for some reason Bob and I were treating this like a Wednesday pro-am. We quietly discussed our options and decided on the safe six iron to the back of the green. His birdie putt stopped short in the jaws, he tapped in and scurried to the shade behind the grandstands.
When you’re in the last group there’s a lot of TV camera action. Usually there’s a camera guy for each player, “Gomer” was following us and he had Bob in his sights behind the stands. He was looking for his reaction to Mark’s bogey putt, the red lights were on and Bob called me over. He put his arm around my shoulders to make sure I was in the camera angle then whispered, “What do you think the chances are he misses this putt?”
“I don’t want to bet against him,” I said. Mark sank the putt and I hurried to the 18th tee port-o-john, my eyes were floating and I needed relief before the final hole. A spectator had snuck into the Johnny and I had to suffer down the fairway but soon forgot about the nature call.
Bob pulled his tee shot into the left rough but the lie was okay. The difficult front left pin made our decision easy and his smooth nine iron came to rest safely behind the pin, about 35 feet. Mark hit his shot just inside us on the same line and Bob turned to him while we were waiting for “Calc”. “Mark, let me show you the line,” Bob said with a smile on his face. I started to take a look at the putt but Bob said he knew the line so I headed for the shade along the grandstands.
Golf is unpredictable. Nobody expected our putt to drop or wanted to see Brooks three putt. After our birdie putt the crowd went crazy and Mark ran his about five past the hole. Bob and I calmly prepared for the playoff and admired the soldiers in formation around the green. When the putt came up short we gave a quick look at each other but there was no big celebration, you hate to see anyone lose that way but we’ll take the win.
Sorry, I can’t squeeze everything in here this week I want to say. I’ll continue the story next week. Two weeks off, I’m heading for the cabin and Bob’s off to Europe.
- Mark Huber