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Mark's Kaddy Korner in Pittsburgh
The highs and lows of being on tour
Posted Jul 03, 2012 by Mark's Kaddy Korner
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I hated to leave the Canadian hospitality but Bogieman Tom was waiting for me in Verona Beach with some cold ones and a bed or couch in exchange for some Titleists. We bumped into the old, rickety, retired banker a few years ago when we rented his summer home and he’s been baby-sitting caddies ever since then. Throw him a few balls, tickets to the tournament and buy him a few beers, he’ll open up his house and let us use his car. Can’t find a better friend on the road; he tucked me in then took me to the best breakfast and 10 cent coffee at Flo’s the next morning. I had trouble leaving the Onieda Lake region but I had to be in Pittsburgh to walk the Fox Chapel GC Monday evening.
I was winging it again, no reservations, and no idea where I was staying but knew a little bit about the Pittsburgh area. We played the Quicksilver Classic west of town in the early nineties, and then moved to Sewickley Heights later for a tournament headed by Mario Lemieux. Pittsburgh is full of my type of folks, blue collar, hardworking and love to have an occasional cold beverage. They love their sports, their golf and community; I could live here in a heartbeat. I was hoping Bob’s Garage was still going strong, a watering hole an old caddy buddy drug me into over 20 years ago.
Bob had me haul his clubs across the border and they let me back in the U. S. without incident. When I pulled into the prestigious Fox Chapel GC Monday afternoon my jeans, sandals and plain white BogeyPro tee shirt drew a few down-the-nose stares from the members slipping into their suits and ties in the locker room. I did a quick caddy change, complete with powdered shorts and sox, in the parking lot before I returned to the club.
Dave, one of the caddy volunteers, welcomed me when I walked into the club storage area below the clubhouse. The breezeway and club storage room was caddy central, a bit cramped at times but they served up some good vittles, plus Phil and his boys couldn’t do enough for us. There were a few bugs in the system early in the week but by post time guys didn’t want to leave the hospitality. When I asked Dave about Bob’s Garage his eyes glistened, “I wish I could go with you, but I’ve been sober for 21 years. Have one for me.”
We dried out and cooled off after every round just below the picturesque clubhouse overlooking the Seth Raynor 1923 design. Seth was a bit penal; the greens treacherous at 12-13 on the stimp but you could play the course every day and never get bored. Ben Crenshaw added it to his schedule just because of Seth and Fox Chapel’s history. Everyone talks about some course across the Allegheny River; a lot of guys would rather play here even though it’s a bit short.
After walking the course late Monday afternoon, I headed for Bob’s for refreshments and a search for housing. It was still there but windows adorned the front and a dining area out back overlooking the Allegheny. The locals were helpful, steered me away from the local, foreign run Mom & Pop’s and I lucked out with a cheap Extended Stay in Monroeville about 20 minutes away.
We teed it up early Tuesday with Fred Funk, Mike Goodes and Morris Hatalsky, mostly for practice but there was a little money on the side making it interesting. I swear some of these guys are more intense trying to take bucks from their buddies than they are in a tournament. All of them were grinding and it made the practice round halfway tolerable. I can’t stand practice rounds these days, there’s no adrenalin flowing and it’s tough to look concerned. Bob let me sneak out a bit early so I could pick Wendy up at the Akron airport.
We should have gone back to the room after dinner but we thought we’d visit a local spot for one nightcap. It was smoky; the Karaoke was terrible so we headed for the parking lot after a quick one. There was glass everywhere, our passenger window was shattered and the luggage, computers, Maui Jim sunglasses plus two years of Wendy’s business were gone. Her business life was stolen and the cops said there was nothing they could do. You have to move on but it was tough this week.
I was a walking Zombie during the Wednesday pro-am and I think I was still a bit foggy when the tournament started Thursday; it was hard to comprehend we had been robbed. There were a lot of “what-ifs” and hopefully the business stuff will be returned. 73 was the best we could do Thursday, struggling along with the snail pace of Mark Brooks. Bob can’t stand slow play and I knew we’d struggle when the pairings came out. We threw in a double on nine after the head covers on utility clubs were a mismatched caddy error, and Bob took the wrong clubs to the tee box. I can explain some other time; it’ll take too long here.
Friday morning we birdied 2, 3, and 4 before missing a 10 foot birdie putt on 5, then 3-putted from 8 feet on the Redan style par three sixth green. Bob blamed it on the old guy fumbling around directly in his view but I think it was the “Golfing Gods” pissed at me for dropping the putter walking from the 4th green. Or, it could have been Brad Bryant making a big deal about our “Turkey” run. Whatever the cause, the triple bogey on seven followed by bogies on 9 and 10 bought us abruptly back to earth. Life is tough so is golf but you have to keep plodding.
Walking up 11 I prodded him to keep rowing the boat through the rapids, he said throw him a life preserver, smiled, then sunk a 30 foot downhill snake for birdie. He’s got a lot of character, a pretty good well-directed temper and I’m glad to be by his side. We need a few more good tournaments though. He was pissed at the head cover mess, told me so, but let it drop in the next fairway. Other players would have carried on forever and blamed the whole round on their caddy.
We teed off too early for the TV camera crew to be in their towers, that’s definitely not good on the weekend. The only saving grace was a 67 on Sunday when we were paired with Ben Crenshaw. There are not many players I’d like to play with every day; Ben is at the top of my list. A gentleman, golf historian, and lover of a good bawdy joke or story plus a self-deprecating humor everyone adores. He’s comfortable with all walks of life and treats caddies as equals. I almost had him talked into a trip to Bob’s Garage for a Yuengling and fried baloney sandwich with an egg.
Tony Smith, Brad Bryant’s fun-loving sidekick, he’s now the Mayor of Bob’s Garage, joined me every afternoon along with longtime friends Terri and Brian, a few other caddies and Fox Chapel members Liz and Tom Sweeney. Without this little respite and camaraderie the week would have been much more difficult. We came in stinking, soaked with sweat, worn out from the walk in the heat and still reeling from the robbery but they made us feel at home forgetting about the day’s suffering. It’s nice to have old friends to lean on and make new friends who feel like old ones.