Like waiters and bellhops, caddies are clear-eyed observers of character. A caddie, in fact, is a litmus test of a golfer's personality. The weak man apologizes to his caddie for a bad shot. The selfish man never says a word to his. The insecure player is made self-conscious by a caddie's presence. The dishonest man blames a bad shot on his caddie. And the egomaniac begs a compliment after a good shot.
The great English golfer Harry Vardon used to tell the story of the French caddie toting for a rather smug Brit. The Brit made a very good shot to the green with a long iron and turned, beaming, to the caddie for some approval. "Well, good heavens!" the Brit said. "What do you think of that?" The French caddie spoke very little English and struggled for a phrase he had heard that might fit. Finally, he smiled approvingly and said, "Beastly fluke!"
Relax. No matter how badly you just hit it, caddies have seen it hit thrice as badly before. "I once caddied for a woman who would pick up her right heel on the back-swing and her left heel on the downswing," says one caddie. "I still don't know how she did it."
Once you get used to walking down the middle of the fairway with a noticeable lightness to your shoulder, once you get used to the feel of a long, lovely stroll to the green with only a putter in your hand, once you get used to never raking a bunker, caddies can become as unbreakable a habit as a waggle.
Find a good caddie and never let him go, for a good caddie-player match is a rare and precious thing. When Ken Venturi won the U.S. Open at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., in 1964, he became so attached to his caddie, the late William Ward, that every year that Venturi returned to Congressional for the Kemper Open, he gave Ward at least $200. Venturi had one other memorable caddie—a big, chubby kid with red hair who used to loop at the Lake Merced Golf and Country Club in Daly City, Calif., back in the mid-'50s just to make enough to pay off his tab at the caddie grill. Kid named John Madden.
In those days Madden, known to the other caddies as Red, would make sure he was the first one to greet Venturi when he came up the drive. "Shag for you, Mr. Venturi?" young Madden would ask. "Sure, kid," Venturi would say. And Venturi would pay him $1.50 for a shag, which, in the days before range tractors gobbled up golf balls, meant standing on the driving range collecting the Man's practice shots.
"Oh, Venturi was a beautiful shag," says Madden fondly. "He wasn't like the [club] members you'd have to shag for. He'd start with the wedge and hit about 10 balls in a perfect circle, no more than five feet around. He'd give me his shag bag, and I'd catch them right in the bag, no problem. Then he'd work up through his clubs: the short irons, the long irons, the driver. Even the driver, you knew exactly where he was going to hit it."
Venturi doesn't remember Madden, but Madden remembers Venturi, as he remembers nearly everybody he packed. "I used to look at the members and study them and figure out how I could be one of them," says Madden, the son of an auto mechanic. "And after a while I noticed that whenever the big game would come around—Cal-Stanford—I'd hear them talking about it for months beforehand. And I realized that the one thing they had in common was that they all went to college. I decided then and there that I would go to college no matter what."
Madden wound up not only going to college but also getting his master's degree. And all through his college days he caddied. But if caddying dies, what becomes of the Reds of the world—to say nothing of the Freight Trains and Stovepipes and Cotton Choppers?
It's hard to tell where most of the smoke comes from this morning in the ramshackle 15-by-15-foot caddie room at Pinehurst. Is it all the cigarettes the men are smoking down to their knuckles, or is it the bacon and eggs that Haircut is frying in the electric skillet? You ever taste bacon and eggs cooked up in an electric skillet washed once a week in the ball-washing machine? Good.