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Dealt a Bad Hand
Rick Reilly
May 30, 1994
CADDIES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN GOLF'S UNDERCLASS, ENDURING LOW PAY AND NO BENEFITS. NOW THEY'RE ON THE VERGE OF EXTINCTION
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May 30, 1994

Dealt A Bad Hand

CADDIES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN GOLF'S UNDERCLASS, ENDURING LOW PAY AND NO BENEFITS. NOW THEY'RE ON THE VERGE OF EXTINCTION

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Time to kill. Caddie talk. "We were cruising along doing fine," says Ronnie, "until he hit it in the lake." Caddies are like that. To carry a good player is to actually play yourself, as in, "I played in the North-South in 1967. Won with Gay Brewer."

Today is Sunday, and so Fletch gets the run of the radio. He's got the gospel station on. Talk gets low. Fletch is humming those old-time hymns. He's got a sister laid up in the hospital these days. They share a house. He worries about her. He worries about himself. Fletch doesn't do many loops anymore. He's so tired these days. Oh, somebody will come along and ask for him, somebody from years ago. Or a Pinehurst member will have Fletch drive the cart just to hear some of his stories. But mostly Fletch just serves as Caddie Legend, and all the other guys in the room are glad to spend the time polishing his glory. "Fletch won the North-South twice, with Curtis Strange and Gary Hallberg," says one caddie. "Read all their putts for' em."

"Caddied for Julius Boros, right, Fletch?" somebody asks.

"And Tommy Armour, too?" another says.

Fletch nods. What he doesn't mention is that he also caddied for Pinehurst architect Donald Ross. Fletch says Ross would get mad when anybody broke par on his course. Maybe Ross didn't like Fletch much, come to think of it. Fletch once played No. 2 from the back tees in 71-71-72-71—285, three under par.

Now, though, the way his eyes are....

"Hell, eyes don't make no difference to Fletch," says Loosetooth. "Fletch been around this course so many times, he don't need to see. He'll just brush the grass once and say, 'Six inches out on the right, firm.' "

"How about the time Fletch led Charlie Sifford by four shots with five holes to play?" somebody hollers out. "And Charlie birdied the last five holes to beat him."

Fletch looses a rare grin. "That's true," says Fletch. "And he come up to me afterward and say, 'I had to come get you, little roun' man.' "

Despite his reputation, Fletch is still a caddie of the Old South. When he meets the Man at the 1st tee, he does not speak until spoken to. He stares at his feet. That is what caddies did in the 1930s, when Fletcher started out, when no white would carry another man's golf bag.

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