Michael Bamberger, SI's newest senior writer, is no armchair journalist. Ten years ago, when he wanted to learn what life was like on the PGA Tour, he joined it—as a caddie. Three years out of the University of Pennsylvania and after a stint as a reporter on Martha's Vineyard for the Vineyard Gazette, Bamberger left small-time New England for big-time professional sports. First client: Brad Faxon. "I lasted exactly a week before getting fired for total incompetence," Bamberger says mirthfully. Luckily, he was a fast learner. Bamberger went the rest of the season without incident, working for, among others, Bill Britton and Al Geiberger, and then, after putting away his yardage books and caddie bibs, The Green Road Home, his account of life as a professional looper, was published.
The Tour was not Bamberger's introduction to the wonderful world of caddying. As a teenager growing up in Patchogue, N.Y., Bamberger caddied on weekends for his Patchogue-Medford High School principal. "My chief responsibility," he says, "was holding Mr. Juzwiak's pipe between shots." Although Bamberger was captain of the high school golf team—"Anybody who owned even a partial set of clubs qualified for the team," he says—he grew up with other loves as well, including skiing and body-surfing.
But Bamberger had his first brush with journalism at a baseball game. As adolescents, he and his brother, David, had an April ritual: cutting school to see the Mets on Opening Day. On the first day of the 1973 season, New York Times sportswriter Steve Cady was roaming through the stands at Shea Stadium looking for young fans willing to comment on the home team. The next day the Times carried Bamberger's first "editorial": " Jim Fregosi will never be a third baseman," the 12-year-old was quoted as saying.
From 1986 until his arrival at SI in September, Bamberger, whose story on the Nebraska football team begins on page 88, honed his skills as a general-assignment reporter and sportswriter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he covered everything from spot news to the Phillies to the outdoors. He also persuaded Steve Carlton, the Hall of Fame pitcher who refused to talk to reporters for much of his career, to grant a rare interview. Along the way Bamberger, who lives in the West Mount Airy section of Philadelphia, took time out to get married (Christine), have two children (Ian and Alina) and try caddying again, only this time on the European tour (those experiences are chronicled in a second book, To the Linksland, which was published in 1992). And Bamberger still has not found his limits as a writer. Next March, Bart & Fay, his play based on the longtime friendship of the late Bart Giammatti and Fay Vincent, will be produced in Philadelphia.
Bamberger says that it is unlikely that he'll strap someone else's golf bag across his back anytime soon. "I think maybe when I'm about 60 years old I could do it again," he says. "For now, though, the bug is out of my system."