Plenty of ballplayers retire to the golf course, but how many become caddies? Every year since I quit playing baseball in 1993, I have carried my buddy Larry Ziegler's bag a time or two on the Senior tour. On one of my first attempts, Larry decided to give me a hard time. He held a ball out, then let it drop just short of my hand. Later he winged one off my knee and said, "Hey, I thought third basemen could catch." The gallery loved our shenanigans.
Things got serious at this year's St. Luke's Classic. Larry was in the lead when I arrived on Sunday to caddie the final round. He had won only one tournament since 1976, and even that was seven years ago. Suddenly here he was in the final group, trying to close out a victory with me on his bag, Now, I'm not tuned in enough to pick clubs or give golf advice. I knew that to have any value out there I'd have to keep Larry from being nervous. There was just one catch: Who'd keep me from being nervous?
I was keeping things light, talking away about baseball and my kids, while he lined up a 50-foot putt from the fringe on the back nine. He said, "Flag it for me." I had no idea what he meant.
"Go up there and put your hand on the flagstick," Larry said, "like the real caddies do."
"Oh." I did what he said, and as the ball came toward me, I felt every muscle in my body go absolutely rigid. I was sure that if I tried to pull the flag, the whole cup would come out of the ground with it. Luckily for me, the putt veered off a few feet, and I was saved an embarrassment that would have been on every highlights show that night. Instead you saw Larry winning the tournament.
Playing golf is humbling, but caddying is worse. I might look foolish playing the game, too, but at least I get to hit the ball.