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Caddie Shackled
Michael Bamberger
June 12, 2000
Pebble Beach looper Casey Boyns failed to qualify for next week's Open, but his course savvy belongs inside the ropes
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June 12, 2000

Caddie Shackled

Pebble Beach looper Casey Boyns failed to qualify for next week's Open, but his course savvy belongs inside the ropes

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Early the next morning Boyns was back at Pebble. In the caddie shack, a large cart barn, really, he saw his brother, Bucky. He sees Bucky most every morning—same time, same place. Bucky and the other loopers were all over Casey that morning, congratulating him on his round. Bucky, 58, is a jazz musician and a surfer. He surfs every day, in 50� water, in waves big enough to snap your board and your neck. He feels about surfing almost exactly the way Casey feels about golf.

Bucky and Casey are among the most senior caddies at Pebble, which means they get to go out with the first groups of the day. That morning Casey carried the bags of two insurance executives. They were nice men, decent players who were smart enough to listen to their caddie. The insurance guys found Boyns to be exceedingly helpful. When one of them didn't have the right club, Boyns sprinted over with another one. He gave yardages and wind directions, read greens, found balls, made short-term weather forecasts, passed along some Pebble Beach history and talked to their golf balls at the right times. He greeted a ball bound for a trap with a cheerful "Bunka!" When a wedge shot sailed comically in the wind, Boyns said, doing his best Price Is Right impression, "Come on down!" When a putt toured the circumference of the cup before dropping, Boyns yelled triumphantly, "Victory lap!" He was always on the move. He put on or took off his wind shirt with every discernible temperature change, of which there were many. He called one of the insurance men "Big Boy" and the other, who was managing his middling talent well, "Smart Guy." They paid Boyns more than double the going rate. He loves his job.

None of this is to suggest he is a disciple of Shivas Irons, the golf pro in Michael Murphy's book, Golf in the Kingdom, a slim novel whose mystical parallels between golf and life infect many Northern Californian golfers. Boyns does not see the golf-higher spirit connection. His method of instruction is to say, "Aim for the eucalyptus tree and don't leave anything in the bag."

Twenty years ago Boyns worked at the Esalen Institute, the Big Sur wellness center cofounded by Murphy, stapling sheet metal to roofs. In those days he was more interested in joining the brotherhood of sheet-metal workers than the brotherhood of touring pros. He dug Murphy's hangout, but the message of his book made no mark on him. What impressed him most were the naked women walking along Esalen's beaches.

He took up golf as a boy, playing at Pacific Grove with his father, a barber who made some good investments in real estate. At one point Leonard Boyns tried to join the swanky Monterey Peninsula Country Club, but his application went nowhere. "Somebody told him you couldn't join if tips were part of your income," Casey says, so he and his father kept playing P.G., sometimes in under two hours, and Casey kept sneaking on at Monterey Peninsula, despite the many times he was caught. "I'd hear the security guy on his Cushman coming after me, and I'd run into the woods, and he'd holler, 'Come out, I know you're in there!' "

He's still most at home at the P.G. muni, where his 18-hole rounds cost $12—if the kid at the counter bothers to punch his card. He had a game there the other day, paired with a couple of locals, a guy with a gray ponytail named James and a woman new to golf named Inga. On the second hole Inga whiffed her tee shot three times before hitting a 50-yard pop fly. Boyns did not shake his head in disbelief and ask himself, How did I get stuck in this group? He said, with sincerity, "Good shot. That's better." He loves golf, and golfers. He shot a 29 that day, six under par, on a short, windswept, duney back nine designed by Jack Neville himself. Boyns played with a narrow stance, a strong grip, a fast swing. He played a big cut. He wore beltless shorts, beat-up shoes, a T-shirt. He drove the 14th, a par-4, 356 yards, and holed his 10-foot putt for eagle. The man can play.

He was home by six. He lives with his wife, Sara, a lawyer, and their children, Marisa, 15, and Christopher, 9. They share a comfortable, modest house a short walk from the ocean. Dinner was grilled chicken and artichokes, and much of the conversation was about golf, in one way or another. Marisa told the story of her girlfriend who broke up with her boyfriend because she thought she could get Sergio Garc�a to take her to the prom. (Didn't happen.) Christopher sat wide-eyed as Casey talked about his round at Pebble Beach with Tiger Woods at the 1994 California State Amateur. ("Tiger, talking about my putting stroke, said, 'It's kind of funny looking, but he sure does get the ball in the hole.' ") Later, the conversation turned to what Casey would do if he qualified for the Open. Would he play as an amateur or a professional? "It seems like you love the game more when you play as an amateur," Sara said. Casey said that if he won, he would take the prize money, $800,000. Too much money to pass up, he said. Any other finish, he'd play for the glory of having been there.

On Monday, June 5, Casey Boyns was one of 96 golfers playing at the Lake Merced Golf and Country Club, outside San Francisco, competing in sectional qualifying. The top six finishers would advance to the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Tour players, like Mark Calcavecchia, were in the field, as were former Tour players, like Mac O'Grady, and possible future Tour players, like Andy Miller, Johnny's son. A tough crowd.

Boyns had a rough day and didn't qualify. As of Monday night, he was looking for a bag to carry in the Open. He wants to be inside the ropes, one way or the other. He's been dreaming about that for 28 years. He could help a player, no question about that. He knows the course like he knows his own hands. Like he knows his own dreams.

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