The 1995 season started with great promise for Jim Furyk and his caddie, Steve Duplantis. At the second tournament of the year, in Tucson, they finished a strong fifth, and a month later, at the Nissan Open in L.A., a third-round 65 at venerable Riviera Country Club led to a tie for ninth. In May, Furyk went to Fort Worth, Texas, for the Colonial National Invitation, having made the cut in five of his last six starts.
The Colonial was the exact midpoint of the season, and it had been a dream come true for Duplantis. Only 22, he had already visited such glamorous locales as Hawaii, Pebble Beach, Los Angeles and New Orleans. Just as significant, Duplantis was earning the respect of his peers. He had picked up the affectionate nickname Kid, but more and more he was being treated as an equal. "There are a lot of random guys who come and go on Tour," says Duplantis. "When you start out, the established caddies don't give you the time of day. You've got to pay your dues, prove you're not just another guy who's going to disappear after a month." Furyk's fine play also helped boost Duplantis's standing, as well as put plenty of money in his pocket, and Duplantis had found more than a few buddies to waste it with. On the Tuesday night of Colonial week Duplantis and a couple of other caddies went in search of some burlesque-style entertainment. What Duplantis found would change his life forever.
Her name was Vicki Gristina. She was, as Duplantis puts it, "an exotic dancer." That night they flirted for a while—no big deal—but during Thursday's first round, Duplantis spotted Vicki in the gallery. She was, after all, hard to miss. Following the round, Duplantis happened to bump into Vicki, and he kibitzed with her and one of her friends, and the three of them made plans to go out that evening. "Vicki was trying to fix me up with her friend, but it wasn't her friend I liked," says Duplantis.
He and Vicki had an intoxicating good time that night, and in the wee hours they rented a room. As usual, Duplantis and Furyk were bunking together that week, but on this night Duplantis needed his privacy. The next morning he woke with a start, eyes immediately settling on the clock in the room. It read 8:04, and that wiped the perma-grin off his face, as Furyk's second-round tee time was scheduled for 8:17.
The Colonial is one of the few events on Tour where the majority of the housing is within walking distance of the course. Duplantis was lucky to have shacked up in a hotel not far from the 1st tee. He bolted the room in a frenzy and made it to the clubhouse just as Furyk was being announced by the starter. Furyk, out of desperation, had already pulled some schmo out of the crowd to carry his bag. Duplantis wormed his way to the tee and snatched die bag—not that he looked much different than some of the fans. He was wearing leather dress shoes and a long-sleeved shirt, which he had put on inside out. His hair was at roughly Don King altitude despite his best efforts to comb it with his hands in the reflection off the bronze plaques that frame the 1st tee. In perhaps the most egregious breach of conduct, his yardage book was nowhere to be found. Furyk never said a word.
Duplantis spent the better part of the front nine pawing through the bag, desperate to hide his mop-top under a visor that he remembered stuffing deep into one of the pockets the week before. Finally, on the 6th hole, Furyk said, "I took the visor out of the bag on Tuesday." That was the sum total of their conversation for the round. That Furyk shot a 70 is a testament to his laser focus. After the round, apologies were made and accepted. It was an aberration, the kind of mistake that would never happen again, an epic, once-in-a-lifetime blunder.
Duplantis's contrition lasted all of two days. The week after the Colonial came the Memorial, and Furyk was being allowed past the velvet ropes for the first time. The Memorial is played in Dublin, Ohio, at Muirfield Village, one of the country's best tracks. Throw in Jack Nicklaus as host and master of ceremonies and it is not a tournament to be taken lightly. Ever fastidious, Furyk was quick to line up a practice round for nine o'clock on Monday morning. Following the Colonial, Furyk's parting words to Duplantis were, "Don't be late." So, of course, Duplantis missed his flight on Sunday evening, which conveniently allowed for another night with Vicki.
Duplantis arrived in Columbus the next afternoon and tracked down Furyk on Muirfield Village's 16th hole. This time he got two sentences: "Dude, you're f———up big time, and it's got to stop. Now go back to the room and get some sleep." The rest of the week went without a hitch, though Furyk finished a distant 53rd. This was followed by a missed cut the next week at the Kemper Open. Vicki had come to suburban Washington, D.C., for the tournament, and on Friday night she and Duplantis jetted to Key West for a romantic weekend. That was where they were married. Under a coconut tree. In their swimsuits. By a notary. They had known each other for 19 days.
The morning after the wedding, Duplantis's family back in Brampton, Ont., woke to the sound of a ringing phone. "That was the worst," he says. " 'Hey, Mom, how you doing? Guess what, I just got married. Hey, Dad, how you doing? Guess what, I just got married. Hey, Grandma....' "
The news created a certain amount of head-scratching in Brampton. "I remember that phone call very clearly," says Duplantis's mother, Sandy Cantin. "I said, 'You got married? To who? To Vicki. Who's Vicki?' We hung up, and I was lying in bed thinking, Did that really happen or was it a dream?"