But some of the golfers disapprove of the touring caddie arrangement. Tom Nieporte, for example, told me that he thought a team of a professional and his caddie, if they had been together for a long time, might be tempted, well, to try something. To give an extreme example, a caddie, with or without the knowledge of his pro, might edge a ball into a slightly better lie. Nieporte had never heard of this happening on the tour, but his point was that an arrangement should not be condoned that could so easily lead to such a temptation.
I asked the caddies about this, and they were scornful. "It never happen," one said. "Man'd be crazy to take a chance like that. You get caught, that's the end, baby. You ain't goin' to find any long-toed boys on the tour." When I asked, he said what he meant by "long-toed boys" was in reference to the old-time barefoot caddie who could envelop a ball with his toes and move it to a better lie.
The main attribute of the caddie, some professionals seem to feel, is to reinforce their pro's decisions, or even to dispute them, and make the golfer think hard before hitting his shot. But other golfers believe that the caddie's importance is overrated.
Claude Harmon was scornful of a caddie's advice. He said his instruction to them was always very simple: clean the clubs and the balls and show up on time and be in the right place and always be quiet. "My idea of a caddie is the one I won the Masters with. Never said one word. He won two other Masters that I know of—with Ben Hogan and Jackie Burke—and I think he won a fourth one. We compared notes and only Burke could remember him saying anything. That was on the 72nd hole, and Burke, who was looking over his putt, heard this calm voice just behind him say: 'Cruise it right in there, Mister Burke. Cruise it in.' And he did, too."
Harmon said he never could remember asking a caddie's advice. He said: "How can a boy know what you spend your life learning? For instance, how's a caddie going to judge your adrenaline supply? Think of Trevino in the '68 Open. He comes down the stretch just about ready to take the whole thing and he asks his caddie to club him and the guy suggests a five-iron. Trevino's all hopped up, crazy strong, and he knows it, so he grabs himself an eight-iron and hits the flag with it. Well, imagine where a five-iron would have taken him. Right out of the whole caboodle, that's where."
Players sometimes have doubts about caddies, but caddies rarely have doubts about themselves. This is especially true in England, where the caddie ranks with the cook and butler as a personage not to offend. Bobby Cruickshank told me that on his first practice round at Muir-field in 1929 he had a 75-year-old caddie, Willie Black. Cruickshank hit a good drive on the 1st hole. "Willie," he said, "give me the two-iron." "Look here, sir," Willie said, "I'll give you the club, you play the bloody shot." And I've always liked the story about the caddie at St. Andrews who interrupted his "boss" (which was the current term) at the top of his backswing and shouted, "Stop! We've changed our mind. We'll play the shot with an iron!"
What a tradition caddies come from. They don't know it, sitting down there on the fence wondering what they'll get at the next tournament, probably a duck for sure, but their heritage goes way back to the game's beginnings. I suppose the first of their number who achieved prominence was Scotland's William Gunn of the early 19th century. Caddie Willie, he was called—an odd and famous character referred to in the chronicles of the time as "peculiar but harmless." His habit was never to refer to those he caddied for by name, but rather by profession. Mr. Brand, for example, his landlord and an amateur gardener, he called "the man of the cabbage," as in "You'll be needin' a cleek, sure as not, man of the cabbage, to reach the green."
He wore his entire wardrobe on his back, one suit above the other—four or five of them at a time, including their vests. An old worn fur coat was outermost. He wore three bonnetlike hats, each sewed within the other. Had he been driving from one tournament to another, Johnny Pott would have found nothing in the trunk of his car, that's for sure.
And there isn't a caddie down there by the rail, not one, who doesn't agree with my favorite caddie of all. He was a Frenchman—Vardon has told the story about him—who packed the golf bag of an Englishman playing the course at Pau, just north of the Basque country. The Englishman made a particularly fine approach shot, and he turned to his caddie with a wide smile for some indication of approval. "Well, good heavens! What? What?"
The caddie's English was very limited. He struggled and offered what he had often heard uttered but did not fully understand. He said, nodding happily in reply: "Beastly fluke!"