Review

Who's Your Caddy?

by Rick Reilly



In the infant days of golf, it was well accepted that personal
servants attended their gentlemen golfers. Those men would tote
clubs, find golf balls and perform other tasks. Eventually, the
profession developed into much more than bag toting. In the early
days of the game, a golf ball often cost the equivalent of one
week's wages. The ability to find an errant ball was a significant
skill. As the lure of gambling further increased interest in golf,
caddies who were able to assist players in ways both legal and not
so legal became a valuable commodity. Caddies became more than
packhorses; they became craftsmen who recognized the effect of
wind, ground conditions and course design on the game. They became
guides and partners to the skilled golfer. In the 1960s and 1970s
it was not unusual for most country clubs to employ a stable of
young teenaged caddies. The movie Caddyshack is, in part, a
tribute to many who engaged in that trade. Sadly, financial
concerns and the advent of golf carts have largely rendered caddies
obsolete.

While most country clubs no longer employ caddies, modern
professional caddies have come a long way. Mike "Fluff" Cowan, who
was Tiger Woods's first caddy, became a cult figure. Indeed, it may
have been his attempts to cash in on his rising popularity that led
to his break-up with Tiger. Steve Williams is Woods's current caddy
and a multi-millionaire in his own right who, like all professional
caddies, earns a percentage of his golfer's winnings. Caddies are
truly unique individuals, both personally and professionally. It
was this uniqueness that led Rick Reilly, a well-known sports
writer and frequent contributor to Sports Illustrated, to
embark on an unusual journey. He wanted to caddy for as many
golfers as he could. Only golf allows someone to stand next to a
professional athlete and whisper words of advice and encouragement
in his ear. "I'll never play golf like those guys. But as a caddy,
I can get closer to great athletes without actually being one than
in any other sport." WHO'S YOUR CADDY? is the narrative of many of
those rounds, with Reilly on the bag with the greats and not so
greats of the game.

Reilly's first assignment, or "loop", was at the shrine of golf,
Augusta National. At the Masters Tournament, he persuaded
64-year-old Tommy Aaron to allow him to tote Aaron's bag during the
first round of the Masters. Lesson number one was quickly learned
when Reilly attempted to vocally encourage an Aaron chip shot into
the hole. "Keep your mouth off my ball," Aaron scolded. "Don't talk
to it. I want it to get up as much as you do. It doesn't help me to
know that you're over there, telling it to get up or get down or
whatever. It just adds to the pressure." Professional golfers can
be a moody bunch.

Aaron's missive was the first of many important lessons that Reilly
acquired as he walked various golf courses. As they tread down the
fairway, caddies must be careful that the clubs do not make noise.
A caddy should not be too eager to drop the golf bag in
anticipation of tasks, such as tending the flag or raking a sand
trap. Finally, no matter how small the distance, a professional
golfer does not walk to the bag; the caddy brings the bag to the
golfer.

Reilly closes each chapter with the Caddy Dictionary. "If the Caddy
says," is a brief descriptive sentence in caddy language. "He
means," is what the caddy said in English. Going "helicopter city"
means to throw your clubs. Going "trunk slammin" means to miss the
cut at this week's tournament and not winning any money. Numerous
examples can be found at the conclusion of each Reilly
adventure.

Reilly caddies for many other well-known golfers, as well as a few
non-professionals. He spends a day with Donald Trump who will not
let him caddy, but instead insists on a round of golf at Trump's
golf club. A round of golf with Donald Trump is a round of
braggadocio, with Reilly on the receiving end of a full Donald
Trump soliloquy of greatness. Just ask Trump; he is not ashamed to
let you know that you are in the presence of greatness.

There are rounds of golf with Jack Nicklaus, John Daly, Tom Lehman,
David Duvall, comedian Bob Newhart and blind golfer Bob Andrews.
Reilly takes something from each round. But as a humorous and
prescient observer of the game of golf, Reilly also offers a great
deal. This is a great summer reading book, perfect for vacation,
the pool, or keeping in your locker at the course if you need to
pass some time during a thunderstorm. Get ready for an entertaining
account of golfers, caddies and the truly unique relationship that
exists between them.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 24, 2011

Who's Your Caddy?
by Rick Reilly

  • Publication Date: May 4, 2004
  • Genres: Nonfiction, Sports
  • Paperback: 261 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books
  • ISBN-10: 0767917405
  • ISBN-13: 9780767917407