Bear with me. Once a year or so I write about my favorite sport – golf. And my favorite golfer – daughter Allie. She is in her first year as a professional playing on the Symetra Tour, which is a futures tour for the LPGA. She is always proud to wear her Ohio Farmer hat and every now and then she lets me caddy for her. It a real privilege and joy for me. For her it’s tolerating Dad for a couple of rounds in exchange for a day or two of free food and lodging.
That said we’re not a bad team. And we proved it two weeks ago at the Ohio Women’s Open Tournament held at Eagle Rock Golf Course in Defiance. Other than a slight glitch on the opening hole, it was a successful outing that brought her second place and the biggest pay check of the season.
Eagle Rock is the former private Kettering Country Club, which like many golf courses had fallen on lean times due to the recession. It was purchased a few years ago and is under new management as a public facility. The course is a little quirky with tight fairways and tough rolling greens that provided some very difficult pin positions. As a caddy you are supposed to be able to read the greens and tell the golfer what the ball is going to do. I kind of stay away -- unless asked, and fortunately I wasn’t asked too often.
Not being a professional caddy, I didn’t arrive in time for the practice round and made my first appearance at the course about an hour before tee time. So we headed to the first tee with me kind of looking around to get the lay of the land. A small gallery of family and friends was on hand. I smiled and waved proudly. I might have even tipped my Ohio Farmer hat.
One of the things one usually expects at a golf course is that the out-of-bounds extends around the outside perimeter of the course. If you hit your ball out-of-bounds, usually there is a fence or white stakes to tell you it has left the property, and you must take a one stroke penalty and hit another ball.
However, the course can put an out bounds marker wherever they want. The first hole at Eagle Rock is in the middle of the course not along the boundary. What I didn’t notice as I stood there waiting for Allie to tee off is there where a series of three white stakes that ran halfway down the right side of the fairway. I guess they are intended to keep golfers from flying their balls into the maintenance building next to the club house. But really they are not somewhere one would expect the out-of-bounds to be.
Allie was the last of the threesome to tee off and I stood on the back of the tee box blissfully enjoying the start of new tournament as she took a series of smooth swings. And then she stepped to the tee and calmly blasted the ball off towards the trees that lined the right side of the first hole.
“Hmmm, going to have to punch that one out of the trees,” I murmured.
From her spot on the tee Allie glared at me the way any offspring would when their parent says something irrelevant. “Toss me another ball,” she said.
I looked up the fairway and for the first time noticed those white stakes along the trees. I scrambled for the golf bag standing about 10 feet away. In my clumsiness I nearly knocked it over as I crammed my hand into the ball pocket to get a replacement Titleist ball. I came up with a handful of tees and a spare glove. Then I jammed my hand a little deeper wiggled it around desperately. There has to be one in here I thought. Wrong pocket. I realized it a moment later and reached into the right one. Finally there was a ball. I tossed it to Allie who gave me another of those special glares before teeing it up, and with some degree of hostility, smashing it out in the middle of the fairway.
She marched down the fairway like a train gaining speed. I jogged awkwardly to try to catch up.
Things did not improve right away as she called for a nine iron and proceeded to push it somewhat right of the green. Then she took a wedge and pitched the ball over the green. Finally she two-putted for a triple bogey 7. Three over right off the bat. At that point I wasn’t sure how long this particular caddying gig might last.
However, that was the by far the worst of it. She steadied herself fired a couple of birdies and finished the day one over par. The final day she shot one under par -- birdying the last hole in front a big gathering of spectators. They cheered loudly as her tricky down-hill put rolled smoothly into the hole. I gave her a hug and got one back. She was presented the second place trophy and check for $2,500. Her Mom had a tear in her eye and the rest of the family smiled and laughed and pounded her on the back. It was a great couple of days that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
As for that first hole, chalk it up to caddy error.