I know I left you hanging a month ago. I promised I would update my description of caddying in a U.S. Open qualifying round, but I didn’t. (See Buckeye Farm Beat blog for June 9.)
Well it was great – extra great. My daughter Allie shot a 68 on her second 18 that day, which indeed was good enough to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. So last week I took another vacation break and carried the bag for 7 straight days of golf (3 practice rounds and 4 regulation rounds) at the Old Course at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa.
We’re talking 126 holes of calf-high rough, Sahara-big bunkers, and steep treacherous greens. We’re talking teeing off about the same time as the world’s No. 1 golfer Lorena Ochoa. We’re talking a practice round with professionals Paula Creamer and another with past winners Laura Davies and Suzann Pettersen.
It was really cool. I’m still smiling.
Allie played lights out the first two days – despite the fact her driver was steering a little right -- as in she found only 6 of 14 fairways. I raked some 9 bunkers that round too – pretty much the average for us. Yes that does seem like a lot of raking. (I’ll go over my sand-smoother technique in my upcoming book.)
So on day 2 with a birdie at her 17th hole, which was No. 8 (she went off the back 9), she sent the crowd crazy and slid to 2 over for the day – 7 back of the leader with only the 9th hole to play. It’s a par 3 – 207 with a creek about 50 yards in front of the green and plenty of bunkers.
There was a back up. After sitting around for 10 minutes Allie rose to the tee swung her hybrid and hit a screaming line drive into the front bunker about 15 feet below the hole. Good spot I thought as Scottsdale’s Esther Choe hooked a ball left into the creek.
So we walk up to the green lots of applause and excitement because at this point Allie is in 38th place. The top 60 will be able to continue playing on Saturday and Sunday. The other 90 will go home. She is the third top amateur in the competition and yes, she’s in contention.
So her caddy hands her the sand wedge, grabs the rake (again) and steps back envisioning the golfer blasting her shot just below the pin for a tap in sandy par. The golfer does the foot wiggle thing they do in the sand traps and makes a couple of short swing arcs like she is getting ready to let fly with a double bladed axe into a locust tree’s trunk. She settles over the ball ready to strike. Then she stops. She looks quizzically, lifts the wedge out of the sand and turns it over. Right there in front a grandstandful of spectators, ESPN cameras, two dozen Lancaster fans, her family and her caddy, she glances up, flips over the club so as to hand it to me grip first and says, “Wrong one.” Hmmm. After a comic pause, she follows that with, “Guess I’m just going to have to check every one from now on.”
The ball lands about 10 yards in front of the hole and rolls to about 3 feet for an easy par. Her entourage, which had been screaming “Allieeee!” at every putt, punch, push, or pause, explodes with football fervor. “Go girl” and “Vamos” and “Way to go kid,” and more “Allieee.”
“How about a ball over here?” yells one of the many volunteers who have gathered near the grandstand as we walk off the green.
In her first professional level tournament Allie made the cut. Tournament volunteers were patting my back and telling me how they’d love to be in my shoes. She was signing hats and flags and programs. The USGA media man was leading us to the interview podium. A gaggle of 3 reporters had some questions.
Ohio Farmer hats
And one of them asks, “What’s the story behind these Ohio Farmer hats?”
She gives the quick response, “My dad is the editor of the Ohio Farmer magazine and he thought it would be cool to wear the hats and I liked it.”
The longer story is, last year I had a couple of hats left over from Farm Science Review so I asked her if she wanted to wear one when I caddied for her at the U.S. Women’s Amateur in Eugene, Oreg. We wore them and they got some comments. So we decided to do it again, although Allie insisted that she get something more in her style than the big blue truckers’ hats we give to drawing winners at the Review. Our friends at Lancaster’s Promotions by Design made her some very cool hats for her and another 25 hats that I passed out to her high school buddies. Even from inside the ropes, you could tell this group of kids was pleased and proud to participate. Further more, they made themselves and the hats very well known.
Some of the rowdy Lancaster crew at the U.S. Women's Open.
Following the question, the Associated Press reporter files his story and the next day many of the readers of the New Daily News and other outlets http://www.asapsports.com/show_interview.php?id=57724 know that Allie White was wearing an Ohio Farmer hat because her dad is the editor of Ohio Farmer magazine. People all over the course were asking for the hats on Sunday. Probably could have made a sale or two if I had some spares. (I do have a couple of hats here, but you have to send me a photo that we use on our Ohio Farm Scene page in the Buckeye Living section.)
Doug Valesco, one of Allie’s high school basketball coaches, was offered $100 for his Ohio Farmer hat with multiple pro golfer autographs. He wouldn’t take it. Allie’s friend Andrew Cutler was given 3 tickets for the upcoming rounds by one local who was hoping he’d get a hat in exchange.
“Couldn’t give him my Ohio Farmer hat,” Cutler says.
The third day they set the course up pretty tough to separate the leaders and Allie struggled to a 7-over 78 to go to 12 over par. Her caddy gave her all the right clubs, honest. The last day she improved to 5 over for the round. She wound up 17 over par and finished tied for 65th -- in the U.S. Women's Open.
“Gotta do better than that on the last two days,” she says. “I can win this thing.”
I say something more like, “Wow. Thanks kiddo for a great adventure and some the best fun of my life. I'm proud of you.”