A 13-year-old son. A father. A wife. An unofficial pro-am celebrity. And a Super Bowl participant.
The QBE Shootout has quite a collection of caddies as it celebrates its 20th year at Tiburón Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort this week. And with it being a laidback team event, that opens the door for the pros to given someone else a chance to caddie — and also to give their regular caddies a break.
Part-time Naples resident Steve Stricker, the 2021 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, does have a “backup” caddie, but someone he’s more than familiar with, and who is also more than familiar with the role. Stricker’s wife, Nicki, was a longtime caddie for her husband on the PGA Tour, and she picked up the bag again for last year’s Mayakoba Classic in Mexico and the Shootout this week.
“A lot of guys take advantage of this tournament and these offseason kind of events to give their regular guys a break, and have some family on the bag,” Stricker said. “There’s a couple of guys in our group that are friends of players. This is a good opportunity.”
Nicki would normally be watching anyway, but it’s different when she’s caddying for her husband.
“Although now there’s not a really bad seat (with no fans allowed due to the coronavirus pandemic), but it’s kind of nice to be inside and up close and feel a little bit more apart of what’s going on,” Nicki said. “I like it.
“He’ll ask usually me at first if I want to. I split the time with my brother, so between the two of us it just depends on where it is, what’s going on with the kids. I enjoy it though.”
Matt Kuchar has his 13-year-old son, Cameron, on the bag. Billy Horschel has his father. Tony Finau gave a couple of friends a chance to carry his clubs — former NFL defensive lineman and fullback Will Tukuafu in the first round, and friend Otto Carter on Saturday.
Horschel planned on having his friend Matt Rollins, who caddied for him at the Shootout last year, back on the bag. But Rollins came in contact last week with somebody who tested positive for COVID-19. Horschel said he thought Rollins had tested negative, but with him also living in Arizona, it just didn’t make sense to use him.
Horschel didn’t have to go far to find a replacement. He lives next to his 69-year-old dad, Bill, in Ponte Vedra.
“I called ‘Pops’ in off the bench,” said Horschel, who said his father had caddied for him once early in his career.
Kuchar’s 13-year-old son, Cameron, had been bugging his dad for a shot at caddying, and Kuchar thought this was the perfect type of event.
“We had a blast,” Matt Kuchar said. “To be able to do it here in this environment with a bunch of good guys, from Cam Smith, Marc Leishman, Harris (English), they’ve all got great caddies out there. It was nice to have guys to take my boy under their wing.”
There weren’t any hiccups during Friday’s first round.
“He’s been great as far as being prepared, being ready, and being early,” Kuchar said. “Those are things that I get nervous about, Where are you? Where are you? It never happened.”
Kuchar said Eric Larson, English’s caddie, had been good with his son, and there also was an added bonus. Smith’s caddie, Matthew ” Bussy” Tritton, was a caddie for Kuchar early in his career.
“Bussy remembers Cameron when he was just a little baby,” Kuchar said. “He has some good stories to reminisce on.”
Thursday, James Edmondson, who caddies for pro Ryan Palmer, gave his boss something to reminisce about. He holed out from 43 yards on the unofficial 19th hole floating green that each pro-am team stopped to take a chance at. Edmondson got $100 each from each player in the group, and $1,000 went to charity.
“That was pretty fun,” Palmer said. “He just dropped two balls and flies it in the hole. He is a good golfer, so it was a fun moment. Our group had a blast with it.”
Palmer also got something — Edmondson’s caddie bib.
“We made a joke with our team, and I put the bib on, and the guys were like, ‘We’ll take him instead, give him a little break,’” Palmer said.
Finau’s normal caddie, Gregory Romine, got married Friday, so he had been thinking about who to replace him, and he went with longtime friends.
Tukuafu played college football at Oregon, and then played with the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. He played in the Super Bowl when the 49ers lost to the Ravens, and was on injured reserve with a concussion just before the Seahawks made their playoff run to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the New England Patriots.
“It’s great having a couple of buddies out here with me,” Finau said. “It’s such a great atmosphere, very chill, a great format. It’s team golf, something we don’t really get to do out here.
“I just thought about my two closest friends. They both love golf, big fans of the game, big fans of guys I play with. This is really cool for me to have an opportunity like this.”
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/12/12/pga-tour-unique-caddies-qbe-shootout/