The license plates in the church parking lot tipped me off to how much driving some caddies do to follow the PGA Tour to the John Deere Classic.
The types of cars tell more of the story — a late-model Jaguar, parked next to a 1990s economy car with a fading paint job. Golf is an up-and-down game, and a caddie’s success depends on his pro.
If there are ugly battles for the best bags, those wars must be waged somewhere deep behind the scenes. Any animosity between competing caddies was well-hidden by the several dozen I encountered during a Wednesday gig behind the wheel of a caddie shuttle to TPC Deere Run in Silvis.
They dropped into my passenger seats in groups of two or three, mostly sharing the ride to or from the golf course out of coincidental timing. The first thing to become obvious was that every caddie knew every other caddie.
They also knew each others’ business — professional and personal.
I didn’t ask for names, though I occasionally asked who they were carrying for. I figured I’d have a better chance of getting a true glimpse of caddie life if they were comfortable enough to speak freely.
And they did.
I heard horror stories about certain pros’ behavior. It was clear by the second trip to the caddies’ parking lot at Bible Holiness Church that some golfers are less popular than others. And some are evidently so difficult to work for that the caddies have expressions to help get their points across.
For instance: “If you hear a baby crying on the golf course, that’s a future pro.”
Or: “People ask what I do for a living, and I tell them I work with over-privileged youth.”
One conversation went like this:
Caddie one: “What are you doing today?”
Caddie two: “Don’t know, yet. He hasn’t called.”
Caddie one: “Don’t you hate that? It’s like we don’t have anything we’d like to do, and we can wait around all day.”
Caddie two: “I know. I’ve got things I’d like to do — golf, laundry.”
Mostly, though, the caddies were not the complaining type. They were more interested in making plans for their free time.
Though my poll was far from scientific, many visiting caddies know four things about the Quad-Cities:
n The former host site for the tournament, Oakwood Country Club in Coal Valley, is a good place to play during down time.
n Greenbriar Pub in Moline is a popular hangout.
n The Lodge in Bettendorf (they still call it Jumer’s) is a good place to spend the night.
n The heat could get ugly before the week’s over.
And the volunteers at the tournament know a thing or two about the caddies, beginning with the fact they all can be counted on to be friendly and grateful for the “hop” to and from their cars.
Tournament Transportation Committee co-chair Roger Granell said the golfers are a friendly breed, too, but they can be a bit more demanding.
“We’ve driven golfers’ wives to the spa and then the mall,” he said of the committee’s busy shuttles. “Eighty percent of the golfers come into the airport and just grab their (tournament loaner) cars there.
“We keep 110 cars out there, which is all that will fit in the lot we use. We have a past champion who insists on getting a (Chevrolet) Tahoe. Some of them have been driven to Chicago and called to ask where they should leave the vehicle that belongs here.
“We’ve had to tell them, ‘Turn it around!’”
For at least a handful of caddies, there are much bigger fish to fry than what kind of car they’ll be given to drive.
About a half-dozen caddies follow the PGA Tour, even though they don’t have a bag to carry, I’m told. Each is looking for an “open bag” they can attach themselves to, usually because another caddie is ill or can’t make a certain tournament.
Those guys have learned to “live lean,” sharing hotel rooms and eating out on the cheap. They are even more uncertain where their next paycheck will come from than the caddies who are connected to a pro.
When I asked one caddie who he was carrying for, he replied, “Kyle Thompson. You ever hear of him?”
I answered honestly that I hadn’t, adding, “Maybe I will, though, by the end of the week.”
He grinned, grabbed his bottle of water and opened the car door. Over his shoulder he said, “We’re overdue. Thanks for the lift.”
Contact Barb Ickes at 563-383-2316 or email@example.com.