In the 1980 golf classic Caddyshack, Bill Murray memorably plays Carl Spackler, a greenskeeper slightly less intelligent than the gophers he's charged with eliminating from the course.
I loved that movie; I loved Bill Murray. Which is why I'm wearing a camo bucket hat and my athletic socks pulled up over my khaki pants in imitation of galoshes, just like Carl, bent over the practice putting green in front of The Lodge at Pebble Beach. The only other golfer around stands over his ball, pretending he's not listening to me, as I mumble what are probably the most famous lines in the movie: "Tears in his eyes as he lines up this last shot. He's got about 195 yards left, looks like he's got about an 8-iron. This crowd has gone deathly silent. A Cinderella story. Out of nowhere. A former caddy, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a miracle … It's in the hole! It's in the hole!"
The other golfer picks up his ball and hurries away. Probably never saw the movie.
I don't even play golf. But ever since I saw Murray at the 1995 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am wearing, on one day, rumpled gray cotton shorts that looked slept in - "I just signed a very lucrative deal with Goodwill Industries," he explained - and on the next, an artificial-turf-topped tam-o'-shanter with a plastic golf ball and flag tied to its crown, I've wanted to caddy at the famed course, channeling my inner Carl Spackler.
And now I am. It's a cold, dark, misty morning, and I've been granted caddy intern status for just one day on the front nine only. I'm officially a Pebble Beach looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock.
My mentor is Casey Boyns, a 59-year-old amateur golfer who has been a caddy at Pebble Beach since he was a teenager and plays well enough to have twice won the California State Amateur Championship. He's done this often enough that he's pretty nonchalant about everything, including having a 62-year-old non-golfer intern as a caddy. I tell him I'm here because I met Bill Murray on this course 20 years ago when I was following around college buddy and pro-golfer Peter Jacobsen. Boyns tells me he caddied for Michael Jordan once, and that Jordan was good.
Our foursome from Utah is half our age. The first guy takes a couple of practice swings on the first hole just as a doe ambles onto the fairway not 50 feet away. The golfer shouts at the deer and waves his club, but it goes on munching grass, undisturbed. "If I hit that deer, do I get a free drop?" the golfer asks. "Listen, just don't hit the deer," Boyns says.
The next guy tops the ball, and it dribbles maybe 20 feet. "What'd I do wrong?"
"You didn't hit it."
And so it goes. After one guy fails to loft his ball out of the sand, Boyns says, "Keep your head still." Other corrections: too quick, keep it slow, stay positive, don't lift your heels.
After a couple of hours, we make it to the par-4 ninth, perhaps the most difficult hole on the course, with a series of bunkers on the left and the Pacific Ocean on the right. The first three guys, no doubt intimidated by the water, hit far left, and Boyns goes off with them to hunt down their balls. Leaving me with Marv. Marv is having a difficult day. His tee shot on the ninth was straight but didn't carry very far. Boyns called it a "God shot" because it was high and mighty. Now, he's probably 195 yards from the hole. Marv wants to know what he should do. Imagining what Carl Spackler would do, I take off my camo bucket hat, scratch my head, and squint at the barely-visible flag. "Eight-iron," I mumble.
Marv takes the club from me, swings it a few times, and then hits his most solid shot of the day, a monster. It narrowly misses the bunker to the left of the green and rolls up feet from the pin. Marv, giddy, laughs and high-fives me. "Out of nowhere," I say in my best Carl Spackler voice. "A Cinderella story."
Guests of The Lodge at Pebble Beach worship their clubs.
Photo by David Lansing
AirMail - Opposite of a worm burner; flying a shot well past the green.
Big Dog - The club you use, usually a driver, for distance. "Time to go for the big dog."
Chili Dip - Smacking the ground behind the ball usually resulting in a large divot and little movement of your ball.
Duffer - Someone who really shouldn't be playing golf; a caddy's nightmare.
Foot Wedge - Kicking your ball (illegally) from a poor lie; the goal is to make sure your playing partners don't see you do it.
Fried Egg - A ball buried in a sandtrap so that only the top of the ball shows.
Gimme - Picking up your ball if it is within a club length or so of the cup to avoid missing your putt.
Lumberjack - A golfer who consistently hits his shots into trees.
Mulligan - A do-over when you mess up your tee shot. Usually given only once on the front and back nine.
Rainmaker - A golf shot hit straight up in the air that doesn't go very far.
Worm Burner - A drive hit grass high; if it only goes a few yards it might qualify as a mulligan.
Yips - What you have if you don't take a gimme and miss a short putt.
WHERE TO PLAY
Green fees are nearly $500 per head on the golfer bucket-list Pebble Beach Golf Links in the Del Monte Forest, which offers not only a great game, but great sightseeing. The Links at Spanish Bay mimics the courses of Scotland, with sandy wasteland and steady ocean breezes a predominant feature. Guests of The Lodge at Pebble Beach, The Inn at Spanish Bay, or Casa Palmero get first pick of tee times with a minimum stay, dependent on the season. Alternatively, work on your short game for $30 at the resort's nine-hole par-27 Peter Hay Golf Course.
At Bayonet & Black Horse, holes 11 through 15 on Bayonet Golf Course are a series of sharp doglegs, aka "Combat Corner." The Black Horse course has great views. These two courses in Seaside were once open to the military only. $40-$135
A location by the sea (and views of a lighthouse) at reasonable fees make Pacific Grove Golf Links a great choice. The back nine are reminiscent of the Scottish courses. $41-$68
FEBRUARY 8-14 - AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is the event of the year, originally hosted by Bing Crosby. attpbgolf.com