“Well, he isn’t going to be a caddie all his life.” – Mr. Noonan in “Caddyshack”
Sammamish, Wash. – Quietly and without much fanfare, one of the classic modern-day comedic golf films recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. Over the years, the 1980 Hollywood production has attained cult status in the golf world with its humorous dialogue and irrepressible characters.
Anyone who has ever seen “Caddyshack” knows the story of the fictional Danny Noonan, who came from the wrong side of the tracks and managed to reach hero status through his caddieing and golfing exploits at stodgy Bushwood Country Club.
Of course, Noonan was the creation of writers Brian Doyle Murray, Harold Ramis and Doug Kenney.
But at this week’s U.S. Senior Open at Sahalee Country Club, a real-life Danny Noonan is among the 156 competitors.
Meet Casey Boyns of Pacific Grove, Calif. Listed occupation: caddie.
That’s right, Boyns, 54, is a full-time caddie at one of the world’s great venues: Pebble Beach Golf Links, five-time host of the U.S. Open. He has been hoofing clubs for guests there for nearly as long as “Caddyshack” has been in existence.
Except Boyns never had a Zen master (Ty Webb) provide advice – “Be the ball” – or a crotchety member (Judge Smails) summon him to his club office to ask him, “Are my pal Danny? Mr. scholarship winner. How about a Fresca?”
But growing up in nearby Pacific Grove, Boyns produced his own golf shenanigans. He once snuck on to the posh Monterey Peninsula Country Club to play 18 holes for 15 consecutive days before finally being caught by a marshal. He did the same thing once at tony Cypress Point, before he left a 9-iron on the course and trudged into the pro shop to inquire whether anyone had found it. He never attempted that clandestine maneuver again.
Nevertheless, Boyns, who played on the golf team for two years at the University of Utah, fell in love with the game and has turned that passion into a career on the links.
“I say that I support my golf habit by caddieing,” said Boyns. “It’s been great for me.”
It all started when Boyns started looking for work after college. He had met his wife, Sara, while attending Monterey Peninsula Junior College and she was just finishing high school at Pacific Grove High.
“Our parents lived in the same subdivision,” he said. “We would go out on the beach and watch the sunsets.”
Wanting to land a position as an assistant pro, Boyns sent his résumé to 75 courses. He heard from one – Oakmont Golf Club, a 36-hole retirement community in Santa Rosa, Calif. For 14 months, Boyns tried to learn the golf business, but his boss suggested that it might be best to get out while he still was young.
Boyns assessed the situation and decided to start over. He moved back to Pacific Grove and started caddieing again at Pebble Beach. He had worked briefly at the resort in the early 1970s before the resort boomed in the wake of the 1972 U.S. Open, its first. Boyns, in fact, had his name in the lottery to get a bag for the ’72 Open, but wound up as an alternate. He ended up working as a forecaddie on the eighth hole for three days, and then the par-5 14th for the final round, where he was able to walk in with the final pairing of Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino and witnesses the Golden Bear’s famous 1-iron shot to the 71st hole.
Once Boyns started caddying again at Pebble Beach and its two sisters courses, Spyglass Hill and Spanish Bay (which opened in 1987), he became hooked. He could work in the mornings and play in the afternoons. Even when his wife started attending night school at the Monterey College of Law, Boyns could do his day thing and take care of their two children in the evening.
It was the perfect setup.
“I got to be Mr. Mom,” he said. “I enjoyed it.”
Because of his unique work situation, Boyns watched his game quickly develop. As a high school player, he helped Pacific Grove win a pair of Central Coast Section team titles in 1972 and ’73, something his 19-year-old son, Christopher, also achieved 33 years later as the sixth man in 2006. In fact, the school endured a 33-year drought between championships, with father and son helping to produce one each.
At Utah, Boyns never won a tournament, but he finished second once and was fifth in the Western Athletic Conference Championship, playing against the likes of Bobby Clampett (Brigham Young), Curt Byrum (New Mexico) and Dan Forsman (BYU).
Yet it was post-college that Boyns developed legendary status in Northern California. He has won 14 NCGA titles, including two NCGA Amateurs and four NCGA Public Links championships. He also twice won the prestigious California Amateur held at Pebble Beach, beating Dave Stockton Jr. in the 1989 final and good friend Joey Ferrari four years later.
“That was special,” he said. “You have everyone coming out to root for you. It was great.”
In 2009, he was inducted into the California Golf Hall of Fame as one of the state’s great amateur players in a class that included NBC golf announcer/past PGA Tour player Roger Maltbie and Bob Murphy, another former PGA Tour golfer turned television analyst.
Boyns’ game wasn’t confined to state competition. Prior to this year, he had qualified for eight USGA championships, including three U.S. Amateurs, two Amateur Public Links, two Mid-Amateurs and the 1997 USGA State Team Championship, where he helped California finish second at SunRidge Canyon in Arizona.
So with all this talent, why didn’t Boyns take his golf game to the professional ranks?
“I couldn’t beat those guys,” he said of the group that rose to stardom in his era. “I know my level. I know the cap on my level.”
Last month, after four previous unsuccessful attempts, Boyns finally qualified for the U.S. Senior Open, shooting a 67 at Saddle Creek Resort to earn medalist honors and one of the two available spots.
“It’s a major bucket list [item],” said Boyns, whose entire family is at Sahalee Country Club this week. His son will serve as his caddie and his wife took time away from her practice – she is an employment law attorney – to take in the festivities. His daughter also is coming up from Monterey on Wednesday.
“I never did play in a regular [U.S.] Open. This is the next-best thing. This is special for me,” said Boyns.
The Pebble Beach Scene
Over his nearly 30 years of walking the fairways of Pebble Beach, Boyns has come across many fascinating people. He has carried for celebrities, politicians and high-profile businessmen. At the AT&T National Pro-Am, an annual PGA Tour stop, he is typically on the bag of San Francisco Giants owner Bob Lurie. Before Lurie, Boyns caddied for Barry Ruhl, the son-in-law of San Diego Chargers owner Alex Spanos, and along with PGA Tour pro Rex Caldwell, they nearly won the pro-am portion of the tournament. Mark O’Meara’s partner sank a 50-foot birdie putt at 18 for a net eagle to edge them by one stroke.
Boyns has worked three of the five U.S. Opens at Pebble Beach; in 1992 he came down with appendicitis and couldn’t work. Boyns missed the cut in 1982 by one stroke, but in 2000 (with Charles Warren) and last month (with Jason Allred) he worked the weekend. Boyns had caddied for Allred’s father and uncle at Pebble Beach and they contacted him about working for Jason, who won the 1997 U.S. Junior Amateur, defeating Trevor Immelman in the final at Aronimink outside of Philadelphia. Allred reached one under for the championship early in round two, but settled for a tie for 47th.
“I could just tell when I talked to him on the phone that he was a great guy,” said Boyns of Allred. “It was a no-brainer. It worked out really well.”
One day at Pebble, Boyns wound up on the bag of NBA Hall of Famer and golf fanatic Michael Jordan. The two hit it off immediately and on the 18th hole Jordan rolled in a 40-foot putt for his only birdie of the round. A few weeks later, Boyns was at Glen Oaks Country Club in Chicago for a member-guest and he ran into Jordan in the grill room.
“He said, ‘Hey Casey, what’s going on,’ ” Boyns recalled. “He even remembered my name. I was floored. I thought that was so cool. He came out to Pebble another time and I bumped into him on the putting green. He’s just a class act.”
Boyns has also carried for many entertainers, including Michael Keaton, Tim Matheson and George Lopez. Many of his customers are repeat clients. It’s not uncommon for Boyns to have several requests on the same day. He has even withdrawn from competitive tournaments to caddie for a repeat client. In fact, he’s turning down a chance to caddie for Allred in the second stage of PGA Tour Qualifying because he has a regular loop planned at the annual Callaway event at Pebble Beach.
“He’s one of my better clients,” explained Boyns. “Sometimes it’s hard to juggle [everything]. You have to weigh all the options.”
Among the 175 regular caddies at the three main Pebble Beach Resort courses, Boyns is No. 2 in seniority behind Bob Lytle, whom the locals call “Rocket.” Every caddie at Pebble Beach has a nickname. ESPN’s Chris Berman, during the 2010 U.S. Open, called Boyns “The Legend.”
One would be hard-pressed to find any employee at Pebble who knows more about the course than Boyns. His best competitive round at Pebble Beach is a 68, but he has shot 61 at the nearby Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Course, often called the “poor man’s Pebble Beach” for its spectacular second nine.
“I’ve seen pretty much every putt,” said Boyns of Pebble Beach. “But there are some tricky ones. The Poa annua [greens] can be finicky.”
So can playing against his fellow caddies. At one point, Pebble Beach had three different state amateur champions among its staple of caddies. The annual caddie tournament features four-man teams from the four major area courses – Pebble, Spyglass, Spanish Bay and Cypress Point – competing in a two best-ball format. Just making it onto a team is a challenge.
Boyns hasn’t participated every year, but when he hasn’t played Cypress in awhile, he’ll sign up.
Plus, he doesn’t let his job get in the way of practice or competition. Even at 54, he maintains a Monday-to-Friday work week, occasionally working a weekend if there’s a request. He prefers to have requests so he doesn’t have to arrive at Pebble at 6 a.m. to get in line for jobs.
“What’s great is as soon as the schedule comes out for the golf, I go through it all,” said Boyns. “I pretty much know my requests. The tournaments are generally the same weeks every year. But I’ve had to withdraw [occasionally]. It depends on the size of the tournament. If it’s one of my best customers, I am like, ‘I don’t need that golf tournament.’ ”
That isn’t the case this week at Sahalee, where Boyns is trying to absorb everything. On Saturday, he took his family to Safeco Field for the Mariners-Red Sox game. On Sunday, he played nearby Chambers Bay, site of next month’s U.S. Amateur and the 2015 U.S. Open. He planned to play Sahalee Monday, but his son got ill Sunday and went to the hospital Sunday night suffering from dehydration. He was feeling a bit better Monday and Boyns planned to get in practice rounds Tuesday and Wednesday.
He also was hoping to use the experience to reunite with past rivals, including Mark Johnson, a past California Amateur champion who now plays professionally on the Champions Tour.
“There are four or five guys I want to say hello to,” he said.
But no matter what happens this week, Boyns is fulfilling a dream.
It might not be a fairytale rags-to-riches Danny Noonan story, but this caddie has done all right for himself.
David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.