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U.S. Mid-Am Caddie Insider: Chasing the Sun
by Sam Melia

I remember spending a Monday at Augusta before the 2018 Masters. My friend won the lottery, and we made a promise that if one of us won tickets, we’d invite the other losers to join the trip to Georgia. During our Monday wanderings at Augusta, we came across a lonely man in a white jumpsuit rolling balls across a green while taking notes.

It was Michael Grellar, Jordan’s Spieth’s caddie, doing the grunt work that no one sees behind the scenes when they tune in from Thursday-Sunday.

After a long day at Sankaty Head on Saturday, Brandon Johnson didn’t tee off until 5:53 on Sunday evening. It turned out to be a quick three hole twilight jaunt before the sunset.

The curse of the early-late tee time window is that there can be some time to kill. Considering the sunset tee time, we had most of the day free before squeezing in a few holes of golf.

I spent the morning going for a run and then wandering downtown Nantucket with my wife. By the time we had exhausted the window shopping it was 12:30, so we headed to the course. I figured maybe I could do a little reconnaissance work like Grellar and watch some different groups play a few holes. I figured I’d see some stuff worth relaying to Brandon about the course and maybe also get some things to write about.

Two stories of note that I find worth telling, but will keep people anonymous.

I saw a player flub a chip on the par 3 12th hole. It trundled onto the green, but instead of grabbing his putter from his caddie, he decided to go ahead and use the wedge for his 30 foot putt. You might be thinking that he just bladed his wedge out of disgust up near the hole, but you’d be wrong. He tried to hit a shot like Gary Woodland on 17 at Pebble Beach.

However, instead of a tidy, spinny shot, this guy took a chunk out of the green and had to spend some serious time repairing his damage before putting out for a double bogey. It made no sense, unless you knew he was out of the running for a match play spot and simply didn’t care. His partner was in the running, though, and it seemed disrespectful to the course and his partner.

Another odd moment happened when a player spent nearly three minutes on a tee box alone while his playing partners putted out. He even left his caddie up on the green with the group. This guy flipped through his yardage book, used his range finder, and even teed up his ball before his playing partners arrived. It was like he had a ferry ticket and didn’t want to miss his trip off the island. The one optimistic view one might take is that the group was on the clock and he was trying to speed up play. The faces of his playing partners didn’t seem to tell that story though.

Both moments made me realize the wide array of personalities that exist within a tournament of 264 players and how those personalities can change dramatically depending on the golf shots they hit. Some of us go deep within ourselves when our golf turns bad. Some of us get chatty and upbeat when we feel in control of our game. After two days of delays and waiting around, nerves can fray and mindsets can spin out of control. Turn the wind up to 25-30 mph, and things can get really hairy.

This is where a caddie can sometimes lend a helping hand. Either with a bit of advice they gleaned from their prep work or just that magic question that can distract a player from the task at hand for long enough that when they have to refocus, they have a fresh mindset to help them execute a shot at hand.

After our three holes of twilight golf where Brandon made three easy pars, we headed back to the clubhouse, the sun sinking quickly. We have 15 holes to go tomorrow and three guys in our group with a fighting chance at making it into match play. On the bright side, the wind should be down in the morning and there might be some low scores available.

I’ve set my alarm for 5:10 a.m. and have a 5:45 pick up. We’ll pick up play again at 7:15 in the morning in hopes of reaching match play.

When Sam Melia isn't caddying for Brandon Johnson, he is attempting to play every course in his home state of Massachusetts

ABOUT THE U.S. Mid-Amateur

The U.S. Mid-Amateur originated in 1981 for the amateur golfer of at least 25 years of age, the purpose of which to provide a formal national championship for the post-college player. 264 players begin the championship with two rounds of sroke play qualifying held at two courses, after which the low 64 (with a playoff if necessary to get the exact number) advance to single elimination match play.

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