I’ll Carry Your Bag

Brunette

Professional golf seems to focus on the PGA tour. Many are familiar with names like Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Sneed, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Phil Mickelson and of course Tiger Woods. If you’ve watched any golf, I bet you could name at least 20 famous male professionals.

But how many female professionals could you name? If not many, why not? Is it because we’ve become obsessed with seeing Bryson DeChambeau hit drives over 400 yards, or a sand wedge hit 150 yards? Sure Lexi Thompson can knock it 300 yards when she has too, but she averages just under 279 yards. I just don’t recognize the game of golf the men play anymore. It seems to be played by a bunch of super humans.

Entertaining…yes.

A game I’m familiar with…no.

But I do recognize and appreciate the game the ladies play. For the most part it’s still a “shot makers” game not a “how far can I bomb it” game. You have to be impressed with the ball striking skills of Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Jin-Young Ko, Nelly Korda or Brooke Henderson. Sure, the women don’t hit it as far as the men, but they are as immensely talented in every other respect as the men. It is jaw dropping to see how creative Lydia Ko can be around the greens. There have been some incredible putters throughout history, but I believe Inbee Park is one of the top five putters of all time… men or women.

I’m awed at the power and speed the guys generate. But more so, I marvel at the beautiful, balanced golf swings almost all the ladies possess.

And what about caddies, can you name any? Remember 10 year old Eddie Lowery on Francis Ouimet’s bag when he won the 1913 US Open? No… a 10 year old? Or Iron Man Nathaniel Avery on Arnold’s bag for all four of his Masters victories? Who? What about the 20 years Angelo Argea caddied for The Golden Bear? Still nothing? Surely you remember Stevie Williams carrying Tiger’s clubs for 13 of his major championships. Vaguely? I firmly believe, “Behind every great golfer is a great caddy.” I submit that professional golf is not an individual sport, but a team sport. On the course, the team is made up of the golfer and the caddy. So why hasn’t a caddy been inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame? Sure, they have a Caddy Hall of Fame, but I can think of at least one or two who should be in the WGHF.. Cough…cough…Bones Mackay…cough…cough.

The following story is about a young up and coming female golfer and a former great, but aging caddy. It is my attempt to pay homage to both groups of very talented professionals, with some added romance.

I hope you enjoy.

Thursday — Round One — Opening Round

Raquel Simmons was nervous as she walked up to the first tee. This was her first tournament of the season and would mark the beginning of her second year as a member of the Women’s Professional Golf League or WPGL. Her first season was a serious wake up call. Fresh from a very successful college career, she thought she could compete with the best professionals in the world. Raquel quickly found the pro tour was a completely different animal than college golf. It wasn’t only about playing golf, it was her job and she was a self-employed business woman. The business success was her responsibility and hers alone.

The pressure was very different as well. If she didn’t play well enough on Thursday and Friday to make the cut, there would be no paycheck for the week. Adding to the pressure, she still had expenses, even if she didn’t get paid. Sure, she had a couple of small endorsements. She was very grateful for them, and they did help with some of the expenses, but not all of them. Bottom line, she had to make cuts and earn paychecks to keep playing the game she loved. She had worked a deal with her caddie, who was also her brother, if she didn’t get paid…he didn’t get paid. It might have lessened the pressure, because that was one less expense, but that also made her responsible for his income, so maybe instead, it added pressure.

Then there was the pressure of trying to win. Last year she played well enough to put herself into contention on Sunday in a couple of tournaments. Sleep didn’t come as easy on those Saturday nights. On Sunday, the muscles were just a little tighter and she felt the nerves, on the first tee. In one tournament she found herself one stroke from the lead on the last hole of the tournament, or the 72nd hole. She had never before felt pressure like that… in her life. A double bogey later the pressure had produced disappointment.

The media called it a “teaching moment.”

Pressure had multiple layers.

In order to keep her playing card, she had to rank in the top 100 on the tour. Fortunately, last year she played well enough to rank 95th in the world, pulling in just shy of $130,000 in prize winnings. She was aware, but didn’t focus on the fact that 95th on the men’s tour earned just under $960,000 last year. Her ranking eliminated Yeşilköy escort bayan the pressure of having to go back to Q School to earn her playing privileges. But that was last year. She had to rank higher than 100, this year, to keep from having to go to Q School, next year.

Her brother, even her parents kept telling her she needed a social life. That would help ease some of the pressure, they said. She didn’t have the time for any semblance of a social life, especially dating. If she plays well enough to make the cut, there’s 36 more holes of competitive golf over the weekend and then travel to the next tournament location. If she didn’t play well enough to make the cut, she traveled back home, to Texas, on Friday and spent Saturday and Sunday working on her game and her physical conditioning and then packing it up and heading off to the next tournament. Mondays always started out with a three-mile run, and practicing, topping the day off with two hours in the gym. Tuesdays and Wednesdays were usually taken up with running, practice rounds followed by two to three hours on the range and putting green, topping the day off with an hour in the gym. After every tournament round, Raquel spent at least two hours fine tuning her swing or putting, many times trying to find a correction to a swing defect. She couldn’t afford a swing coach…she had to figure it out on her own.

Every new week was the same as the last… wash, rinse and repeat.

Where was there room for a social life or a love interest? Raquel was very determined to succeed. She always pushed herself and had always found hard work eventually paid off. She didn’t strive for fame and fortune, she was driven to be the best.

There really wasn’t another reason for her to avoid dating. She was an intelligent, fit, beautiful, 24 year old woman. Raquel stood about five feet eight inches with light brown, shoulder length hair. Even with being in the sun for 10 hours a day, she took excellent care of her skin. Her college boyfriend always said he got lost in her emerald green eyes. Her exercise routine meant she had virtually zero body fat and the physical conditioning to hit 280 yard drives. Raquel’s only complaint was her breast size. She thought they were too big for a professional golfer. Her 32DDs played havoc with her swing. She wore tight sports bras to keep them “quiet” during her swing, but she believed she would have more flexibility if they were smaller. Oh well, golf was about playing the best with the cards you’ve been dealt. Everyone had to adapt and she was no different.

She was also a very normal 24 year old woman with hormones and desires. She didn’t necessarily neglect her needs. A nice collection of battery operated boyfriends, or B.O.B.s took care of her when the urge hit. She did however miss the real deal and the intimacy. Maybe someday, after she achieved her goals, she might have time for a relationship. But at least for the time being, golf would also have to be her lover.

Raquel shook hands with her other two playing partners, Rosa Sanchez and Stacy Watters. She also introduced her caddie/brother, Mark. Raquel and Mark stood off to the side as the tournament announcer introduced Rosa, who had the honors. The first hole was a par four, measuring 395 yards with a slight dogleg left. The ideal shot was down the right side of the fairway. Rosa hit a high draw that started out a little too far left and ended up in the second cut of the left rough. That was going to make for a tough approach shot.

Stacy was next and split the fairway about 240 yards from the tee.

Then Raquel heard her name announced. Mark handed her the driver. She made sure she took three deep breaths, walked up and tee’d up her ball. She stood directly behind the ball, gripping the club as lightly as possible while visualizing the shot she wanted to hit. She took two practice swings. Raquel then stepped up to the ball, took her stance, lined herself to her target and consciously tried to relax as much as possible. After two “waggles,” she drew the club back as smooth as silk until it reached the top of her swing, then with her powerful legs and hips, let loose with her downswing. The gallery heard a sharp “crack” when she made contact, with the ball. She finished her swing in perfect balance with a very high follow through. Raquel took a quick look at the ball flight, bent over and picked up her tee. She knew she hit it perfect. The drive ended up 294 yards from the tee on the right center of the fairway. She smiled and handed her driver back to Mark, then took off down the fairway. At least the season started with a good drive.

Stacy was first to hit her second shot. She was about 155 yards from the pin. She struck the ball well and it landed on the front of the green, left of the pin. The ball took one hop and rolled to a stop pin high, about 20 feet left of the hole.

Rosa was next to hit, from Escort Yeşilyurt the rough. The ball was nestled deep into the grass. She wasn’t able to catch all of the ball and was lucky to get it back into the fairway, coming up 50 yards short of the green.

Raquel and Mark were standing next to her ball while her competitors took their turns. The area had received quite a bit of rain the past couple of days, so the greens were very soft. She was almost exactly 100 yards from the pin. Raquel suggested a pitching wedge and Mark agreed. If she hit it correctly it should stop about 15 feet past the hole and with “backspin” would come back to the hole. She stood behind the ball and repeated the same routine as on the first tee. She struck the ball, first, then the ground…taking a nice divot. The ball traveled a little farther than she thought it would, hit the green and then backed up to about ten feet from the hole.

Rosa pitched up onto the green and missed her par putt. So, she started her tournament off with a disappointing bogey.

Stacy two putted for a stress-free par.

Raquel’s putt was fairly level but looked to have some movement to the right. She figured she should aim about a ball’s width left of the hole. She kept her head down through the entire putting stroke and didn’t see it go into the hole…but she heard it.

Birdie three.

There were about 20 people following this group and all enthusiastically clapped for Raquel.

It would be great to say, the next seven holes were played as perfectly as the first hole, but there’s a reason it’s called “golf.” By the time they reached the ninth tee box, Rosa was +3, Stacy was +1 and Raquel was still -1. She managed to roll off seven straight pars, with two coming from some serious scrambling. On hole number four, she pulled her drive, dumped her second shot into the green side bunker, hit a poor shot out of the sand and made a 25-foot putt for her par.

Walter Hagen said it only took one good shot to make par.

The ninth hole was a reachable par five measuring 502 yards, as long as you stayed out of any of the four fairway bunkers. The hole started off with an elevated tee box down to a fairway that sloped away from the players. 300 plus yard drives were possible for the longer hitters. The hole then turns gently uphill for the players to a very large green, protected by sand traps on both sides of the green. There was a lake behind the green that would swallow any balls hit too far.

Raquel didn’t need to “step on” her driver. The primary objective was getting the ball onto the fairway… distance was secondary. She went through the exact same routine as with all her previous shots. It was her best swing of the day. A nice high drive with a slight draw. The ball flew 260 yards and with the combination of topspin and the downhill sloping fairway, it finally rolled to a stop 312 yards away from the tee. Raquel handed her club back to Mark and smiled broadly.

They started off downhill toward the fairway, when out of nowhere Mark slipped and fell backwards, hitting the ground hard and then started rolling uncontrollably down the hill, tangled up in the golf bag weighing over 40 pounds. He finally came to a stop, screaming in agony. Raquel, Rosa, Stacy and their caddies ran to help Mark. One of the tournament marshals got on the radio and requested medical help, ASAP! They first had to get the golf bag untangled. A number of the clubs had fallen out and were now scattered across the hill. Mark was clearly in an extreme amount of pain. Raquel asked where it hurt and he grunted, “My ankle, I felt it roll under me when I fell.” She told him to stay still and that help was on the way.

The only good thing is they were playing the ninth hole, so their proximity to the club house and medical tent was close. A cart rolled up within a minute and a medic was checking Mark out. Quickly the medic determined Mark was done for the day. He was going to be transported to the hospital for x-rays. Broken bones were a distinct possibility.

Raquel bent down to Mark and said, “I’m going with you.”

Mark looked up, in pain, but determined, “No you’re not! Your going to finish your round and the tournament.”

Raquel panicked, “There’s no way I could carry that bag!”

Rosa and Stacy’s caddies had already picked up all the loose golf clubs and reassembled her bag.

Suddenly a deep voice came from the gallery, “I’ll carry your bag Ms. Simmons.”

Raquel looked in the direction of the voice and saw who made the offer. He looked to be at least six feet tall, in better than average shape, with almost jet-black short hair and a short black beard. She couldn’t see his eyes, because he was wearing sunglasses. If she had to guess, he was in his late thirties.

Mark looked at the stranger, “Thanks buddy, I owe you one.”

The stranger responded, “The honor is all mine.”

The patron Zeytinburnu escort walked up to Raquel, extended his hand and introduced himself, “My name is Sean Connors, you have a good round going, please allow me to help you finish it.”

Raquel wasn’t sure if it was the fact that she wasn’t a quitter, or that Sean had a calming voice, or that he was extremely handsome, or Mark’s pitiful look that made her mind up.

Before she could answer him, Mark pleaded one more time before they drove him away, “Raquel, let him carry your clubs. It’s just 10 holes. If it doesn’t work out, you can always withdraw at the end of the round.”

Raquel looked at Sean, shook his hand, “Thank you Mr. Connors, I’ll take you up on your kind offer.”

Mark gave Sean his yardage/notebook and bib. Sean slipped the bib over his head. Sean picked up Raquel’s bag and headed down the fairway towards Raquel’s ball. The other two competitors and their caddies were already headed in the same general direction. Raquel said goodbye to Mark and hurried to catch up with Sean.

Raquel had clearly out driven her competitors, so this allowed a moment for her and Sean to talk. Raquel was obviously upset and distracted with Mark’s condition.

Sean was the first to talk, “Ms. Simmons, there isn’t anything you can do for your brother at this moment. I know I’m not him, but if you’ll tell me what you’re thinking, maybe that will help you refocus on your golf.”

Raquel eyes were glazed while Sean was speaking. Suddenly they cleared, she turned and looked at him, “First off please call me Raquel.”

Sean responded, “And please call me Sean.”

Raquel nodded then stood behind her ball and looked at what she was facing, “The slight breeze isn’t going to hurt me. I figure it’s 170 to the front of the green and 188 to the hole. It’s warmed up quite a bit, so the ball is flying a bit farther. A five iron is speaking to me.”

Sean responded, “I like it, but with the pin on the right side of the green, make sure you stay a little left.”

Raquel looked at Sean, smiled and said, “Good point. Maybe this is going to work.”

Sean replied, “I certainly hope so.” He pulled the five iron from the bag and handed it to her.

She went through the same pre-shot routine and put the best swing on it she could. She struck the ball right on the sweet spot, but unfortunately a gust of wind came up just as she hit it and the ball didn’t carry quite as much as she hoped, stopping about 10 yards short of the green.

She placed the five iron against her bag, which was now laying on the fairway. Sean retrieved her divot and replaced it into ground. Raquel was already walking towards her ball when Sean picked up the bag and the five iron. As he chased after his player, he cleaned the face of the club and replaced it into its designated location.

Sean caught up to Raquel about 50 yards short of the green. There they waited for Stacy, then Rosa to hit their third shots. Neither said a word.

Once it was safe to continue towards her ball, they started out in unison. Sean stopped next to her ball and set the heavy bag, upright, onto the ground.

Raquel continued walking onto the green, inspecting every inch between her ball and the hole. The green had a “false front.” Raquel knew if she didn’t hit it far enough, the ball would roll back to her. But she didn’t want to hit it too far, or she’d be looking at a 30-foot birdie putt. She decided to hit a low pitch into the upslope of the green, carrying it to the top of the hill and then rolling towards the pin. She remembered her college coach always saying to get the ball rolling, as soon as possible.

It was a nervy shot and a lot could go wrong, but Raquel was only thinking about holing out for her eagle.

She walked back to Sean and said, “What do you say we just pitch our ball into the upslope, about two feet to the left of the hole and then let the golf gods decide what happens?”

Sean smiled and replied, “I like the way you think. Pitching wedge?”

Raquel liked his smile, “I think I’d like this baby to roll a little more, hand me a nine.”

Sean pulled the nine iron out of the bag and handed it to Raquel.

Raquel went through her pre-shot routine. She stood over the ball, her feet a little less than shoulder length apart with the ball in the middle of her stance. Her body moved in one motion, back…forward…through. The club head brushed the ground and the ball at the same time, sending it toward the mark on the green she had picked out. The ball hit the green about three quarters the way up the slope, took one small hop and began rolling towards to hole. It looked like it was in all the way, but the pace was just a fraction too slow and the ball came to a rest one inch from the cup.

Raquel groaned, Sean groaned and the gallery groaned. Then the gallery erupted in an applause, congratulations on an easy birdie.

Outward nine in 34 strokes, two under par.

The inward or back nine was similar to the front nine. Raquel had two birdies, six pars and a lone bogey at the par three 14th hole. Total 18-hole score of 69, or three under par, was a respectable start. She had an early tee time on Thursday, so Friday’s tee time would be late.

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