The boxer has his trainer in the corner and the QB has his offensive coordinator on the sidelines and the pitcher has a coach who occasionally visits the mound — but the caddie is with the golfer literally every step of the way for all 18 holes.
Carrying the clubs. Discussing the layout of the course. Offering advice when asked for it.
There’s no sports relationship quite like the golfer-caddie dynamic, and as narrator Bill Murray (who else?) says in the documentary “Loopers: The Caddie’s Long Walk,” it’s finally time for the story of the golf caddie to be told.
Other than a couple of sly voice-over quips and a brief onscreen appearance at the Golf Caddie Hall of Fame in 2015, Murray plays it straight as the narrator, demonstrating true respect for the honorable vocation of caddying.
Director Jason Baffa introduces us to a number of colorful characters, including Teddy Julian, who started caddying at Ballybunion, Ireland, in 1975. Julian talks about the importance of having a local caddie who knows the course inside and out, thus giving an edge to first-time visitors, and recites the three rules of being a caddie:
“Show up, keep up, shut up.”
Unless, of course, the golfer wants your advice, or simply wants to liven up the round with a steady stream of conversation, whether it’s about golf or life.
In a nifty touch, Baffa utilizes Monty Python-esque graphics as Murray talks about the history of golf, including the myth about how Mary Queen of Scots arrived from France with her cadet, or caddie, and reportedly played golf just days after her husband’s death — which led to her getting beheaded. (Onscreen: animation of Mary’s head getting lopped off and dropping into the hole.)
“If true, certainly a testament to the lady’s focus and competitive fire,” notes Murray.
We see the evolution of caddies from an “unruly, unkempt, low-rent bunch” in the 19th century to the fine young (and older) men and women who take their work seriously and have benefitted from programs such as the Evans Scholars Foundation in the northwest suburban village of Golf (yep, Golf), which has helped more than 10,000 caddies graduate from college since 1930.
At times “Loopers” will come across as overly basic for the enthusiastic golfer, but for a non-golfer such as myself, it helps to learn information such as, “A links golf course is a course built on dunes and sand.” Oh!
And as a veteran caddie says, “You cannot trust your eyes on a links golf course,” meaning the savvy caddie is more important than ever.
Tom Watson talks about caddie Alfie Fyles, who helped him win five British Opens in just nine years. We get some great historical footage of Arnold Palmer and his caddie Nathaniel “Iron Man” Avery, who caddied for all four of Palmer’s Masters victories.
A story that could make for a feature film: In 1989, the demanding, temperamental Nick Faldo partnered with Fanny Sunesson, the only female caddie on the tour — and it turned out to be a professional match made in golf heaven.
And of course we see Tiger Woods, who in the words of veteran sportswriter Rick Reilly “doubled the crowds, doubled the money, and consequently, doubled the money for caddies.”
These days, the top caddies are semi-famous in their own right and can pull in serious dough. (Michael Greller, Jordan Spieth’s caddie, made more than $1 million in 2015 and 2017).
For most caddies, however, it’s about grinding it out, and learning from the game.
“When I first started,” says Murray, “I got three dollars a bag. But then they bumped it to $3.50. And then they bumped it to four! So, the money got out of control.”
And then Murray turns serious and says, “For myself, I learned a lot [from caddying] about how you’re supposed to treat people.”
Cinderella story. It’s in the hole.