With the McDonald’s LPGA Championship in town this week, all of the talk will be about this being Annika’s last tournament here and Lorena’s chances at winning her 3rd major in a row. But what you won’t hear about is their trusty sidekicks – their caddies.
Larry Smich has caddied on the LPGA tour since 1977. He has been on the bag for 3 wins, two with Donna White, one in 1982 and the second in 1985. The last was in 1999 with Mi-Hyun Kim.
Larry is also an avid blogger. At his website, Life On Tour, Larry pulls the curtain back, blogging about life on tour without pulling any punches – especially concerning the pro golfers’ apparent distaste for the tournament since it moved from Delaware to Havre de Grace.
We interviewed Larry before the start of the LPGA:
1. Who will you be caddying for at the LPGA, and how long have you been on her bag?
“Dina Ammaccapane. 2 years. Not any more though as you know. (Larry and Dina split before the tournament this week)”
2. What are your thoughts about Bulle Rock? ( be honest 🙂 )
“I could take it or leave it but I haven’t heard one player who likes the course. The tournament seemed to have lost its pizazz after leaving DuPont.”
3. What is your favorite stop on tour and why?
“Corning NY. Small town atmosphere, best course for spectators as many holes come back to the clubhouse, a perfect caddie shack which is situated between the tenth and fifteenth tees, the caddie master does a great job providing food and drink, a closest to the pin contest for the caddies with the winner playing in the following year’s Monday pro-am (I won twice and had a blast) and superb press coverage as we are one of the main events of the year. Only wish the weather would cooperate a bit more.”
4. You have been caddying for over 30 years. What do you see as the biggest difference between when you started and now? Money obviously, but what else?
“The quality of players especially rookies. Back in “the day,” you could almost shuffle the top ten each week but not any more. Physical conditioning and huge strides in equipment and golf ball technology have also raised the quality of play to a level not seen many years ago.”
5. How much effect do you think Annika’s retirement will have on the tour? Are the younger players ready to carry the tour forward? ( sorry, had to ask)
“Lorena has picked up were Annika left off. She seems to be a nonpareil driving force right now and everyone else appears to be playing for second when she tees it up. Watch out for Na Yeon Choi. May be the next hit on tour. Too bad Michelle Wie has gone down a path (not by her choosing I’m sure) she may not recover from. Could have had some great match-ups and would have really brought out the galleries.
Now I’m going to touch on a subject that seems to be taboo, at least within earshot of many of the public. The influx of Korean players have many wondering what the tour may look like five to ten years down the road. With money getting tight and sponsors teetering on whether to renew contracts, “home grown” products would be much easier to promote and are sorely needed. There is no doubt that the Koreans are top performers, no wonder, given their 24/7 approach to the game, but the public is slow to embrace them and may never will. Then what do you do when they compose of half the field? Just check out last week’s leader board to see what I mean. A couple years ago in Corning, Hee-Won Han and Meena Lee went into into a play-off and I heard the fans started leaving. How do you fix the loss of interest? I don’t have the answer and I bet the LPGA doesn’t either.”
6. Finally, I would imagine the fraternity of caddies is pretty tight. Can you talk a little about the bond that the caddies share and how some of you work together as you travel around the country.
“We are a tight knit group but still cliquish as many “traveling circuses” are. Seems to be divided by age in most cases but not always. The veterans have much more in common than the newbies. Talk of what we endured, back when signs like “Public welcome. No caddies” were hanging on the pro shop door, loses its significance on the newcomers. Heck, they don’t even know the lines to “Caddyshack!” That aside, we do help each other as far as travel and finding work goes, especially the latter. The “looper network” knows immediately when a bag opens up and is filled almost as fast. Walking a new course is another group endeavor for many and shortens the time involved considerably. This week is a prime example with the Open qualifier next Monday and two courses to see. Lest not I forget the group therapy sessions usually held at a favorite local drinking establishment. It’s an ideal place to ease the pain of a horrific round or celebrate one’s good fortune.”
Please visit Larry’s blog at http://lifeontour.wordpress.com
I am not a real sports fan but I enjoyed this article. Thanks to Steve for writing it and Larry for giving the interview!
Wow, kudos to Larry Smich for “going there.” Covering the LPGA at Bulle Rock the last few years, I remember hearing people talk about the “Korean Invasion.” Not being a golf fan, I didn’t really understand the implications that Asian athletes’ continued dominance might have on the popularity of the sport in America. The good news for LPGA, I suppose, is that there are far more potential for growth in the Asian market than there is in America.
Of greater concern to us locally should be what seems to be the general consensus among LPGA pros that Bulle Rock is nothing special and that the tournament “lost its pizazz” when it came to Havre de Grace.
That’s such a foreign concept to us here in Harford County because we look at Bulle Rock as the best we have to offer. It’s where everyone wants to live, where everyone wants to play, where everyone wants to host their banquets and fundraisers and fairs and what everyone wants to be associated with.
Bulle Rock has even taken on meaning of its own – mention it to anyone in Harford County and it immediately evokes imagery of the highest imaginable class. That’s why it’s almost unimaginable for us to hear that not only are some people not similarly enthralled with Bulle Rock, but they don’t even like it.
As if the writing wasn’t already on the wall, I think this is the death knell of the McDonald’s LPGA Championship in Havre de Grace. When the city won the tournament 3 years ago, the rumor was that LPGA was going to take the tour on tour and hop around from spot to spot every 5 years to wring as much fundraising and excitement as they can from the event.
Think of the level of euphoria the first year the LPGA came to town compared to this year. I’m not saying it’s not greatly enjoyed and anticipated, but it’s clear the enthusiasm has diminished greatly.
With the magic gone, can the LPGA Tournament be far behind?
The problem with Bulle Rock, the course, is that it isn’t much of a challenge for the top LPGA pros from the tees they use, as it has fairly wide fairways, but it is too hard for the next tier of pros, or those whose games are off, because the rough is so demanding. It is a much tougher course for top male players from the back set of tees. Don’t believe the 6600 yards the LPGA claims the course plays at. The tees the woman play are closer than that, and take all the trouble out of holes like #5, #9, #13 and #18, making birdies easy.
As for the Koreans, we’ll see what happens. There will still be top young American talent, and they will cash in. But when they take a week off, you can expect 8 of the top 10 finishers to be foreign. Many of them take up the game late, like around 12 or 13, and are on tour 10 years later. It’s amazing, but they haven’t been able to win many majors, outside of Se Ri Pak, who was/is a special talent.
Now here comes the conspiracy theorist in me. The LPGA wants to move the tourney after next year. They are not going to put much effort into the community when they don’t see the community giving back. Some tour veterans have been vocal in their criticism of the tourney being here. The LPGA likes hearing this. Helps their cause, and lines up the bidders for the next location.
As for Bulle Rock’s future… I hope they can get a men’s even, even a Nationwide Tour stop. Let’s see what the course can really do at 7400 yards, as it was designed.
I beleive va beach or norfolk is the preferred location.
OK, so the question now is: Did Bulle Rock/Havre de Grace/Harford County/Maryland get enough out of the LPGA while it was/is here to justify the amount of tourism funding, wining, dining and other local tax monies that went into the golf tournament’s promotion?
I specifically remember Harford County and the City of Havre de Grace spliting the $50,000 cost of a tent at Bulle Rock during the LPGA. In the tent, the county and city were to serve as hosts and offer promotional tourism materials to lure golf enthusiasts back to Harford and Havre de Grace during non-golf events. But that was tax payer money that could have gone to buy a new police car or hire a teacher or maybe even paving a road.
I realize I’m painting with an entirely too-wide brush here, but stop and think about it – was it worth it for the LPGA to come to Havre de Grace?
In 25 years, will the LPGA’s stop at Bulle Rock be heralded as the event that put Havre de Grace on the map and opened Harford County up to a new stream of tourists?
Or will it register as merely a blip on the radar – sorta like when the eyes of America were on Port Deposit for the 400th anniversary of Capt. John Smith’s expedition up the Chesapeake and Susquehanna, which was supposed to showcase the small riverside town as an historic destination.
And that was just last summer…
Blip…..although I do know golfers who liked the course. Or at least wanted to golf it as it was by a famous designer……in the beginning.
All new toys get old and ignored !
this is not a marina rant…nor is it a anti havre de grace rant. If you think it is, here is an alternate comment you may pretend i said instead of the actuall comment above.
Bull Rock is a first rate course by a famous designer…many golfers from across the country have enjoyed the course as they sample different courses along the east coast. Any non interest by the tourniment is misguided and must be the result of the county executive.
Whoa, very interesting piece Steve.
“How do you fix the loss of interest? I don’t have the answer and I bet the LPGA doesn’t either.”
Sports has become a mixed bag of ethnicity, all sports. Fans will learn how to embrace it. If they have the talent, which they seem to do, then that should be what matters.
Well, it’s official. Next year will be the last for the LPGA at Bulle Rock:
No more McDonald’s sponsorship either. Very risky move. No more Annika, more international players. Sounds like the older players are trying to take over through this three-person committee. Guess what? No one wants to see the older players other than Annika, and she will be gone. They want to see Creamer, Gulbis, Ochoa. Why not ask them what they want, instead of relying on a bunch of over-the-hill golfers that are bitter they didn’t make the money available today?
I think the tourneys should rotate through the qualified courses…..this gives the variuos tours a new look and feel each year and a economic chance for the courses.
The “Lets Park in Aberdeen” golf tourney will be missed (or will it) by Havre de Grace. I have talked with golfers who are impressed by Bulle Rocks course and it is quite a lovely place. I want to point out that All womens sports are second best to mens sports. Regardless of which sport. Hopefully Bulle Rock will be able to attract a tournament that will live up to the potential that is there.
Big T says
It’s funny that the lead off would be “…I haven’t heard one player who likes the course”. Only because, while working Bulle Rock as First Aid for the past 4 years, I have had interactions with numerous players, caddies and staff for the LPGA. And not A SINGLE one of them has had a bad thing to say about the course, the area or anything to do with the tournament being in Havre de Grace. As a matter of fact, every single one I talked to was nothing but complimentary about everything, specifically the course! And it isn’t though I have some kind of vested interest in Bulle Rock…I’m just a lowly EMT. They had no reason to lie to me or suck up…they were never going to see me again. The reasons given to me for the “loss of pizzaz” for the tournament was one, the bad blood that resulted from the tournament leaving DuPont and second the fact that the Golf Channel was given an exclusive television contract for the event, leaving many of the larger corporate sponsors to forgo this year.
So to me it sounds like someone might think they know a little bit more than they really do.