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