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DADDY'S FAVORITE CADDIE

Nov. 20, 1989
Nov. 20, 1989

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Nov. 20, 1989

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DADDY'S FAVORITE CADDIE

Michelle Moody has helped her father, Orville, become a big winner on the Senior tour

After a grueling round at the Bank One Senior Golf Classic in Lexington, Ky., Orville Moody, one of the leading money-winners on the Senior PGA Tour, confers with his caddie:

This is an article from the Nov. 20, 1989 issue Original Layout

"Where did you put my umbrella?"

"It's in your bag."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. Hey, I have to go to the store and get myself some shampoo and hair conditioner."

"You sure you need to do that?"

"Yessssss. My hair gets so dried out, out in the sun all day."

"Well, this time get the kind for dry hair."

"I did last time."

"No, you didn't. You got the stuff for oily."

"No, I didn't."

"Yes, you did."

"Uh-uh...."

And so on, until they are interrupted by someone holding out a pen and a visor. Moody doesn't seem to mind that his caddie is asked for an autograph first. Moody may have won the 1969 U.S. Open and the '89 Senior Open, but he knows it is the striking young woman toting his clubs who causes a stir in the galleries.

"He's got a girl with him!"

"Have you seen her up close? She's real cute."

"Oh, that's his granddaughter or something."

"People say the stupidest things," says Michelle Moody, 19, rolling her eyes. During two years of caddying for her father, she has had many occasions for eye-rolling. "Once somebody asked me if I was his sister."

The picture of the Moodys at work is Orville, 55, with his prominent paunch, speeding ahead in a golf cart, then waiting for the long-legged, bag-lugging Michelle to catch up. What looks like a throwback to a Stone Age culture's ideal father-daughter relationship prompts the most gallery censure: "Oh, that's nice of him, letting that sweet little girl lug his big bag while he rides around like royalty." Many fans apparently aren't aware that, although carts are permitted on the Senior tour, either the player or his caddie must walk so they don't get too far ahead of the galleries. Michelle prefers to hike, and at times, frankly, she welcomes a little distance from her father.

Make no mistake, Michelle is the light of Orville's touring life. It's no coincidence that the past couple of years have been the best of his career. It's just that sometimes he looks and sounds as if he wants to throttle her.

After blowing a four-foot putt on the last hole of the Lexington tournament, Orville cusses and grumbles and snaps at Michelle, "Ray Charles could have read the greens better than you did today."

"He's so mean to her, "a woman in the crowd whispers. "Are you sure she's not his wife?"

On the course Moody may look like the meanest man alive, but off it he is as friendly and humble as warm apple pie. The Moodys' trip from any 18th green to the clubhouse is all stop and go. Orville greets and talks to everyone, much to his daughter's exasperation. "Where you going now, Daddy-o?" she says with a groan, as he hops off the cart for yet another conversation. Orville ignores her—there are rounds to dissect, families to be asked after, tour business to discuss. And, amazingly, from time to time other players will ask him for help with, of all things, their putting.

A few years ago, consulting Orville Moody about putting would have been like asking Tammy Faye Bakker for makeup tips. In 17 years on the PGA Tour, from 1968 to '84. Moody won exactly one tournament, the 1969 U.S. Open. He was known as the best on the Tour from tee to green—and the worst from green to cup.

"I had the yips," he says. "Right at the point of impact I had a terrible jerk with my hands and wrists. I couldn"t make a putt from a foot and a half at times."

Because of Orville's pitiful putting, the Moodys fell on hard times. From 1974 to 1976, he won less than $19,000, which made life a little spartan for Moody, his wife, Beverly, and their four kids. It wasn't until he was 50 and could join the Senior tour in '84, that Moody's fortunes took a brisk about-face. That year he won $183,920 and had two victories. The next year he switched to a putter with a 50-inch shaft, which in a variety of models has become quite popular among seniors. The long shaft is braced on the golfer's chest and forces a pendulum swing, rather than the traditional putting stroke. Almost like magic. Moody"s yips vanished. Everything came together in 1987 when his oldest daughter volunteered to carry his bag.

"Michelle has helped me in every area." Orville says. "Reading the greens is her main job, and she's learned a lot. Keeping me calm is another part of the game she's helped."

When Orville gets excited, Michelle tells him, "Chill, Dad." When he gets really worked up, she says, "I have to give him a couple of 'Chills.' "

Michelle clearly enjoys her work. "People ask me and Ricky [Nichols, who caddies for his father, Bobby, on the Senior tour] why we don't get real jobs," Michelle says. "But it isn't that much different than if I worked in, say, my dad's store. It's like any other job."

A lucrative job. Orville pays his caddie $300 a week, plus meals and 10% of his winnings—a little better than standard caddie pay. This year Michelle has made more than $50,000. She has invested some of that in a condominium just outside Dallas and treated herself to a white BMW convertible.

But Michelle isn't in this line of work because she loves golf. Though she was on her high school golf team in Sulphur Springs, Texas, she says. "I don't have enough talent to make a living at it." She isn't caddying only for the money, either—she appreciates the time with her dad, who was usually on the road when she was growing up. Even when Orville is cussing and grumbling, she knows, as few daughters ever do, that her father genuinely needs her.

On the greens Michelle is Orville's seeing-eye daughter. She squats low, shades her eyes, and imagines where the ball would go if hit straight at the hole. She tells her dad. "Three inches left." Orville, who stands behind her and tries to read the green, too, frowns.

"I can't see as well as I used to." he says. "I get floaters." No matter. Last year he was first in the tour's putting statistics and fourth on the money list, with $411,859. This year he aims to finish first in both categories.

Michelle is philosophical about Orville's insults and cussing when the ball doesn't drop. "That's what caddies are for," she says with a shrug. "I can handle four hours of that. I don't argue back, and I try not to get emotional."

Although Michelle doesn't talk back to her dad when they're working, as soon as the scorecard is signed and they're off the course, the two snipe and banter as enthusiastically as an old married couple. They'll argue about the best way to get back to the hotel, the attractiveness of some of the spectators, where they are supposed to be for a radio interview. But they have one ongoing dispute that makes Orville sad and quiet.

Michelle may be the only teenager extant whose parents want her to continue to bum around the golf course, but next September Michelle plans to hang up her towel and go to college. She wants to get a degree, perhaps in broadcasting or education. She's thinking of the future, and the drawbacks of life on the fairway are becoming obvious. "I think if I did it another year I'd learn to hate it," she says. "It's not all glamour."

Orville doesn't argue. "I think he hopes I'll still change my mind." Michelle says. As fierce as he can be toward her on the course, he clearly adores her. You won't find Orville Moody. Lear-like, wandering some windswept par-5 in tattered Sansabelt slacks, pulling on his beard and lamenting over a daughter he didn't appreciate until too late. Sometimes when things are going well and they are waiting for the group ahead to hole out, Orville will kiss his caddie on the cheek for no apparent reason. And sometimes Michelle will stand behind her father in a patch of mid-fairway shade, resting her chin on his back and looking over his shoulder. In the end, this is the enduring picture of the Moodys on tour.

PHOTOJOHN IACONOThis season Michelle has earned quite a bit of pin money by reading greens accurately.PHOTOJACQUELINE DUVOISINMichelle enjoys following Dad with the bag, but she isn't in it for the long haul.PHOTOZIGY KALUZNYMichelle may be a caddie, but she drives a BMW.PHOTOJACQUELINE DUVOISINAllergy-sufferer Orville steers a snazzy cart.