Last Saturday afternoon, Brad Faxon and I were walking along the
13th fairway at Westchester Country Club in Harrison, N.Y.,
during the third round of the Buick Classic. I was caddying for
Charlie Rymer, who was one under par. Faxon, who was four under,
knew that I had been at Rymer's side all week. "What's the most
interesting thing you've learned about Charlie?" he asked.
"That the only things he doesn't eat are black olives and
salmon," I replied without hesitation.
Faxon was stunned. The cherubic Rymer, all 6'4" and 250 pounds
of him, is far and away the PGA Tour's most obsessive gourmand.
His every conversation, on and off the course, somehow relates
to food. To Faxon it was unfathomable that there was anything
edible Rymer would pass up.
"How'd you find that out?" Faxon asked.
"Caddies know everything," I answered.
There is nowhere, not home, office, favorite barstool or
shrink's couch, that a golfer bares more of his or her true self
than on the golf course. And there is nobody who gets a better
take on a golfer's every nuance than the caddie.
I base these claims not on hard scientific evidence but on
something more reliable: 12 years of caddying. I made my first
loop--one bag for nine holes--when I was 10 and toted bags every
summer until I got out of college in 1989.
I spent my first six years looping at the Scarsdale (N.Y.) Golf
Club and the next six at Westchester, where, before last week's
adventure, I had caddied for fledgling pros in four Buick
Classics: Clyde Rego ('84), Terry Snodgrass ('85), Tom Gleeton
('86) and Ted Schulz ('87).
With these experiences under my belt I was dispatched last week
for an inside-the-ropes look at the life of a PGA Tour pro.
MONDAY, MAY 15
Charlie plays as many events as possible because, like every
rookie, he wants to make enough money to retain his playing card
for 1996. Last December, in his fourth try, he finally made it
through the hellish qualifying school, finishing 12th. "I'd
rather you send me to jail and throw away the key than have to
do that again," Charlie says.
He plays four tournaments in a row, and then he and his wife,
Carol, spend a week off at home, which, for now, is his
mother-in-law's house near Atlanta. The week before the Buick,
his 13th tournament in 1995, he had made his fourth cut of the
year and finished 32nd at the Byron Nelson Classic in Irving,
Charlie, 27, graduated with a degree in management from Georgia
Tech in 1991. He played mini-tours for 3-1/2 years, finishing
21st on last season's Nike Tour with $75,658. One thing he has
learned is the importance of taking days off while traveling, so
every Monday he and Carol try to do some sightseeing.
Today the Rymers paid a limousine driver $30 an hour to take
them around New York City. Charlie had been to the Big Apple as
a teenager. Carol was making her first visit. "There's the
Empire State Building," she said. "Look," said Charlie, "there's
a Dunkin' Donuts." Lunch was considerably more upscale, at
Tavern on the Green, a tourist standby in Central Park. They
both devoured their meals. "She even had a banana split," said
Charlie. "Dessert is normally my job."
A visit to Saks Fifth Avenue followed. Charlie would have
preferred to end the day with hot dogs and a Vince Gill concert,
but Carol's a theatre buff who hates weiners. Some friends took
them to a French restaurant for dinner, followed by a
performance of Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Charlie
couldn't resist a dig while a rotund woman belted out the
opening aria. "We can go now," he said. "The fat lady's sung."
TUESDAY, MAY 16
"Whoooeeee," said Charlie while lunching in the players' dining
room. "I got my first piece of fan mail."
The letter was from Andy Paul, a 76-year-old retired purchasing
manager from Peoria, Ill. "Watched you on local TV the last two
days as you played at the Houston Open," wrote Paul, "and
vaulted your way into the hearts of TV golf fans with your fine
Until Houston, three weeks earlier, 1995 had been a bust.
Charlie had made only two of nine cuts and $18,660. But a good
week can make a season on the Tour, and for Rymer, Houston was
such a week. He opened with a five-under-par 67, entered the
final round tied for second, five shots behind Scott Hoch, and
closed with a steady final-round 69. His 277 total was good
enough for third place, a stroke out of the playoff in which
Payne Stewart beat Hoch. With the $95,200 payday, Charlie had
suddenly made almost enough money to assure keeping his card for
And thanks to generous TV coverage, he's now signing autographs,
doing interviews and getting hounded by equipment-company reps
every week. Nevertheless, Charlie doesn't have the star power to
get in tournament pro-ams, which are usually held on Wednesdays.
He detests practicing, and typically his only day at the course
before the start of a tournament is Tuesday. Today he did the
usual: 15 minutes at the range followed by playing nine holes.
He then walked the other nine with a wedge, a putter and a few
balls to hit short shots around the greens.
During the round he pointed out what he demands of his caddie.
First, his grips must be meticulously towel-cleaned and let to
dry naturally every day before playing. We will both carry
yardage books and pace off distances for every shot, making sure
our figures jibe. Before each shot, he wants his caddie behind
the ball and off to the right side. "One time a caddie let my
bag touch the ball, and that's a one-stroke penalty. That just
can't happen," he said.
For the nine holes, Charlie teamed with Tommy Armour III against
David Duval, who was a freshman at Georgia Tech when Charlie was
a senior, and Clark Burroughs. The four players are friends from
the Nike Tour, and there were more digs thrown than shots hit,
but even the slapstick didn't really excite him. "I can't get
any adrenaline on Tuesdays," Charlie said after chunking a
two-iron second shot on the uphill, par-5 9th hole. "That's a
typical Tuesday shot." Still, he birdied that hole and two
others to finish three under par. But Duval played better,
shooting five under with an eagle at the 9th. Rymer and Armour
lost the match and $100 apiece.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 17
With the day free, Charlie accepted an invitation to play
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, in Southampton, N.Y., on Long
Island, site of next month's U.S. Open. "Hopefully this'll be a
practice round for the Open," he said, alluding to the fact that
he still has to qualify for the Open field. He played well,
Most people are awestruck when they first see America's most
famous links-style layout. Not Charlie. His mind was back at
Madison Square Garden, where the night before he had witnessed
his first ice hockey game. When told he was going to see the
Nordiques play the Rangers, Charlie said, deadpan, "I thought
the Rangers were from Texas. Didn't Nolan Ryan play for them?"
Before the game began, Charlie asked, "Do they play halves or
quarters?" Forgive the ignorance. Charlie was born in Cleveland,
Tenn., and raised near Charlotte, not exactly ice hockey
territory. Charlie had one more question. "Do they serve hot
THURSDAY, MAY 18
The difference in atmosphere between practice rounds and the
tournament proper is enormous. This morning everybody--players
and caddies alike--was visibly tense. Faces looked like those you
see in a hospital waiting room. There wasn't any of the joking
and chitchat. Even Charlie was changed. At breakfast he read the
paper. On the practice tee he was quiet and focused. It was
cool, yet he sweated profusely. He asked me for the time every
seven or eight minutes.
On tournament days most pros follow a routine. Charlie arrives
at the course an hour and a half before teeing off. Today our
tee time was 8:30 a.m. His alarm went off at 5:45 so he could be
at the course at 7:00. After arriving, he eats (a lot), puts on
his shoes, gets a dozen new balls from his locker and then
stretches for 10 minutes at the Tour's fitness van. He meets his
caddie at the practice tee 50 minutes before his tee time.
Thirty minutes there, then 15 minutes of putting and chipping,
and finally it's time to start.
For the first two rounds, players are grouped in threesomes, and
they play with the same golfers both rounds. Our partners are
Emlyn Aubrey, who has played around the world and on the Nike
Tour since turning pro nine years ago and whose wife, Cindy,
caddies for him, and Kelly Gibson, a fourth-year pro from New
Orleans. As a rookie, Charlie rarely gets a marquee pairing on
Thursday and Friday.
No more than 25 people watched us tee off. Gibson hit first,
Aubrey second and Rymer last. Everybody hit good drives. For
some reason the fans only clapped for Charlie. "Nobody clapped
for you, Emlyn," Charlie said with a laugh.
Charlie's first priority is making the cut, but even when he
doesn't, the Rymers still make $160. That's because every
Thursday, from 7 a.m. until about 4 p.m., Carol tallies
information for the Darrell Survey company about the equipment
the golfers are using.
"It's a few extra dollars," says Carol. "And it gives me
something to do." Carol and Charlie got married on June 1, 1991,
and Carol has been on the road with Charlie full time since June
'94, when she quit her job as a hospital space planner at an
architectural firm. Though she spends much of her time alone and
often seems bored, she would rather be at tournaments than alone
in Atlanta. "It's too hard to be separated all the time," says
Carol, who has a master's in public health from Emory.
Charlie shot a respectable even-par 71 today, which left him
tied for 36th, four shots behind the leader, Doug Martin.
Charlie had a few memorable shots, such as the monstrous
289-yard drive on the up-a-mountain par-5 9th. But, as usual,
the highlight was culinary.
This time it was a piece of fried chicken. We were walking to
the green at the par-4 4th (we had teed off on 10, so actually
it was our 13th hole), where Charlie's approach had stopped 18
feet from the cup. All I could see were a few men seated behind
the green. Charlie saw not the men but the juicy chicken breasts
and legs they were eating.
"How much for a piece of chicken?" he yelled.
"Make the birdie, and we'll give it to you," one of the men
Only 18 feet of flat green grass stood between Charlie and his
chicken. He studied the putt from all sides. He plumb-bobbed. He
read the wind. There was never a putt Charlie wanted more, but
he left it an inch short.
"Dammit," yelled Charlie. "I wanted me a piece of chicken."
One of the picnickers came to the next tee and handed Charlie
some chicken on a napkin. Charlie hit a huge drive and then
devoured the chicken while walking down the fairway.
FRIDAY, MAY 19
A few weeks ago Charlie would probably have packed it in after
today's horrendous start. He arrived at the club 15 minutes
behind schedule, at 12:15 p.m. Our tee time was 1:30. "I take
care of paperwork and phone calls the mornings of late tee
times," he said. "Today I just got caught up talking to my
After wolfing down lunch, Charlie rushed through his stretching
workout. It was 12:45 when we met at the practice tee, and then
it started raining. Every weather report had predicted afternoon
clearing, and Charlie had prepared mentally for good weather.
"Man, this messes me up," he said while warming up in his rain
The rain had lightened by 1:30, but all the fumbling about with
rain suits, umbrella, towels and extra gloves had rattled us
both. Charlie hooked his five-iron on the 192-yard par-3 1st
hole. Bogey. His three-wood tee shot on 2 was a banana slice
into the rough. Bogey. That Aubrey and Gibson were playing as
slow as molasses and badly--both missed the cut--didn't help,
I was waiting for Mount Rymer to erupt, just the way it had six
weeks ago at the Nike event in Tallahassee, Fla. When rookies
can't get into the field of a Tour event because they are too
low on the exempt list, they often play in Nike events, as Rymer
did in Tallahassee. It was there that Carol made her first--and
probably last--appearance as a caddie. Charlie came to the 16th
tee two over par in the first round. "All of a sudden he pitched
the biggest fit I ever saw, just because there wasn't water in
the cooler," said Carol. "He ripped the top off and hurled it 50
yards. Then he picked up the cooler and threw it, too."
Since his junior year at Georgia Tech, Charlie has worked with
sports psychologist Bob Rotella. They got together soon after
Tallahassee, and Rotella told Charlie that he was taking things
too seriously, that his career didn't depend on shooting par
every day. Two weeks later Charlie finished third at Houston,
and today he kept plugging. "All I can do is stay patient," he
said after bogeying the 7th hole to go three over for the day,
"and hope I make some birdies."
He hit a 228-yard three-iron approach to 12 feet on the 8th
hole, and while he missed the birdie putt, his face was suddenly
flush with excitement. He birdied the 9th, and after coming a
yard short of driving the green at the 314-yard par-4 10th, he
holed a six-foot putt to get back to one over par.
USA network's cameras began following us on the 15th hole. Most
rookies, and a good many veterans, gag in front of the camera,
but not Charlie. "It pumps me up," he said. "I just love it." He
birdied the 16th to get even.
I had never been on TV. I must admit, my heart began thumping
when a technician told me we were the focus of the telecast's
last 15 minutes. Charlie recognized my stage fright. "Just smile
and look cool," he said as a camera crew followed us up the 17th
It was easy to look cool on the 18th green when Charlie holed
his 20-yard pitch for an eagle that got him to two under par. He
was tied for 12th, four strokes behind co-leaders Mike Hulbert
and Chris Perry. "I'm as proud of that round as any in my whole
life," Charlie said as Gibson and Aubrey putted out. "I didn't
let myself freak out, which is so easy to do out here. Instead I
kept chugging at it. Now look where we are. Not bad, huh?"
SATURDAY, MAY 20
There are some perfectionists, like Nick Faldo, Vijay Singh and
Tom Kite, who hit practice balls no matter how they've played.
Most pros, though, will do anything--putt, watch TV in the locker
room, eat, go home--except beat balls after a good round,
especially on the weekend.
That's why players at the practice tee on Saturday afternoon are
like schoolkids in detention. They're there because they did
something bad. In Charlie's case, bad was a three-over-par 74
that dropped him out of contention and into 36th place. For the
first time all week, Charlie went to the range to actually
practice and not just to warm up for a round.
Today Charlie played with Faxon, whose 69 put him four strokes
behind leader Singh. I told Faxon's caddie, John Burke, how
sorry I was for him. On the last hole on Thursday, Burke had
made the awful error of giving Faxon a different model ball to
play than he had been using, which resulted in a two-stoke
penalty. Considering that Burke was still afraid he might soon
lose his job, he was impressively upbeat.
The culinary lesson of the day was about which Tour events serve
the best food. Charlie and Brad unanimously agreed on this top
four: the Memorial (Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio), the
International (Castle Pines Golf Club in Castle Rock, Colo.),
Freeport-McMoRan (English Turn Golf & Country Club in New
Orleans) and the Canadian Open (Glen Abbey Golf Club in
Oakville, Ont.). All are held at courses designed by Jack
Nicklaus. "Jack cares a lot about food too," Brad told Charlie.
"You're not the only one."
Nor is Charlie the only pro who skirts the Rules of Golf on
several shots every round. Rule 8-1 states that there is a
two-stroke penalty if a player in individual stroke play seeks
advice from anybody except his caddie in any spot on the course.
Yet all pros want to know what clubs their playing partners hit
to help gauge their own selection. To avoid a penalty, players
simply peek in each other's bags, which technically doesn't
violate the rule.
It's considered Tour courtesy for a caddie to position his bag
to allow a fellow competitor or caddie to see which club is
missing. I did this today on the 8th hole, a 455-yard par-4.
Charlie hit a six-iron approach, and then, holding the club, he
headed to the green. Before Brad played his ball, which was
about 15 yards across the fairway from where I was standing, he
walked over to me. I slyly tilted the bag and Brad peeked.
It didn't do any good. His approach was a miserable duck-hook.
SUNDAY, MAY 21
Nobody is more concerned with how a Tour pro plays than his
caddie, because a caddie's income is totally dependent on his
pro's performance. If his pro plays well, the caddie gets paid
well; if not, the caddie has barely enough to cover travel
costs, not to mention home and family expenses.
Standard pay for a caddie on the PGA Tour is $500 a week, plus
5% of the prize money if his pro makes the cut, 7% for a top-10
finish and 10% for a win. Charlie wasn't paying me a dime this
week, but I was still obsessed with his position. He teed off at
11:16, along with Jim Furyk. Both Charlie and Jim birdied the
9th hole, which moved Charlie to one under par and Jim to minus
three. It was getting windy, and I felt that if Charlie could
play the last nine in par or better, the field would probably
back up, and he would have a shot at the top 10.
But he folded. Back-to-back double bogeys at 15 and 16 put him
five over par for the tournament. This is when a caddie has to
be very careful and comforting. You don't speak unless spoken
to, smile unless smiled at. You just pray that something breaks
the funk. Fortunately Charlie seems to have already learned that
a bad round is not a death sentence.
After making a six-foot putt for double bogey on 16, Charlie
clenched his fists around his putter and, for a second, looked
as if he would hurl it into orbit. But then he smiled and turned
to the CBS-TV tower behind the green. He saw Gary McCord.
"Can you get me some Masters tickets for next year?" Charlie
McCord then stood up, stuck his head out of the telecast booth
and replied, "Yeah, for you and your whole family."
Charlie parred 17 and 18, and his 289 total left him in a
disappointing 48th place, for which he earned $3,204. After he
signed his scorecard, he was moping in the scorer's tent. I
breached caddie etiquette and broke the gloomy silence. I handed
him a neatly wrapped present. Charlie shook it and heard liquid
"What is it? Salsa? Little hot dogs? Dog food?" he guessed.
He ripped off the wrapping and laughed when he saw what was
inside: a can of black olives. "That's about the way it ended
today," he said with a very wide smile.
All that was left was the Sunday afternoon mad dash to the
airport. Charlie flew to Fort Worth for a pro-am on Monday and
then the Colonial. Carol flew to Atlanta to see her mom before
meeting Charlie on Wednesday in Fort Worth. I limped home to my
apartment in New York City.
Never have I had a better loop.