Caddie Shackled Pebble Beach looper Casey Boyns failed to qualify for next week's Open, but his course savvy belongs inside the ropes

June 11, 2000

The dream began in 1972, when the U.S. Open was played at the
Pebble Beach Golf Links for the first time. Casey Boyns was a
kid, 16 years old, a part-time caddie at Pebble who played it
daily in the fading light of dusk. He was a strong player,
unschooled but hugely talented. Now he is 44, a full-time caddie
at Pebble Beach, still a good player, and the U.S. Open is in his
backyard again. He seldom gets to play the course anymore. Pebble
Beach is a moneymaking machine now, and sneaking onto it is part
of its charming, unkempt but very distant past. Still, you cannot
overstate how intimately Boyns knows this course. He has worked
nearly 5,000 loops at Pebble, has witnessed well over a million
shots there and has tens of thousands of shots filed away in his
mental logbook: what the ball did coming out of a particular lie
or bouncing off a particular hillock or landing on a particular
section of green. Imagine how much he could help a player in the
Open. Better yet, imagine Casey playing in the Open--The Legend of
Bagger Boyns. What if he contended? There would be bedlam. The
studios would be packing trucks with scriptwriters and pointing
them north.

Most days he caddies in the morning and plays in the afternoon.
On Mondays he sometimes takes a slide from looping, so that he
can play a round on fresh legs. His home links is the Pacific
Grove Golf Course, a muni with excellent bones a few miles north
of Pebble Beach. But on Monday, May 22, Boyns did not play his
home course. He headed out of Pacific Grove, where he lives with
his wife and two children, and pointed his maroon Dodge Caravan
with the license plate GOLFNKC toward Santa Cruz 40 miles north,
to the Pasatiempo Golf Club, a qualifying site for the 2000 U.S.
Open.

Boyns was one of 90 golfers competing for six spots that day.
(Nationally, there were 8,187 players in local qualifying events
competing for 569 spots.) Those six spots, you should know, are
not for places in the Open field; the only thing local qualifying
does is get a player into the sectional qualifying, the one-day,
36-hole grindfest from which roughly one in nine players advances
to the national championship. It ain't easy, getting into a U.S.
Open.

"I'm not feeling very confident," Boyns said the night before.
He hadn't been playing well in the weeks before, and in nearly
two dozen previous attempts he had never made it out of local
qualifying. Also, he'd been working often and hard. Pebble Beach
is always busy, but this year, with the U.S. Open coming,
interest in the course has become feverish among the fancy-shoed
businessmen, the guys who help Boyns pay his mortgage.

Boyns arrived at Pasatiempo 20 minutes before his 9:50 a.m. tee
time, hit five chips, 20 putts, three bunker shots, and was off.
That's all the preround preparation he needs. Boyns has his own
way of doing things. It is not the pro way.

But he is a pro, at least in the eyes of the U.S. Golf
Association, at least for now. To the USGA, a golfer is either an
amateur or a professional, or a professional seeking
reinstatement as an amateur. Boyns is in that last little group.

In 1983, three years after graduating from Utah--his major was
"leisure studies"--Boyns turned pro and went to Q school to get
his Tour card. His putting was lousy, and he missed qualifying by
10 shots in the first stage. He entered two small-purse events in
California, found he didn't enjoy playing for money and got
reinstated as an amateur by the USGA in 1985. In 1989 and '93,
Boyns won the California State Amateur, a highly competitive
match-play event held annually at Pebble Beach. These wins are
the crowning achievements of his golf career. His name shares
trophy space with those of Mark O'Meara, Gene Littler, Ken
Venturi, Charlie Seaver (Tom's father) and Jack Neville, the
amateur architect who helped design Pebble Beach. Casey's a hard
man to beat at Pebble. He knows every blade of it.

In 1998 a friend recruited Boyns to be a teaching pro at
corporate golf outings. The job required Boyns once again to give
up his amateur status, but Boyns didn't mind. Since he was a pro
again, and since he had two children to raise, Boyns decided to
play in the occasional professional event. His most revealing
moment as a pro golfer came in his first tournament: He stood on
the 1st tee in a Pepsi Tour mini-tour event at the old Del Monte
Golf Course and was introduced as a former California State
Amateur champion. He looked down the 1st fairway, on a hole he
had played more than 100 times. Boyns stepped up to his ball,
went into his backswing and hit a dead pull, out-of-bounds. He
teed up a second ball and hit another dead pull, out-of-bounds.
Did the same thing with his third ball. He never finished the
hole and withdrew from the medal competition.

Despite that start Boyns kept grinding. He has entered about a
dozen small tournaments over the past two years; in '99 he won
the Santa Cruz Open and its $5,000 first-place prize. But he has
never felt comfortable. "I don't know how to carry myself as a
pro, don't feel like a pro," Boyns says. His voice is pure
Northern California, flat and cool and unexcitable--just like
Johnny Miller's. "I like to play in shorts, carry a little bag. I
like to wear my hair a little long. I don't like everyone looking
at me thinking, 'Hey, let's see how the pro plays the shot.' I
just like to play and help people with their games. I'm a
caddie." In late '99 he applied to the USGA to regain his amateur
status. This time it's a minimum three-year wait.

His goal at Pasatiempo, a hilly gem designed by Alister
Mackenzie, the architect of Augusta National, was to play even
par or better and to enjoy the round, though he knew that playing
it would take more than five hours. (Boyns is a fast player, a
fast walker, a fast driver, a little fidgety. He does everything
with one extra movement, including his putting stroke.) The round
lasted 5 1/2 hours, but he enjoyed himself. He made 11 pars, four
birdies, three bogeys. He shot 69. He was in. Suddenly the dream
was a little closer to becoming reality.

Early the next morning Boyns was back at Pebble. In the caddie
shack, a large cart barn, really, he saw his brother, Bucky. He
sees Bucky most every morning--same time, same place. Bucky and
the other loopers were all over Casey that morning,
congratulating him on his round. Bucky, 58, is a jazz musician
and a surfer. He surfs every day, in 50[degree] water, in waves big
enough to snap your board and your neck. He feels about surfing
almost exactly the way Casey feels about golf.

Bucky and Casey are among the most senior caddies at Pebble,
which means they get to go out with the first groups of the day.
That morning Casey carried the bags of two insurance executives.
They were nice men, decent players who were smart enough to
listen to their caddie. The insurance guys found Boyns to be
exceedingly helpful. When one of them didn't have the right club,
Boyns sprinted over with another one. He gave yardages and wind
directions, read greens, found balls, made short-term weather
forecasts, passed along some Pebble Beach history and talked to
their golf balls at the right times. He greeted a ball bound for
a trap with a cheerful "Bunka!" When a wedge shot sailed
comically in the wind, Boyns said, doing his best Price Is Right
impression, "Come on down!" When a putt toured the circumference
of the cup before dropping, Boyns yelled triumphantly, "Victory
lap!" He was always on the move. He put on or took off his wind
shirt with every discernible temperature change, of which there
were many. He called one of the insurance men "Big Boy" and the
other, who was managing his middling talent well, "Smart Guy."
They paid Boyns more than double the going rate. He loves his
job.

None of this is to suggest he is a disciple of Shivas Irons, the
golf pro in Michael Murphy's book, Golf in the Kingdom, a slim
novel whose mystical parallels between golf and life infect many
Northern Californian golfers. Boyns does not see the golf-higher
spirit connection. His method of instruction is to say, "Aim for
the eucalyptus tree and don't leave anything in the bag."

Twenty years ago Boyns worked at the Esalen Institute, the Big
Sur wellness center cofounded by Murphy, stapling sheet metal to
roofs. In those days he was more interested in joining the
brotherhood of sheet-metal workers than the brotherhood of
touring pros. He dug Murphy's hangout, but the message of his
book made no mark on him. What impressed him most were the naked
women walking along Esalen's beaches.

He took up golf as a boy, playing at Pacific Grove with his
father, a barber who made some good investments in real estate.
At one point Leonard Boyns tried to join the swanky Monterey
Peninsula Country Club, but his application went nowhere.
"Somebody told him you couldn't join if tips were part of your
income," Casey says, so he and his father kept playing P.G.,
sometimes in under two hours, and Casey kept sneaking on at
Monterey Peninsula, despite the many times he was caught. "I'd
hear the security guy on his Cushman coming after me, and I'd run
into the woods, and he'd holler, 'Come out, I know you're in
there!'"

He's still most at home at the P.G. muni, where his 18-hole
rounds cost $12--if the kid at the counter bothers to punch his
card. He had a game there the other day, paired with a couple of
locals, a guy with a gray ponytail named James and a woman new to
golf named Inga. On the second hole Inga whiffed her tee shot
three times before hitting a 50-yard pop fly. Boyns did not shake
his head in disbelief and ask himself, How did I get stuck in
this group? He said, with sincerity, "Good shot. That's better."
He loves golf, and golfers. He shot a 29 that day, six under par,
on a short, windswept, duney back nine designed by Jack Neville
himself. Boyns played with a narrow stance, a strong grip, a fast
swing. He played a big cut. He wore beltless shorts, beat-up
shoes, a T-shirt. He drove the 14th, a par-4, 356 yards, and
holed his 10-foot putt for eagle. The man can play.

He was home by six. He lives with his wife, Sara, a lawyer, and
their children, Marisa, 15, and Christopher, 9. They share a
comfortable, modest house a short walk from the ocean. Dinner was
grilled chicken and artichokes, and much of the conversation was
about golf, in one way or another. Marisa told the story of her
girlfriend who broke up with her boyfriend because she thought
she could get Sergio Garcia to take her to the prom. (Didn't
happen.) Christopher sat wide-eyed as Casey talked about his
round at Pebble Beach with Tiger Woods at the 1994 California
State Amateur. ("Tiger, talking about my putting stroke, said,
'It's kind of funny looking, but he sure does get the ball in the
hole.'") Later, the conversation turned to what Casey would do if
he qualified for the Open. Would he play as an amateur or a
professional? "It seems like you love the game more when you play
as an amateur," Sara said. Casey said that if he won, he would
take the prize money, $800,000. Too much money to pass up, he
said. Any other finish, he'd play for the glory of having been
there.

On Monday, June 5, Casey Boyns was one of 96 golfers playing at
the Lake Merced Golf and Country Club, outside San Francisco,
competing in sectional qualifying. The top six finishers would
advance to the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Tour players, like Mark
Calcavecchia, were in the field, as were former Tour players,
like Mac O'Grady, and possible future Tour players, like Andy
Miller, Johnny's son. A tough crowd.

Boyns had a rough day and didn't qualify. As of Monday night, he
was looking for a bag to carry in the Open. He wants to be inside
the ropes, one way or the other. He's been dreaming about that
for 28 years. He could help a player, no question about that. He
knows the course like he knows his own hands. Like he knows his
own dreams.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY TODD BIGELOW PEBBLE'S BAM-BAM Boyns is hard to beat at Pebble Beach--he won the California State Amateur there in 1989 and '93. COLOR PHOTO: TODD BIGELOW When Boyns talks about Pebble courses, smart golfers listen. COLOR PHOTO: BRAD MANGIN Boyns never felt comfortable as a pro--he likes to play in shorts.

Casey's Skinny On Pebble

1. Par-4, 381 yards The approach is uphill, although it doesn't
look it. In the morning take one more club. In the afternoon
watch for a tailwind.

2. Par 4, 484 yards A par-5, no matter what the card says. If you
play it in 18 strokes over four rounds, you'll be gaining on the
field.

3. Par-4, 390 yards Pebble is not a typical U.S. Open course. On
certain holes you have to be aggressive, and this is the first of
them.

4. Par-4, 331 yards Enjoy your first glimpse of the ocean. Vow to
put no balls in it.

5. Par-3, 188 yards The new hole, designed by Jack Nicklaus,
plays to his strength, the long iron fade. Play it.

6. Par-5, 513 yards Think birdie. Let out some shaft on your
drive and give yourself a chance to reach the green in two.

7. Par-3, 106 yards Prettiest hole on the course. Downhill and
often downwind, 7 can play 80 yards or less. Tee your ball
up--you'll need the spin. An Open hole that plays 80 yards?
Believe it.

8. Par-4, 418 yards The greatest second shot in golf, according
to Nicklaus. Be certain of the wind direction--remember what it
was doing on the sixth--or you will never share Nicklaus's love
for this hole.

9. Par-4, 466 yards If you're going to miss the green, miss it
into the front left bunker. All other greenside shots are
horrors.

10. Par-4, 446 yards The steepest left-to-right sloping fairway
on the course. I believe you must play a fade off the tee, but
Tom Watson won here in '82 by drawing his drive. What can I say?

11. Par-4, 380 yards The green, even if it's rock-hard, will hold
any shot because of the severe back-to-front slope. Think birdie.

12. Par-3, 202 yards Beware: The tee box aims you right. (Many
tees at Pebble are off-kilter.) Make sure you're square to the
target.

13. Par-4, 399 yards In your practice round try some putts from
the front left of the green--that's where many approaches wind up.

14. Par-5, 573 yards Do whatever you have to do to make sure
you're hitting your third shot from the fairway.

15. Par-4, 397 yards Some players hit irons. Go with your
driver.

16. Par-4, 403 yards The approach shot isn't as downhill as it
looks. It appears that you could go sledding to the green, but
it's barely downhill at all.

17. Par-3, 208 yards It often feels like a downwind shot, but
usually there's a right-to-left wind. Go by what the flag is
doing, not by what you feel on the tee.

18. Par-5, 543 yards Don't worry about the trees in the middle of
the fairway. Aim for them--they almost never get in the way of a
good drive. Lay back on your second shot.

Boyns is most at home playing his muni, where a round costs $12,
if the kid at the counter bothers to punch his card.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)