Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Caddying For a Son

Sam allowed me this weekend to caddy for him.

In most junior golf tournaments, parents are not allowed to carry their children’s bag or offer them advice on the course. Indeed, at most junior tournaments, even those here in Belgium, no caddies are allowed. Tournament organizers fear that parents would put too much pressure on the players. If some children have caddies and some do not, its unfair. If parents caddy, the danger of emotions exploding on the course rise to an unacceptable level.

But this weekend’s tournament is a men’s professional event: the Belgian PGA. The country’s touring pros, many on the minor league European Alps tour, are participating, playing for money. The country’s best amateurs, juniors and adults, are also playing. Anybody, including parents, are allowed to caddy.

After Sam’s disastrous collapse the week before, he realizes that somebody giving him advice, could help calm his stress and help him avoid making strategic and tactical blunders. But he is skeptical that this person could be his father. “You’ll just get me pissed off,” he warns. Even so, he is ready to attempt the experiment.

This weekend’s tournament is taking place north of Brussels on a flat Flemish course called Kampenhout. It is a new course, 20 years ago, carved from an aristocratic estate (complete with a classic country palace) and open farmland. The course has few true dangerous zones and rewards good play with good scores.

For the first round, I want to avoid overloading Sam with too much advice. After a straightforward par, I watch in silence on the second hole as he prepares to hit a sand shot over a bunker toward a flag instead of blasting out to the safe far side of the green. His shot flies over the green and he needs two shots to get back to the green before taking a double bogey.

After this catastrophe, he settles down and pars the next five holes. On the eighth hole, a short par four, he decides o drive with a two iron while his playing partners drive. He smashes the ball, only to end up plugged in a fairway bunker. His partners mishit their drivers but still end up with short shots to the green.

“Its not fair,” he complains.

He ends up with another double bogey, cursing his fate rather than realizing he has chosen the wrong club. Suddenly his concentration evaporates and he bogeys the next five holes in a row, recovering only with a birdie on the 14th and settling down to par the remaining holes and finishing with a disappointing 80.

As his play deteriorates, he closes in on himself and refuses to communicate with his father “caddy.”

“You just make it worse, Dad,” he says. “I really don’t want you to caddy for me.”

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