The club’s final event for the summer is also the smallest and the most serious. It’s the Club Championship and only a dozen or so men compete. It’s 18 holes of stroke play qualifying, and then a three-round match play tournament.
The winner receives a personalized, crystal candy dish and has his name printed on the Champions’ Ledger, which contains over one hundred names, dating back to the 1890s.
Many caddies dislike the Club Championship because of how intense and grave it can become, and because it means carrying just a single bag in late August when many kids have returned to school and doubling with two bags is the norm.
A few caddies, however, look forward to the tournament and brag about how many championships they’ve “won.”
These are often the same caddies who look up to the members and see in them an ideal of what they would like to become as adults, or as surrogate fathers whom they can loyally serve and love.
Around the shack, this type of caddie, though respected for his hard work, is often made fun of as being servile, over-eager, naïve, of reeking of neediness the way other caddies reek of body odor.
Carey Beatty is one such caddie. He often hangs around the shack after his rounds, talking to anyone who is there instead of going home. He just turned 21-years-old and tries to invite his favorite members to get drinks with him at an Irish pub down the street from the golf course.
His favorite member is Riley Rich, who is a bawdy, unmarried IT salesman in his early forties that likes to pick up long, grassy divots in the fairway, hold them over his crotch, and go, “Tickle my clit! Tickle my clit!”
Carey Beatty has been Mr. Rich’s regular caddie for the past two years. When Mr. Rich pulls into the parking lot, it’s assumed that Carey will shag the bag. If a young caddie gets up to jog for Mr. Rich’s car, Carey will yell, “He’s not for you, rake.”
In last year’s Club Championship, I was assigned to Mr. Quentin and Carey had Mr. Rich. The two men reached the semifinals and had to play one another.
When Carey saw we were caddying in the same match, he came over to me, shook my hand, and said, “May the better caddie win.”
I limply shook his hand, then rolled my eyes once he turned his back.
Other caddies mentioned that Carey had problems at home and that he spent so much time at the caddieshack because it was a much nicer place to be than his parents’ house. Even if that was true, I couldn’t help but feel repulsed by his enthusiasm for a country club golf match. “Who fucking cares?” I thought to myself.
If one could feel such happiness and such excitement caddying in the Club Championship, then why not just stay in the suburbs hauling golf clubs for the rest of your life?
Is it a blessing to be so enthralled and enthused about the everyday affairs of one’s quiet hometown? To not feel at least some disgust with the default form of life in the community in which one came into existence?
On the day of the semifinals, Carey came over to me on the tee box and once again shook my hand and wished me luck, as if the match was exclusively between him and me.
On the first green, Mr. Quentin had a tricky five-foot putt to tie the hole with Mr. Rich. I whispered my read to Mr. Quentin calmly and confidently. I wanted him to make it, and to make Mr. Rich and Carey feel intimidated.
He made the putt and, in spite of my usually stone-faced apathy, I pumped my fist.
On every tee box, Carey stood next to Mr. Rich as if he was a PGA Tour caddie – holding the golf bag upright, pointing into the distance, speaking in a flat, serious tone about yardages and trajectories. Carey even had the course yardage book laminated and spiral bound, with his personal tips and secrets attached with Post-It Notes.
Going to the sixth hole, the match was even. Mr. Quentin hit a great approach shot and had a tap-in putt for birdie. Mr. Rich had a thirty-foot putt to tie. Carey gave him an elaborate read, walking along the path the ball should take, meticulously pointing out spots and stains on the green that Mr. Rich needed to aim for.
Mr. Rich stroked the ball, rolling it right along Carey’s path. It went into the hole and Carey did a 360° fist pump and loudly high-fived Mr. Rich.
“That’s how you caddie, my friend,” Carey said to me as he stomped ahead to the next tee.
Mr. Rich then promptly drove his ball into the prairie grass. Carey shouted, “I’ve got a line! I’ve got a line!” and sprinted from the tee box, down the fairway, and then leaped into the tall grass to search for the ball. His cap flew off as he was running but he didn’t stop to get it.
Mr. Quentin then hit his drive and we walked ahead towards Carey, who was frantically turning his head and combing through the fescue. I picked up his cap along the way and placed it back on his head when we got near him.
We searched for several minutes and couldn’t find the ball. Mr. Rich had to return to the tee and hit a provisional. Losing a ball in an important match is perhaps the worst thing a caddie can do. Carey was silent and turned his head away from me.
The front nine ended with Mr. Quentin one-up. In the kitchen of the halfway house, as we ate our crackers, cheese, and peanut butter and drank our Gatorades, Carey was explaining how Mr. Rich just wasn’t quite in the zone, that he wasn’t listening to his advice. Carey then said how he and Mr. Rich were probably going to get drinks together after the round.
I ate my cracker sandwiches in silence while avoiding Carey’s gaze. I looked out the window towards the clubhouse and vaguely and exhaustedly longed to be participating in something that felt more meaningful to me than these minor suburban dramas.
On the twelfth hole, Mr. Quentin hit a nice approach shot and had a five-foot putt for birdie to win the hole. A bee was hovering around his golf ball as he was about to putt.
Mr. Quentin swatted at it. It flew away, then returned. “Really?” he asked, annoyed and offended. He swatted again at the bee, which then circled around his ankles and his waist.
Mr. Quentin lurched back and ran away from the ball.
The bee flew off, Mr. Quentin set-up, stroked the ball, and missed the putt. He lowered his head and said, “You suck. You suck. You suck.”
On the next hole, I tried to talk to Mr. Quentin and relax him. He muttered short answers to my questions. He had an even shorter putt to win the hole, and he missed again.
Mr. Quentin missed two more short putts on the next two holes and went one-down in the match.
On the eighteenth hole, Mr. Quentin made a difficult putt for birdie. Mr. Rich had a putt to tie the hole, win the match, and advance to the finals. Carey gave him another elaborate read, and Mr. Rich made it.
As Mr. Rich and Mr. Quentin were shaking hands, Carey turned and looked for me, to come shake my hand, but I had already walked off the green towards the clubhouse.
In the parking lot, I saw Carey chatting with Mr. Rich. It looked like he was asking about getting drinks at the bar. Mr. Rich looked away with the expression of someone who has just been asked to share something he does not want to give.
Mr. Rich shrugged his shoulders and he and Carey shook hands.
Carey came down by the shack and said, “Mr. Rich is probably going to come to Muldoon’s after he has lunch at the club. You can come if you want.”
I said no, that I was going to try to caddie again in the afternoon. Carey got in his car and drove towards the pub.
As I was waiting for my afternoon bags to show up, I saw Mr. Rich come out of the clubhouse and get into his car. We waved at each other, then he pulled out and turned in the direction of the highway, the opposite direction of the bar.
The next day, I asked Carey how drinks with Mr. Rich went. “We had to reschedule,” he said. “I think I might get to go to his Labor Day party at his penthouse in Chicago though. That would be so sweet.”
I nodded my head, turned, and walked over towards the caddies who have a more jaded worldview, and with whom I generally have more enjoyable conversations.