Athens, GA (Apr 15, 2009) - The past few days at the Nationwide Tour's Athens Regional Foundation Classic have in some small ways been a trip down memory lane for this former part-time PGA Tour Caddy.
On Monday, I was talking to a caddy in the Jennings Mill Country Club parking lot. He said that he was waiting for a caddy friend of his to arrive, a caddy by the name of Andy Davidson. I did a double take as I knew Andy going back to 1982 when he first came out on the PGA Tour as a caddy.
When Andy arrived, I went to greet him and asked him why in the world he was in Athens.
"I am working for Andrew Magee," he answered, "He gives me the bag every year at Bay Hill, so I come here to do this for him."
Later that day in the media room, reporters covering the tournament for the Athens Banner-Herald were looking for the caddy who worked for the tournament winners in 2007 and 2008. I asked them the name of the caddy they were looking for, and they said his name was Butch Vail (pictured left).
Butchie? Butchie won here the past two years? Again, another long time caddy friend from the PGA Tour was not only here in Athens this week, but he had won the tournament the past two years.
I caught up to Butch in the cart barn during yesterday's rainstorm and got to catch up with him. As is typical with him, he was very non-chalant and self-deprecating about the two victories.
"I was just lucky, that's all," said the Massachsetts born caddy. "It really is not that big a deal."
To him it may not have been a big deal, but the local newspaper did want him for a story, as he got each of those two bags in the parking lot the Monday of tournament week. This year, he had a bag before he got here, and is glad he does.
"It's really tough out here," Butch said. "The money on this tour is not that good, and look around. There are a lot of regular caddies from the PGA Tour who are not working [The Heritage] this week because their guys are not in the tournament. The competition is fierce."
After this conversation, I did not think it was likely that I would run into anyone else I knew from days so long ago. That is until I was finishing up my interview with Bobby Clampett in the clubhouse restaurant. As we were getting up to leave, a gentleman approached Clampett, extended his hand, and said "Hey Bobby, Mike Peck (pictured right)."
My head spun around. Here was a former PGA Tour player played on the tour from 1980 to 1985. If you ever wanted to talk to a player about the struggles of laying week to week in the days of Monday qualifying, Peck would be it. And if you ever want to talk to a player who was nice to everybody he met, Peck would be it. In fact, he gave me his car for a couple of weeks back in the 1980's to drive from the Greater Hartford Open to my hometown and the B.C. Open.
I caught up to Mike on the putting green later that afternoon to catch up and talk aout what he is doing now.
"I am the director of U.S. Tour relations for Callaway Golf," he told me. He has been doing this type of work since he left playing on the tour in the mid-1980's.
"I'm not playing anymore, this is what I am doing full time," he continued. "And I love what I do."
We talked a little bit more about his work, and about a player we were both friendly with back in his playing days. We then said our goodbyes, as he was heading out of town today.
It has been said that the professional golf tours are like one big extended family/carnival, travelling week to week, and year to year. It is not until you run into people you know 25+ years later that it really hits home.
Photographs Copyright 2009 by Eye on Sports Media/The Cayuga Group, LLC. All Rights reserved.