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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Bobby Hill of Pinehurst - the best caddy I ever had


You only have two choices playing Pinehurst No. 2 - take a cart or hire a caddy. Of course, I recommend being old school. (To quote David Carradine in Kill Bill 2, “and you know I’m all about old school.”)

Pinehurst is all about old school too. The caddies there must be the best in America. Over 100 years of history demands no less.

Enter Bobby Hill. Bobby has caddied at Pinehurst for forty-five consecutive years. He knows every blade of grass, every sand-filled divot, every dew drop, and most importantly, every target line and green read.

He carried former president Gerald Ford’s bag. “Fore right!” he laughs. “Cause dat’s where they all went, so you can’t stand there!” He caddied not once for Michael Jordan, but every time he comes. Jordan asks for him. He caddied for Roger Staubach, Roy Williams and Dean Smith, the list is endless.

“I seen in all in foooohty-five years” he says with a southern drawl. “I saw I guy get a hole in one on number nine after he smackked it off a tree. I saw another guy hit a golf ball backwards. He just teed it up, it popped straight up in the air, the wind caught it and it ended up behind him.”

But Bobby is more than just a character. He has that ocean of wisdom books can’t teach – things you only learn after observing the behavior of all manner of people coming through the resort to use the golf course as a mirror to their soul. And believe me, without a good caddy, it’s a frightening confrontation on Number 2. “You can’t hide on a golf course and especially not here” he opines. “You really can tell a lot about a man the way he plays golf.”

Bobby is the consummate professional caddy and the best I’ve ever had. At $43 plus tip, he’s a bargain all day long. I doubted him once…on the first green. My playing partner was in my line and finished out his two footer before I putted. His broke right, but without being within ten feet of the line of my putt, Bobby said, “ignore what you just saw, it’s gonna go left.”

I thought I knew better. My eyes had told me so. How could he be right? He was twenty yards away cleaning my wedge while I was on the green! But Bobby was right. Ever the dutiful golfer, I did not doubt him again and together we read each and every putt perfectly save one. He was great off the tee too, steering me to the best approach angles, the most pivotal task on Number 2.

“That’s a golf shot” he’d say in a “matter of fact” manner. That’s all he said and all he needed to say. When I striped one off the tee, “that’s a golf shot.” When I changed clubs on him for the only time all day, choosing a flop 9-iron over a full sand wedge and put it six feet, “that’s a golf shot.” When I was deep in jail in the trees on ten and hit the shot of my life, a punch 4-iron through a two-foot gap sixty yards away, “that’s a golf shot.” Sometimes, heck, he’d even take out his towel and wipe the sweat off his brow while saying it. Out comes the towel, wipe, peek at it, back in the pocket, “that’s a golf shot.”

That’s all you needed. No fist bump. No high five. No David Feherty-esque "Nice Ball!" Just "thats a golf shot" and it was. Bobby had said so.

Of course, then I hit one three-metal thirty-five feet. “That’s not a golf shot.” We laughed. With Bobby’s guidance I was Steady Eddie, carding a long string of pars on the back broken only by a greenside miss on 17 into the deep back bunker.

He’s been caddy of the month. He’s been caddy of the year. With any luck, Bobby may have earned his immortality – enshrinement in the Caddy Hall of Fame.

To paraphrase Bobby, “that’s a golf caddy.” I’ll see you again Bobby. I need you on my bag.


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