Virginia Beach, Va. – It’s customary to shake hands with your caddie at the completion of a round, but many players at the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur skipped over this etiquette standard and kissed their loopers.
It is possible that the buss could have been a reward for providing the correct line for a putt on the tricky 18th green at Bayville Golf Club. But more likely, it was because the caddie is the player’s husband.
There are many wife-husband tandems at Bayville, as the Women's Mid-Amateur presents an opportunity to spend several days away from the stresses of everyday life and enjoy each other’s company – provided there aren’t too many disagreements over club selection.
In most cases, the Women's Mid-Amateur competitor is the better player. When Ken and Martha Lang play together at their home course, Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Ala., they usually play from the middle tees and Ken doesn’t receive any handicap strokes. “I win maybe once a year,” said Ken, who has a 10.7 Handicap Index.
But two of the husbands at Bayville are normally on the other side of the player-caddie relationship. Five-time PGA Tour winner and Champions Tour rookie Jim Gallagher Jr. is looping for his wife, Cissye, and Champions Tour winner Steve Veriato was on Karen’s bag.
“For us to get time together, this is like a vacation,” said Cissye, who qualified for match play. “We don’t get to do that very often.”
Cissye, a reinstated amateur who played on the LPGA Tour, reads all the putts herself and relies on her husband for club selection and for maintaining a positive attitude.
“He was great,” said the 44-year-old Cissye. “I don’t have to think as much. It’s relaxing being fully committed to each shot.”
The doubts come from Jim, who better understands the stresses of on-course counseling. “The hardest thing is when she’s asking you what to hit. I’ve always told my caddies, ‘I’d rather you be confident and wrong than wishy-washy.’ But it’s pressure because there is a little guesswork involved.”
The dynamic between the Veriatos is different. For one, Karen caddied for Steve for five years on the Champions Tour, and she was on the 18th green when he won the 2001 Novell Utah Showdown, his only tour victory.
“Normally, if you have a caddie, he doesn’t really care how you’re doing,” said Steve. “The one thing soul mates have is that you know she’s 100 percent behind you. I probably would never have won if she hadn’t been on my bag.”
Although Karen says there is nobody else she wants as a caddie, she admits the role reversal does carry some extra pressure.
“I think I try extra hard to play well,” said Karen, who turned 50 two days before the start of the Women's Mid-Amateur. “He has expectations of me because he visualizes what he can do, and I don’t have the confidence that he has. I get in my own way often times, just doubting myself instead of trusting it.”
Steve, who is also Karen’s coach, quickly interjected: “She has the ability, but doesn’t feel that way.”
The Veriatos left Bayville disappointed after she failed to qualify for match play, while the Gallaghers played on. After the Women's Mid-Amateur, Cissye will represent Mississippi in the USGA Women’s State Team Championship at The Landings Club in Savannah, Ga., while Jim will return to the Champions Tour, where she doesn't plan to caddie for him regularly – she is willing to do it once, because caddies on the Champions Tour can drive carts.
“I’m a terrible caddie,” she admitted.
“She is,” Jim agreed half-jokingly. “She doesn’t do yardages, she doesn’t give you clubs.” Perhaps sensing that he had violated the third rule of the caddie credo – “show up, keep up, shut up” – Jim quickly added that she is very good at reading greens.
Overall, caddying has been a good bonding experience for the Gallaghers. Jim has looped in amateur tournaments for their eldest daughter, Mary, a sophomore on the Mississippi State golf team. Their son, Thomas, a high school senior, has caddied for Jim in several events, including the Senior British Open.
Jim, whose last PGA Tour victory was the 1995 FedEx St. Jude Classic when Mary was three years old, is looking forward to sharing another victory with his family. “My kids think I got those trophies off eBay,” he said.
At his next start, the SAS Championship, Gallagher hopes to apply some of the wisdom he garnered at Bayville. “I’m a lot more positive as a caddie than I am a player,” he said. “So maybe I need to pay more attention to that and learn from it.”
Failing that, at least he has a different view of the difficulty of a caddie’s job following the Women’s Mid-Amateur’s cold, windy first day, during which he struggled to keep his wife and her equipment dry.
“I will never complain about wet grips again,” he said.
Hunki Yun is a senior writer with the USGA. Email questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.