FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Northern Arizona University’s football team doesn’t open its season until Aug. 30, but some players are getting in extra conditioning work this week.
Quarterback Chase Cartwright, defensive lineman Deon Young and linebacker Jabari Marshall are among 10 Lumberjacks working as caddies during the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.
The job isn’t new to Cartwright, who has caddied at Forest Highlands Golf Club the past three summers. But few of his teammates knew anything about golf before undergoing training sessions with head professional Josh White prior to the championship.
“One thing that made me nervous was the Rules of Golf,” said White. “I didn’t want any of the caddies getting their players in trouble with a Rules infraction. We also emphasized where to stand and things to do that wouldn’t cause any distractions.”
That hasn’t happened following two days of stroke-play qualifying.
“The guys learned very quickly and I don’t think we’ve had any complaints,” said Cartwright, a senior from Chandler, Ariz., who was paired with Isabella Fierro, of Mexico. “If you’re quiet and keep up it’s a pretty easy job.”
Young, a 6-foot-1, 275-pound redshirt freshman from Los Angeles, had never been on a golf course until last Saturday when he got paired with Logan Otter, of Saint Peters, Mo. He was quite surprised at the endurance it took.
“I didn’t know just how hard it was to walk 18 holes and carry the bag for about six miles each day,” he said.
Adding to the physical challenge was a conditioning workout at 6 a.m. followed by weightlifting at 7 a.m. before they made the 10-minute drive from the NAU campus to the club.
But while the field of play was much different, it did not take long for competitive instincts to kick in.
“I don’t think we feel so much pressure as it is we’re just more anxious for our golfer to do well,” said Cartwright. “That’s our main goal.”
Marshall, a redshirt freshman defensive back from Vancouver, Wash., has seen that happen better than any of his teammates. His player, Angel Yin, 15, of Arcadia, Calif., finished at 13-under 131 to earn medalist honors.
Amelia McKee was one of the more recognizable golfers among this year’s field, but not for her on-course portfolio. The 15-year-old from Paso Robles, Calif., sported a unique look with her socks. She wears one sock just short of her kneecaps and another that barely goes above her ankle. It’s something she started three years ago to honor two individuals born with Down Syndrome. One is a cousin and another is a good friend’s little sister.
“They are always treated differently because they are labeled as weird,” said McKee, who followed up a 72 with a disappointing 82. “Just because you’re different doesn’t mean you are any worse than anyone else. It’s mostly for them to show them it’s OK to be different.”
On Tuesday, McKee had a rainbow-stripe long sock with a pink lightning bolt. On Monday, her long sock spelled the word “Nerd.” McKee estimates she has more than 100 pairs of socks.
“We have this sock store a couple of miles from our house,” said McKee.
And apparently, the look is trending, at least at The First Tee chapter where McKee volunteers.
“The little ones I teach have started doing it, which is pretty funny,” she said. “I didn’t know they were going to do it and then four other little girls started doing it.”
Despite missing the match-play cut, McKee said her first USGA experience exceeded expectations, and given her motivation to qualify for the 2015 championship at Tulsa (Okla.) Country Club.
Given the summer temperatures in Oklahoma, McKee might need to find some moisture-free socks.
Odds And Ends
Ellen Takada, of Irvine, Calif., and Muni He, of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. – who got into the field on Saturday as alternates – each qualified for match play. Takada got in when Eun Jeong Seong became exempt due to her runner-up finish in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links. He took the other spot reserved for the WAPL finalists after champion Fumie (Alice) Jo declined the exemption … Meagan Rachey, of Waconia, Minn., withdrew Monday afternoon due to a back injury … Sisters Dominique (154) and Jacquelyn (156), of Rio Rancho, N.M.; and Catherine (162) and Caroline (169) Caudill, of Clarksville, Tenn., failed to advance to match play. Dominique Galloway was a quarterfinalist at last week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links at The Home Course in DuPont, Wash.
Tom Mackin is an Arizona-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites. David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.