U.S. SENIOR AMATEUR
2013 Finalist Caddies for Brandes October 1, 2015 | Egg Harbor Township, N.J. By Tom Mackin

Pat O'Donnell (left), the 2013 runner-up, didn't qualify for match play at Hidden Creek, but was a big part of Thursday's final. (USGA/Chris Keane)

U.S. Senior Amateur Home

Pat O’Donnell of Happy Valley, Ore., knows what it’s like to reach the championship match of the U.S. Senior Amateur as a player. Now he knows what it’s like to caddie in one, too.

A runner-up to Doug Hanzel in 2013 at Wade Hampton Golf Club in Cashiers, N.C., O’Donnell helped out his friend Tom Brandes, of Bellevue, Wash., in Thursday’s final of the 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur at Hidden Creek Golf Club.

Although he did not qualify for match play, O’Donnell and his wife, Sue, had remained in the area to do some sightseeing. After noticing online that Brandes had advanced to the finals, O’Donnell reached out to him.

“He called me last night and said he was coming back for the finals,” said Brandes. “I got a sense that he wanted to do more than watch. So I said to him, let’s put a bib on you and we can misread those greens together.”

“He helped out wonderfully,” said Brandes after his 5-and-3 loss to Chip Lutz. “I just couldn’t help myself. He did great though.”

O’Donnell’s only previous caddieing experience came almost five decades ago as a teenager when he carried his dad’s bag on weekend mornings at Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland, Ore.

“I’m glad Tom had his cart and that I didn’t have to carry the bag,” said O’Donnell. “But I was running down the first fairway and said to Allen (Nagbe, caddie for Chip Lutz), I’m not going to run like this all the time.’ I’m almost 62 years old, after all. ”

Brandes had a few simple requests for his new caddie before the round. “I said I was going to go with the three ‘ups’,” he said “You’ve already showed up and I know you are going to keep up. As for the third up, unless I ask you about something, then you don’t need to say anything.”

“I teased him about that,” said O’Donnell. “I wasn’t going to really say a lot to him anyway. Tom knows his game.”

The two have competed with and against each other in their respective home states, notably as partners in the Senior Hudson Cup, a prestigious event that pits the top 10 amateurs against the top 10 professionals in the Pacific Northwest PGA section.  

“Every amateur and club pro in the Northwest wants to be on that Hudson Cup team,” said Brandes. “Pat and I have teamed up on that a few times. We’re respectful competitors who support each other.”

Brandes called his on-site supporters – who included his wife, Susan, brother, Dick, and a few other friends “Team Brandes.” He also noted the backing from afar: “It’s a great golf community in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve gotten tremendous support from fellow competitors and from my club [Rainier Golf Club]. They live vicariously through you.”

As a recent U.S. Senior Amateur finalist, O’Donnell knew exactly what to say to Brandes on the practice range before the final round. “He just said to me, ‘You’re good enough to win this thing,’ recalled Brandes. “That’s what I needed to hear.”

For O’Donnell, caddieing was much less stressful than playing. “I was just out there today watching good golf. You just want those putts to go in for your player. Tom just got out of sync on that first hole (an errant drive left him with an unplayable lie and he lost the hole). That’s not a great way to start your day. If Tom played his game, it would have been a good match.”

O’Donnell has had a stellar season of his own, winning his second consecutive Oregon Senior Amateur and the Oregon Golf Association Stroke Play championship.

So why would such a talented player offer to caddie for a fellow competitor?

“You’ve got to do it,” said O’Donnell. “We’re buddies. And he had given me a lot of razzing about how I didn’t have to qualify this year as a former finalist (who received a three-year exemption from qualifying). Now he will know what that is like.”

“I thanked him 100 times for caddieing for me – it would have been a lot colder, a lot wetter and a lot darker being by myself,” said Brandes.

New Jersey native Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to USGA websites. Email him at temackinjr@gmail.com

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