Watching from the cart path, no longer on the bag : Advice and Observations preparing the junior golfer for no caddy tournaments.
An interview :
As junior golfers get older and move away from the US Kids Tour they are no longer allowed to have caddies on the bag. You have 1 child playing in longer distance, 2 day no caddy tournaments and 1 child still in the US Kids. Which scenario do you prefer ?
In some ways it is less stressful if you don’t caddy but at the same time it is difficult to watch bad course management decisions. At the point when they transition they are 12/13 years old and it is important to make bad decisions, see the results and learn from them. This is a time for learning and it is difficult to grow if you have a caddy always telling you what to do.
What do you think about as you walk and watch from the cart path ?
I look at his tempo and attitude. I try to figure out if there are dropped shots, or bad shots, what is causing them so they can be addressed later. I also try to remember good shots so I can remind him of them. Juniors need to try and ingrain good shots into their memory bank.
What are the rules governing spectators on the cart path ? Are you ever allowed to talk to your player ?
No advice can be given about the round. You can carry and provide snacks, drinks, sunscreen and bug-spray. They generally prefer spectators to stay on the cart path and keep at least 10 yards from players. They encourage spectators to be ahead and spot balls. The only time spectators are allowed on the course is to help find a lost ball to expedite play.
Do most kids carry their bag or use a push-cart ?
It depends on the age group. Middle-schoolers probably half push and half carry. In older kids about 90% carry. However there is a debate going on along the lines of why carry if you can push? Bryson DeChambeau always pushed all through college (NCAA Division 1 champion and US Amateur champion in the same year) and never cared about ridicule. The 2 times you may want to carry, however, are when you are required to by the course. Some courses don’t allow push-cars, like Sea Island. In this case make sure the bag is light and take out everything not essential on the course. You can carry extra balls etc. There are a bunch of good quality 2-5 lb bags out there which make a big difference. The other time you might want to carry is on a particularly hilly course.
These no caddy tournaments generally start when the junior player is in the 11-13 year old age group. At this stage are most players well equipped to make their own decisions on the course ?
It depends on their level of experience. As long as they have been playing tournaments with a caddy for a few years they should be fine. The no caddy tournaments are not good for inexperienced players. At a recent tournament in Sea Island 2 juniors shot scores of 120 and 160. That was not fun for them or anyone and not the right tournament for players of their experience level.
How do you deal with your own frustration when your junior shows lack of judgement or poor course management in a situation you would definitely have approached differently ?
You have to take the view that this is one of many tournaments. At the end of the day they are going to learn more making mistakes. This is not for the Masters! You have to have a stoic point of view. The only time I get upset is when my player has a bad attitude, or gets down, or displays irritation. This usually leads to bad shots and holes. For example, if he starts saying ‘are you kidding me?’ this then leads to a thigh slap, hat pull over face ….. that invariably triggers a double bogey ….. and riptide effect !
When your junior is young and has a dad or mom on the bag, how can that dad or mom best prepare the child to be confident in no caddy tournaments ?
It is important to encourage players to make their own decisions. Teach them how to approach the game and make sure they understand good golf etiquette. Coach them on how to conduct themselves on the course. A stoic approach to golf is important: it is what it is. Everyone has bad shots. Help the child to think about how to approach a shot without telling them exactly what to do. Emphasize routine and visualization.
Is this how you see most caddy / junior relationships ?
In general, experienced tournament players can play fine without a caddy. I feel that the over-coaching that is very prevalent in the younger age groups is counter-productive. I have seen many junior play much better when their own parent is not on the bag.
Do you think that your child watches you while you walk and watch from the cart path for subtle clues as to how you may be feeling or reacting to how he is playing ?
I think it is natural in most cases. About 90% of the time my player will look over to me whether it is a good or bad shot. Either to get validation or express frustration. I don’t think it is necessarily for my reaction but to make himself feel better. The trick is to try and keep a consistent emotional level. I try not to express too much excitement at a great shot. When he hits a bad shot I just smile and shrug my shoulders to try and convey ….. just move along.