Jessica Shepley with her caddie, 'Bully' Duarte, shortly after he participated in a caddie race at the 14th hole. Duarte turned 67 on Sunday.
As his sister signed autographs for fans at the gates of the 18th hole at Highland Meadows Golf Club, Chris Lewis wiped the sweat from his brow and began to untie his white bib.
Then, he reached over to tend to the heavy golf bag he had toted for the previous four days during the Marathon Classic. Lewis unzipped the multi-compartment bag to expose many tools of the trade — tees, golf balls, irons, drivers, a practice apparatus his sister, Amelia, uses and even a few empty water bottles in compartment for garbage.
“Yep,” Lewis said. “There’s even some trash in there.”
Sorting through a golf bag that can weigh more than 40 pounds is a fraction of the grunt work that comes with being a caddie on the LPGA Tour. And recycling duties are only a small part of a caddie’s responsibilities.
A golfer’s caddie is part consultant, part psychologist, part coach and part confidante.
“You’ve got to keep the player focused and relaxed at the same time,” Lewis said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of physical work involved, with carrying the clubs and whatnot, and helping them select the clubs they choose and what club to pick to go into the green and helping them read putts. It’s kind of a mix between a bag-carrier, a psychologist and a golf guru.”
Lewis has caddied for his sister for the past four summers, including the LPGA stop this weekend in Sylvania. He’s studying international business at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., and enjoys the perks of being a part of the LPGA Tour. After his sister finished tied for 19th on Sunday in the Marathon Classic, the Lewises boarded a plane for the United Kingdom, where Amelia Lewis prepares to play in the upcoming Ricoh Women’s British Open.
Chris Lewis doesn’t plan to caddy full-time after he graduates from Rollins. However, Ka “Bully” Duarte has made it into a career. In his 25th year of caddying, Duarte spent Sunday — his 67th birthday — toting the clubs and offering expertise to Jessica Shepley, who finished tied for 58th in the Marathon Classic.
“People don’t really see the communication you get between a player and a caddie,” Duarte said. “My job is to make sure that I get yardages, and that she depends on it. If I’m wrong, then it’s bad. I have to not make mistakes.”
Duarte began caddying in his native Hawaii when he was 10 years old, where he also grew up golfing. When he reached a point where his health didn’t allow him to golf full-time, Duarte turned to another aspect of the game.
“I still loved the game, and I just kept on going,” said Duarte, who travels for nine months of the year to work with professional golfers. “I love meeting people. To me, that’s what it is.”
Caddying isn’t for the faint of heart, though a notable name has taken on spot duties.
Earlier this month, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton caddied for PGA golfer Ryan Palmer at the Greenbrier Classic in White Sulfur Springs, W.Va.
“This is a little unique in that it's a [PGA] event,” Payton said in a transcript posted on neworleanssaints.com. “I understand and completely appreciate that this is game week, and I know what game week feels like for me in the fall and I know what it will feel like for him and what it does feel like for all these golfers. Just to be invisible as a caddie and do your job and be supportive, those are the things that I look at as being important for me this week.”
Added Palmer, “Just shut up and keep up, that's it.”
“That's right,” Payton said.
Last month at the U.S. Women’s Open, Jessica Korda fired her caddie, Jason Gilroyed, in the middle of the third round and brought her boyfriend, Johnny DelPrete, in to caddie for her for the remainder of the tournament.
“We had a couple of disagreements here and there, and I wasn't in the right state of mind,” Korda told reporters after the round. “I knew I needed to switch and just have a little bit more fun out there.”
Korda shot a 5-over 40 on the first nine holes and finished the third round at a 4-over-par 76. She finished the tournament tied for seventh with Brittany Lang.
“The caddie out there is the only person you can talk to,” Chris Lewis said. “If you’re uncomfortable with them, then you’re uncomfortable out there.”
On Sunday, Lewis was clearly comfortable. In fact, he and his sister coordinated clothing for the final day of the Marathon Classic. Amelia Lewis wore a red-white-and-blue patterned skirt, and Chris Lewis wore matching shorts.
“We alternate,” Lewis said, grinning. “Sometimes we wear matching shirts. Today, it was matching bottoms.”
It’s just another part of a caddie’s responsibilities.
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.