PGA, Colonial say goodbye to caddie races

Posted Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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engel Not even sure how to begin, other than to express pure sports apoplexy. Everyone at the PGA Tour should be fired. Today. Now. Don’t even clean out your desks; just go home and be replaced by someone with a brain. Or a sense of humor.

Other than the drinks and the people-watching, one of the best reasons to attend the Colonial golf tournament at the old club in the greatness that is Fort Worth, Texas, every year is the thrill of the caddie race. Since before the dawn of man, the caddie race has endured.

Now, it is no more. The PGA Tour is banning caddie races at Colonial and at the TPC Scottsdale.

PGA Tour, meet our middle finger. This is horrendous. Stupid. Needless. Self-important. It also reeks of some pencil-pushing loser justifying his or her salary with a rule that no one wants or needs, not to mention plenty of fear of litigation with a hefty dose of corporate kisseys.

The reason? Safety. No. Not kidding.

PGA Tour exec Andy Pazder told Rex Hoggard of The Golf Channel: “We have advised the folks at Colonial and out in Phoenix to discontinue the caddie races. It was a situation where we developed a little concern about caddies’ safety. Running 150 yards puts caddies at risk for injury.”

Colonial tourney director Michael Tothe issued a statement: “In keeping on brand with our title sponsor Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts and their message of providing a better night’s sleep, and to support the PGA Tour’s wishes, we are putting the caddie races to bed. Good night caddie races; it’s been fun.”

This breaks my sports heart, especially coming from someone I like.

This smacks of corporate lackeyism, not to mention the fear of liability.

What Tothe should be arguing to the PGA is that because the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and the best Euro names won’t come to town, he needs something to sell. He could sell the novelty of the caddie race, complete with T-shirts, hats and slogans.

As anyone who has ever attended the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in May knows, No. 13 — “the party hole” — is a highlight not only for its alcoholic beverage possibilities and scores of augmented cleavage (not a criticism) and people trying too hard to be 18 again but also for the caddie race on the par-3 shot.

People cheer. People make noise. People post fun wagers on the “race.” They have fun watching the caddies do something they never, ever get to do — be the center of attention for a few seconds in trying to reach the green first.

None of these guys actually pulls a Usain Bolt and takes this so seriously that he is going to get injured in something that is voluntary. If he does, shame on him for being so stupid.

TCU grad, longtime Fort Worth resident and PGA pro J.J. Henry believes that this decision is not about Colonial’s caddie races but about the mad dash at No. 16 at the Phoenix Open, which, from what he describes, is a zoo.

“It got a little crazy at the tournament in Phoenix with guys running up the hill and falling all over each other and clubs flying. It’s crazy with 20,000 people screaming and drinking all day,” he said in a phone interview.

“Living in Fort Worth and having gone to Colonial for 20 years, the caddie race is one of the unique aspects to the 13th hole. The players liked it, too.

“Until caddies are scripting stuff like, ‘We’ll all jump on the green at the same time.’ Let’s be honest: Golf is not a heavyweight title fight. We are entertainers and part of that is you interact with fans. I’ve never seen it get out of hand, but all it takes is one situation. Personally, I’m disappointed.”

In retrospect, it’s rather sad that this is how boring golf can be. Spectators are forced to create excitement by watching to see whether the guy who carries the golf clubs can reach the green first, on foot.

Now the PGA Tour has stepped in, all in the name of safety, and removed this fun experience for the caddie and spectator — which means we are all forced back to the margarita machine before we hurry to the 19th hole.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @macengelprof

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