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Time with the pros: Amateurs—and a very green caddy—watch and learn from Blaine McCallister at Boeing Classic | Photo gallery
After only three holes as a caddy, Blaine McCallister fired me.
True, my time as an honorary media "caddy" was going to be up, anyway, on the ninth hole, but McCallister, leading a group of five amateurs in the Korean Air Pro-Am Thursday, Aug. 22, insisted I put in work and get a real sense of the job.
I polished balls, fetched clubs and hoisted flags well enough, if awkwardly. But when his real caddy, Todd Killingsworth, who's been with the Florida-based golf pro for five years, handed me the laser range-finder, I had a hard time figuring out which side was the business end.
Graceless on the green—I'm more at home photographing the game and staying out of the way than fetching and carrying—it was clear that caddying at this level is not for me. Even though I'd done this before for pro Larry Mize.
McCallister had his amateurs, a group of area golfers who paid for the right to play with a pro at the Boeing Classic, chuckling when he put an end to any of my caddy ambitions. My last chance was at the ninth hole, and I failed to redeem myself. My mistake was asking how he was going to deal with the sizable water feature between the tee and the hole.
"I didn't see the lake until you said that!" quipped McCallister. "I was focused on the green and the bunkers. All of a sudden, I'm looking at nothing but water! This is why you're not even an amateur caddy."
Just count me lucky that I didn't have to swim after any balls.
McCallister, 54, lives in Jacksonville, Fla., and has a home in Sun Valley, Idaho, where wildfires are burning a few miles from his place. Born in Texas and attended the University of Houston, where his college roommates included Fred Couples and future TV golf host Jim Nantz.
He's been on the Champions Tour for five years.
"The good news about this tour is, it's all the guys you've played with most of your career. The worst part is, they've all gotten better, too."
He and Killingsworth, the real caddy, compare distances and mental math.
"I always have to do a double check, so we're on the same wavelength," said McCallister. The last thing either man wants is the wrong yardage to the hole.
"Where do you read it? I think it's going that way," said McCallister, as they eye the lay of the land on the seventh hole.
The Tournament Players Course on Snoqualmie Ridge is a little different from McCallister's stomping grounds in Jacksonville, home to the PGA Tour, where, if you hit it into the rough, you might need a game warden to handle a big reptile, rather than a caddy.
"This is a very good course," McCallister said of the TPC, "not an easy course by any means. It's very deceiving how hard it can be."
His long-term goal is to improve his game, and McCallister pushes himself. Between shots, he chatted with amateurs about his favorite Seattle restaurants, the spread of wolves in Idaho, and shared game and equipment tips and tales.
The five amateurs enjoyed a bit of tour history, as McCallister shared with them how pro-amateur partnerships changed the game.
"I call it customer golf," said McCallister, who remembers how, before the rise of Pro-Ams, purses were smaller. "If you didn't have a Pro-Am, you didn't have a tournament."
While he joked that "They didn't get Fred (Couples), they got me," McCallister ensured the five enjoyed themselves and learned something about this level of the game.
"These guys get to see what it's like inside the ropes," he said. "I'll make sure they have a good time. By the time it's all over, they're gonna say, 'Man, that was a fun day.'"
• You can learn more about Boeing Classic action and get ticket info here.
Above, amateur Scott Dowling, in cart, shares a laugh with pro Blaine McCallister during Pro Am play together Thursday.