No 24 Lipping Out Rarer Than An Ace

Rarer Than An Ace

A one-in-a-million caddie disaster

Back in high school, I caddied at the Ridge at Back Brook in Ringoes, New Jersey. This mouthful of a course opened in 2002, and in a market saturated with private golf, the caddiemaster was desperate to fill his yard. Enter 15-year-old Shawn, boasting zero golf experience and shoulders barely able to accommodate a knapsack.

I was determined to make up for my lack of golf knowledge with hustle and charm. I raked bunkers, filled divots, fixed ball marks and cleaned clubs like my life depended on it. Soon enough, I’d established myself as a hardworking and humble kid, perfectly capable of pacing off yardages, and someone who should under no circumstances read your putt. And on a July afternoon along the 11th fairway, I provided a story they did not soon forget around the caddie barn. 

The Ridge is a Fazio cart-path special, and the back of No. 10 tee abuts the center of the 11th fairway. The standard protocol was for players to take their drivers to the 11th tee box with one caddie while the rest of us stood in the left rough to keep watch over their shots.

Coming off the 10th green, I handed my player—let’s call him Dean—his driver, and he tossed me a ball to clean. I was squeezing the ball in a wet towel while hustling into forecaddie position when the ball popped out of my grip and dropped through the top of Dean’s golf bag. I found my normal ball-watching spot and in a panic emptied Dean’s bag of clubs while the group’s drives flew toward us. With one eye tracking the drives, I flipped the bag upside down, spilled the ball out onto the ground, pocketed it and started frantically re-depositing Dean’s clubs. I looked up in time for him to tee off, the tink of his driver followed by a hearty “Fore!” call. 

His drive veered toward me like a heat-seeking missile. I picked the bag up and backpedaled toward the cart path. The ball whizzed in front of me with an audible zip and struck the spot with an earsplitting thwack where I was only fairly sure I had got all of Dean’s clubs back in his bag. Instead of bounding forward, the ball ricocheted backward nearly 10 yards.

I stared at the ball’s impact zone and saw metal shining in the rough. Lying there in ankle-deep grass was Dean’s sand wedge, cleanly split in two. I felt like I’d swallowed a bowling ball. I gingerly picked up a club fragment with each hand, as if it were some injured animal requiring tenderness in this moment of tragedy. Dread filled me as Dean and his pals walked up the fairway. Not only would I not get paid for the round, but I’d have to pay to replace Dean’s club, and I’d almost certainly be kicked out of the caddie program. As Dean closed in, I fought to keep my eyes from watering. My throat was so tight, I couldn’t speak; all I could do was sheepishly lift my arms, displaying the evidence of my crime, and await sentencing. 

“Is that… Is that one of my clubs?” Dean seethed. I nodded solemnly. I stammered through an explanation, and Dean took off his hat and rubbed his face. “Well,” he said, turning around to hit his second shot, “that’s fucking crazy.” 

Our walk up the 11th fairway felt like a funeral procession. The other caddies wouldn’t look me in the eye. Conversation between the players ceased. Dean was fuming. As we neared the 11th green, we could see that Dean’s approach had come up short, leaving him a 10-yard chip. 

“Hey, Dean,” called one of the other players. “Let’s see what you can do with that sawed-off sand wedge!” Dean couldn’t help but grin. He looked over at me and chuckled, “Guess it’s a good day to practice with the lob wedge.” And just like that, things snapped back to normal. As I cleaned his 13 remaining clubs after the round, Dean pressed a wad of $20 bills into my hand. I tried to protest. He patted me on the shoulder and said, “Don’t worry about it. Accidents happen. And it’s a hell of a story. Plenty of guys make a hole-in-one, but that ball hitting that club? One in a million.”  

Shawn Woodhull works in corporate finance in Oakland, California. He’s been a Broken Tee Society member since 2021.