The Other Pocket

A caddie's chance to be part of the game's history

I was returning the final bag to its place on the rack when I heard Marty say, “I’ve got a task for us today, Willie.” It was a rainy Thursday in July of 2002 at Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield, New Jersey. None of Marty’s tasks were ever particularly thrilling: rearranging bags, cleaning out storage, washing range balls or, maybe, if I was lucky, regripping clubs. But this one seemed different. 

Marty drove me to the main clubhouse, a sanctum that my fellow caddies and I were rarely allowed to enter, as evidenced by my immediate scolding from the general manager when I forgot to remove my hat. Marty ushered me to a set of steps that I didn’t even know existed. We emerged into the dusty attic of the clubhouse, where a small desk sat tucked amid old holiday decorations and boxes. Marty pulled up some chairs and handed me two sheets of paper: one with names I recognized— Fast Eddie, Big Charlie, Neddy—and one with those I didn’t—Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lincicome. Our task for the afternoon became clear: Marty and I were to pair our club’s caddies with each of the 64 competitors in the field for next week’s U.S. Girls Junior Championship, to be held at our course. 

There are good caddies and bad caddies; we had both. The trick was to match the good caddies with the best players, and Marty was set in his opinion of the contenders. Every so often, he’d ask me to confirm a caddie’s skills before assigning them, and as we made our way toward the end of the list, my name stayed unspoken. Finally, only one caddie remained. Marty looked up. 

“Willie, this girl is going to win the tournament. I’m assigning you to take her bag.” Looking at the list, I saw the name “I. Park.” As was typical, I didn’t ask Marty any questions and dutifully accepted my assignment. 

The Other Pocket Lipping Out No. 25
Inbee Park walks with a different caddie during her 2008 U.S. Women’s Open win. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

When I found out that Inbee Park was a 14-year-old, playing in an event against mostly 18-year-olds, I began to wonder if Marty was punishing me. That thought vanished the second I stepped onto the driving range and witnessed this young woman producing the same balanced, pure, rhythmic swing that is now idolized and copied across the golf world. 

I was determined to help her however I could: walking off distances, making note of hazards, pointing out landing areas and, most of all, reading greens. She was already the best putter I had ever seen, which made picking out a line all the more harrowing because I knew that she’d send the ball directly along the path I chose. She spoke mostly Korean, and we communicated by pointing, facial expressions and writing out numbers on a yardage book. After she missed a putt in the first round because she didn’t trust my line, her coach/interpreter came up to me: “I told her to putt it exactly where you say from here forward.” Game on. 

I realized we had the potential to do something special, and I was fully invested. She won medalist honors in stroke play. Other than one match going to extra holes, she ran through the match-play portion and took the title with ease. She never said much, but when speaking with the media behind the 18th green, she offered, “And I’d like to thank caddie Will for all his help this week.” We then exchanged what I thought would be a final handshake and hug. 

But before I could leave, her coach came over and handed me a piece of paper with an AOL email address on it. He said that she had some important tournaments coming up and would be turning pro in the coming years—and they wanted me to caddie for her. I was a high school senior with my sights set on college and beyond, so I didn’t give the offer much consideration. I don’t even know what happened to that paper with the email address on it. It may have fallen through the hole I had in the pocket of those pants. 

Inbee Park went on to become the No.1 women’s player in the world on four separate occasions, earn seven major championships including the career grand slam, win a gold medal in the Olympics and amass more than $18.2 million in career earnings. Sometimes I’ll watch her bury another long putt on TV and wonder how my life would have changed if I had put that piece of paper in my other pocket.

Will Schnorr Inbee Park The Other Pocket No. 25
Evidence of the author’s triumphant loop. Photo courtesy of Will Schnorr

Will Schnorr is a facility engineer at the University of Virginia and lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. He’s been a Broken Tee Society member since 2022.