Ed. note: This piece is the latest submission to Knockdown Presents, in which we're giving a platform to fresh new voices from around the golf world. For more on this venture, including how to submit your own stories, click here.
Caddyshack is ingrained in every golfer’s DNA. If you’re like me, you’ve painstakingly studied the film, relishing each and every Al Czervik zinger, Ty Webb witticism and Spaulding Smails bodily function. Caddyshack is the Rosetta Stone of golf-course humor. But the film’s comedic brilliance has overshadowed the golf skills of the men and women who call Bushwood Country Club home.
Nowhere is this more obvious than during the manic final hole of the climactic match. Since we’re never told how many strokes each player has taken to reach the green, the match’s outcome is somewhat unclear. Thanks to an explosive example of “rub of the green” and Lou’s role as referee trumping Rule 16-2, scrappy caddie Danny Noonan, golf bum Ty Webb and high-rolling Al Czervik emerge as the winners, at least financially thanks to Al’s side bet on Danny’s putt.
But given that Judge Smails insists he owes Al nothing, did Danny’s putt tie the match or give him a 1-up victory? This is one of Caddyshack’s enduring mysteries. The absence of a legitimate club champion raises an important question: Who really is the best golfer at Bushwood? Is it caddie tournament winner Danny Noonan? Or Ty Webb, with his Zen-infused mental game? What about reigning club champ Dr. Beeper? Is the best stick a slob or a snob? In search of answers, we pored over Caddyshack as if it were the Zapruder film, extracting every last clue. Here is the definitive power ranking of the golfers at Bushwood.
10. Spaulding Smails III
Quote that sums up his game: “Now I know why lions eat their young.”
Strengths: Youth, access to quality facilities and equipment.
Weaknesses: Horrible diet, hatred of the game, rampant drug use.
Estimated Handicap: 36+
Scouting report: Trainwreck. Consumes mostly backwashed cocktails and the contents of his own nose, and though he’s asthmatic he smokes a lot of pot. When playing with his grandfather, Judge Smails, he struggles just to make contact, at one point taking seven swings to advance the ball 20 yards. But for all of Smails’s physical limitations, his biggest problem is his lack of interest in the game. Terrible attitude + lack of natural ability = worst golfer at Bushwood.
9. The Havercamps
Quote that sums up their game: “Oh golly, I’m hot today.”
Strengths: Lifelong passion for the game.
Weaknesses: Brittle bones, limited flexibility, eroded muscle mass, diminished mental faculties, impending death.
Estimated handicaps: 36
Scouting report: Mr. and Mrs. Havercamp were likely teenagers when the Wright Brothers took flight. But despite battling osteoporosis and the march of time, the Havercamps are still out there getting after it. When Mr. Havercamp’s muscle memory kicks in he can still rip it; their caddy Tony D’Annunzio learns this lesson when he almost takes a balata to the dome from a line-drive off a tree. Like the rest of us, the Havercamps probably still think their best golf is ahead of them. Unlike the rest of us, it's probably from dementia.
8. Carl Spackler
Quote that sums up his game: “Gunga-galunga. Gungala gungula.”
Strengths: Possible caddying experience, access to quality facilities, deep knowledge of the game and course conditions.
Weakness: Possible mental illness.
Estimated Handicap: Anywhere from 36 to scratch
Scouting report: Spackler is an enigma. He claims to have done some caddying, he knows enough about the golf swing to understand the damage a sliced hamstring would do, he knows a bit about the Masters…but does he actually play golf? It’s possible that he’s spent so much time working on courses that he’s learned to mimic the swing and vernacular of the game. For example, when he’s imagining a “Cinderella story” at Augusta National, he’s rattling off clubs and distances like a child playing make-believe. “Cinderella story…comes out of nowhere to lead the pack at Augusta…he’s got about 350 yards left, he’s gonna hit about a 5-iron.” Even in Hollywood no one can hit a 5-iron that far. Still, ol’ Carl does have one of the prettiest swings at Bushwood, even if it's with a weed-whacker.
7. Al Czervik
Quote that sums up his game: “I tell ya, golf courses and cemeteries are the biggest wastes of prime real estate.”
Strengths: The best equipment money can buy. Cutthroat competitor.
Weaknesses: Lack of focus and athleticism.
Estimated handicap: 22
Scouting report: As a former Pebble Beach caddie, I’ve seen the likes of Czervik before. He’s a rich guy who only stops to play golf when he gets bored making money. Golf is just a way to self-identify as a member of the 1% while getting a little action on the side. Today he’d be playing PXGs. Czervik’s swing is a mess but he does have power, which he displays when he hits into the Judge’s foursome on the first hole. In the final match, though, Al is clearly out of his league and he knows it. When he shanks a tee shot off the ball washer right into his ulna, he jumps at the chance to get out of the bet. Al himself said it best: “I should have stayed home and played with myself.”
6. Bishop Pickering
Quote that sums up his game: “I could theoretically shoot the course record.”
Strength: A passion for the game of golf.
Estimated Handicap: 8
Scouting report: Bishop is a solid player. You have to be pretty incredible to come within one stroke of the course record during a biblical rainstorm, right? Let’s assume the course record is 63, give or take a stroke. Only a stud sporting a plus handicap could shoot a score that low. But upon further examination, it’s pretty clear what happened in his near-record breaking round. On another occasion, when the Bishop taps in on 18 and claims a “5,” his caddie, Motormouth, counts out a “9.” The man shaved four strokes off his score without batting an eye. Even Kim Jong Il would have been embarrassed by that kind of creative accounting. My guess is that the Bishop’s game is reminiscent of most high single-digit handicappers: His real score is in the mid 80s but with a breakfast ball and a few generous gimmes he’s happy to post a 79.
5. Tony D’Annunzio
Quote that sums up his game: “Noonan!”
Strengths: F.U. attitude and anger-fueled raw power.
Weaknesses: The “anger” part.
Estimated Handicap: 5.5
Scouting report: Sorry Tommy Gainey, but Tony D’Annunzio is always going to be my favorite Two-Gloved golfer. This kid is a hustler from the wrong side of town and he’s not taking s--- from anyone. Not only is he a dead ringer for Billy Horschel, they share the same tenacity. Fortunately Tony is able to transfer some of his aggression onto the golf ball, which is why the gallery at the caddie tournament whispers about his reputation as a “power hitter.” D’Annunzio fights tooth and nail in the prestigious event (maybe he just really needs a new pair of socks?), taking Danny down to the wire in what the Judge called an “excellent round.” Despite his indefensible choice of golfing attire — a long-sleeved blouse and shoes with heels — this kid is a grinder, plain and simple.
4. Ty Webb
Quote that sums up his game: Judge Smails: “How do you measure yourself against other golfers?” Ty Webb: “By height.”
Strengths: Time, money and a lifetime playing the game.
Weaknesses: Absolute head case.
Estimated Handicap: 7 a.m. Thursday: +3, 1 p.m. Sunday: 18
Scouting report: Al Czervik tells Ty Webb, “You’re an ace, everybody knows it.” That’s not entirely true — the one person who doesn’t know it is Ty Webb himself. He’s the anti-Patrick Reed. Although Ty can shoot 68 when it’s just him and Danny on the bag, he truly fears competition. He’s a loner who just wants to chill out, keep to himself and enjoy the sheltered life of a trust-fund man-child. In a vacuum, Ty is the best golfer at the club, but if you can’t deliver when the chips are down, what good is that? Even more damning is that the stakes in the final match versus Judge Smails should mean nothing to Ty; checks for tens of thousands of dollars are littering his home. Still, he’s so jittery he slams a car door shut on his hand proving he’s either incredibly nervous, wants an excuse for his impending failure or is so desperate to avoid the competition he resorts to self sabotage. Some of Ty’s inconsistency is due to bad mechanics. Like Bubba Watson, Ty is a feel player with a DIY swing. He’s got bad posture, a narrow stance, a dancing left foot and a super steep approach angle. He simply doesn't have a repeatable swing, or a head for golf.
3. Dr. Beeper
Quote that sums up his game: “Snake a tube down her nose and I’ll be there in four or five hours.”
Weaknesses: A career that keeps him off the golf course.
Estimated handicap: 2.5
Scouting report: As club champion three years running, Dr. Beeper is technically the man to beat at Bushwood. However, in the final match he just doesn’t deliver. If you’re steady with the remote control you’ll get a brief glance at the front nine scorecard, which puts him at two over. The Judge meanwhile is one under. The Judge also drains his clutch putt on 18 while Dr. Beeper’s stone-handed jab from 15 feet never scares the hole. The fact that he lets Danny and Ty get back into the match after having a massive lead at the turn also proves that he’s not a closer. He’s an excellent golfer, but lacks that killer instinct.
2. Danny Noonan
Quote that sums up his game: Ty: “What are you supposed to be?” Danny: “An underachiever.”
Strengths: Mental focus.
Weaknesses: Motivation and work ethic.
Estimated handicap: 2
Scouting report: Noonan has the sweetest swing in all of Bushwood. He’s got that classic 1970s “reverse-C” position reminiscent of Johnny Miller or Greg Norman. Danny has his moments of clutch play, none bigger than his winning putt against D’Annunzio in the caddie tournament; while many players on the PGA Tour go “full-Kanye” at the mere sight of a mobile phone, Danny drains a pressure packed putt with his competition screaming “Noonan!” in his face. However, Danny’s not doing himself any favors when it comes to his John Daly-esque lifestyle. His lunch consists of “a couple of burgers and four or five Cokes.” He’s having unprotected sex with everyone from the help to Lacy Underall and he does drugs “every day.” But Danny’s only a high-school kid so we’ll give him time to grow up. The only reason Danny isn’t the top-ranked golfer at Bushwood is because he left short the final putt to win the movie’s climatic match. Yes, in the end it goes in, but only thanks to extraordinary, extenuating circumstances. A true champion would never leave that putt short.
1. Judge Smails
Quote that sums up his game: Al: “I’ll shoot you 18 holes for $10,000.” Judge: “You’re on.”
Strengths: Will do whatever it takes to win.
Weaknesses: Ugly swing, ugly putting stroke, rabbit ears. No regard for the rules, though in his case that could be a strength.
Estimated handicap: 4 (+2 with money on the line)
Scouting report: Smails is as fidgety as Kevin Na, takes more waggles than Jason Dufner on a case of Red Bull and is moodier than a jetlagged Bubba Watson. But when it comes down to it, no golfer at Bushwood is more competitive, more tenacious, or has a stronger will to win than Smails. The Judge is a petty, bitter little man, and that makes him dangerous. He’s willing to cheat just to win. He’s never had a bad lie in his life thanks to a foot wedge that may be the best “club” in his bag (the possible exception is his ol’ Billy Baroo putter). In the biggest match of his life he put his money where his mouth is and delivered. When everyone else wanted out, the Judge wanted more action! His clutch, death-blow putt to win the match — or so it seemed — would leave most PGA Tour players pining for the safety of a job in the pro shop. The Judge and his golf game are not to be messed with. He truly is the most dangerous golfer at Bushwood.