JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — Charley Hoffman and his caddie Miguel Rivera were warming up on the driving range at Jacksonville Beach Golf Courseon Monday morning, one with a club in his hand, the other imparting the odd word or two of advice.
But on this bright, blustery day, at the 2007 Alex Alexander Caddie Classic, Rivera was the guy with the club in his hands, Hoffman the one standing directly behind him without a care.
Next to Hoffman, easy to miss under a cap and behind a pair of sunglasses, stood Ryan Palmer. He would be pulling clubs for his usual bag man James Edmondson, who was feverishly working on his iron game and digging a prodigious trench before the 9 a.m. shotgun start.
With the roles reversed, there was plenty of razzing at what was being called the Caddie's Major.
Hoffman: "Where you aiming, pro?"
Rivera: "At the 150 marker."
Hoffman: "Uh, I don't see a 150 marker, but okay."
Up and down the range men with names like Bucky, Fluff, Jelly and Hoss tried to work out the kinks. Some of the guys had a lot of game back in the day. Mike (Fluff) Cowan, who used to work for Tiger Woods before making a lateral move to Jim Furyk, played college golf and even hit an impressive bunker shot for a TV commercial back when he was more recognized than many Tour pros.
Each man in the field Monday paid $50 to play, plus $20 for the skins pot. Tour pro Robert Garrigus donated $3,000 to the purse, which went to pay for prizemoney, windshirts, four beverage tickets and lunch. The contestants included neither Jim (Bones) MacKay nor Steve Lucas, caddies for Phil Mickelson and Sean O'Hair, respectively, in the final group of the Players on Sunday.
The late Johnny Hart, who created the B.C. comic strip and designed the Pro Tour Caddies of America logo, started the tournament with B.C. Open tournament director Alexander in 1978. It used to be an Endicott, N.Y., gathering, but it's now like the U.S. Open in that it moves from site to site.
Some caddies on the course Monday were past their prime, but a few select caddies not only used to be players, they still are. Rivera played the mini tours and got around "Jax Beach" in 75 strokes Monday despite gusts of roughly 40-50 mph. But that wasn't good enough. Two players had come in at even-par 72, and after lunch they went out for a sudden-death playoff because, as Pro Tour Caddies president Dale McElyea announced, "We always play off the Championship Flight."
Hardly anyone else stirred from his seat at the 19th hole snack bar. There were raffle tickets to check, skins to pay off. No one had much energy after spending six hours in the vortex of so much wind and beer. Jeff Maggert's caddie Mark Miller stretched his legs and headed for the parking lot. He had a long drive ahead of him, to Fort Worth, Texas, for the Colonial.
"I think I'll catch the finish on XM Radio," he said.