Pebble Beach caddies tell all! Scariest shots, toughest reads, U.S. Open picks and much more

June 7, 2019

For the Pebble Beach caddie corps, just another day at the office is just another day in paradise. Which isn’t to say they don’t work their tails off. Here, in their own words, six veteran Pebble loopers reveal the iconic U.S. Open site’s toughest greens, scariest shots and the “worst” parts of the job…

Josh Warthen
Age: 38
Handicap Index: +3
Lowest Pebble score: 69…“but I can go deeper than that.”
Other pursuits: Seven mini-tour victories. Regained his amateur status in 2015, and last year competed in the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach.
First year at PB: 2016
Loops per year: 250
Toughest green to read: “Eighteen. It has a very subtle ridge through the left-center. At Pebble you think, ‘Oh, everything breaks toward the ocean,’ and mostly it does. But because of that little hump, you’ll have putts that go away from the water.”
Toughest club to pull: “It has to be seven. With any wind at all, you can get tricked very quickly.”
Nerviest shot: “That tee shot on hole one, people are very nervous. They’ll come over to me and be like, ‘Man, I’m really feeling it.’ And it often shows!”
Worst part of the job: “Getting past the fact that sometimes you’re just a caddie. You’re going to work for people who don’t remember your name, who don’t want to form a relationship with you. That was the hardest part for me, because I want to be friends with everybody.”
U.S. Open prediction: Jim Furyk
Favorite backdrop — No. 16: “I love a little par 4 with some shape, and something about that second shot down the hill is just really cool. I’m a huge fan of trees, and Pebble Beach has lost a lot of trees over the years. To me, that little grove of oaks, the way they hang over and shadow the green, it’s a special spot.”

Josh Warthen
All portraits by Shaughn and John

Nick Galante
Age: 41
Handicap Index: 5
Lowest Pebble score: 77
Other pursuits: Has a successful career as a race car driver, having won the IMSA SportsCar Challenge series championship two of the last three seasons.
First year at PB: 2000
Annual loops: 150
Toughest green to read: “There’s two spots on 18 green that break away from the ocean, while most of the rest of the green does go toward the water. And it’s the final memory the guests will have, so you want to get it right.”
Toughest club to pull: “The second shot on nine. It’s downhill, downwind, you’ve got to clear the bunker but hold the green, usually from 200 or 210 yards.”
Best part of the job: “Having a different boss every day and trying to figure out in a short time their idea of a perfect caddie.”
Worst shot witnessed: “On No. 16, there is a road with a little curb that cuts across the fairway. Once a year someone hits their drive really thin, and the ball hits that curb and bounces back behind the tee box.”
U.S. Open prediction: Rory McIlroy
Favorite backdrop — No. 4 fairway: “The first three holes plus the drive on four look like just a normal, tree-lined course. Then you get to the fourth fairway and it’s a full view of the ocean. The beauty smacks you in the face, and that’s when you know this course is about to get amazing.”

Nick Galante

Joe Mayer
Age: 49
Handicap Index: +1
Lowest Pebble score: 67
Other pursuits: Has caddied in dozens of PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions tournaments; works as a swing instructor on the side.
First year at PB: 2009
Annual loops: 230
Toughest green to read: “I don’t think any of them are that tough, honestly. But for guests it can be. I have what I call the Really Counter. All day long, you give guests the line and they’re, like, ‘Really?’ The record for one round is 11 reallys.”
Nerviest shot: “The tee shot on one. They’ve probably made their tee time six months earlier, and not a day has gone by that they didn’t think about playing Pebble. By the time they get to the first tee, they’re a wreck.”
Worst shot witnessed: “One time there was a wedding in the house right off the 14th tee. The bride and groom were on the deck taking pictures. My guy hits his drive dead — right off the toe and rips it right at the bride. I thought he was going to kill her. Luckily, it hits her right in the dress. There’s so much padding I don’t think she even felt it, but it made that sound like a baseball hitting a catcher’s mitt. My guy — an FBI agent — was so shaken up he didn’t touch a club for two holes.”
U.S. Open prediction: Tiger Woods
Favorite backdrop — No. 15 back tee: “It’s the best view on the golf course, looking back toward the ocean. The way the sky and the water frame the sixth hole, there’s something magical about it.”

Joe Mayer

Casey Boyns
Age: 63
Handicap Index: Scratch
Lowest Pebble score: 68
Other pursuits: Won the California State Amateur in 1989 and ’93, both times at Pebble Beach. Played in the 2012 U.S. Senior Open.
First year at PB: 1981 (though he looped at the 1967 Crosby Clambake as a 12-year-old)
Annual loops: 200
Toughest club to pull: “The shot into 11 isn’t very far, but it’s uphill, the wind is against you, the green is very narrow and anywhere but the far left side of the fairway is a horrible angle.”
Nerviest shot: “I’d say 18 tee. It’s really not that hard a hole, but people freak out when they see the ocean. They hit it O.B. dead right more than they do in the ocean.”Best part of the job: “It’s golf. It’s outdoors. The people are fun. The money. I like it all.”
Worst part of the job: “The physical part. Or sometimes you get a difficult person. I’ve learned how to deal with that over the years. I try to keep things positive and ease the situation — I just admit I was wrong, even if I wasn’t.”
U.S. Open prediction: Brooks Koepka
Favorite backdrop — No. 6 green: “I call it the Mt. Everest of Pebble Beach. It’s a tough hill to climb, but what a view: Carmel Bay, Point Lobos and the Santa Lucia foothills. You can’t beat that.”

Casey Boyns

Kevin Price
Age: 45
Handicap Index: Scratch
Lowest Pebble score: 71
Other pursuits: Chief Investment Officer at Interlake Capital Management, a money management firm; 121-22 in seven seasons as a head basketball coach at the high-school and middle-school levels.
First year at PB: 2015
Annual loops: 60
Toughest green to read: “Eleven, because of the degree of slope. You have to match up speed and line just right.”
Toughest club to pull: “Gotta be No. 7. It’s obviously steeply downhill, and usually downwind. Most people don’t trust how short that shot really plays, especially if there’s any wind helping. I see a lot of shots sail over that green. You say it’s playing 70-75 yards, and everyone still wants to hit pitching wedge.”
Nerviest shot: “The approach shot at eight. It’s so visually intimidating, and the prevailing wind wants to push the ball right, into the ocean. People’s pulses quicken a bit.”
Worst part of the job: “Being out on arguably the greatest course in the world for four-and-a-half hours and not getting to hit a shot. It’s torture!”
U.S. Open prediction: Francesco Molinari
Favorite backdrop — No. 5 back tee: “As a player, it’s my favorite tee shot. It’s just a heroic shot, over the creek to a small, reverse Redan green, with nowhere to miss. And you have a great view of the cliff on No. 6. Just the whole environment and moment is really special to me.”

 

Kevin Price