Editor’s note: The following story was submitted to The Caddie Network by Foster Smith, a father who recently caddied for his teen son in the Connecticut Amateur Championship. Do you have a unique caddie story you’d like to share with us? Send us an email at email@example.com.
My name is Foster Smith and I recently enjoyed the incredible experience of caddying for my son, Calvin, in the 117th Connecticut Amateur Championship at Fox Hopyard Golf Club in East Haddam, Connecticut.
Calvin is a rising senior at Darien High School. The Connecticut Amateur Championship is open to any male in the state with a handicap index of 6.4 or less, who is either exempt into the championship proper or qualifies at one of four state-wide qualifiers. Calvin fell into the latter category, having shot a 76 a few weeks prior at the qualifier closest to us in Fairfield to earn his spot.
Maybe it’s the way junior golf is designed, where — as a parent — you only take in the sport as a spectator or maybe a forecaddie, or maybe not at all. But for this event, I was able to step into the role of caddie. Making things extra special, we drove up to play the course for the first time on Father’s Day, the day before Round 1.
Here’s the special note I received from Calvin inside my Father’s Day card:
And get it we did!
Monday, June 17
Monday was the first of two days of stroke play, where 120 players are battling over 36 holes to lock up a spot in the low 32, who advance to match play.
We were the second group off on Day 1 with a 7:40 a.m. tee time. We left the house at 5:40 a.m., arriving at about 7 to the course. The course is visually intimidating off the tee and has very large and incredibly undulating green complexes, playing 6,900 yards to a par of 71. The course rating of 74.1 speaks to its difficulty.
Calvin had a steady day and closed with a birdie to shoot a 4-over 75. Our father/son, caddie/player relationship had only a few bumps on Day 1, but was a success overall, as Calvin was tied for 18th when the round was complete.
Tuesday, June 18
Round 2 presented some serious challenges with weather, making the role of caddie all the more difficult. The bag was absolutely loaded with two sets of rain gear and two umbrellas. Before our 12:40 p.m. tee time, we had all of the gear on. Playing the back side first, Calvin played two shots to the par-4 10th before the horn blew as he was lining up his putt. The rain was coming down so hard the greens had begun to puddle and the course was deemed unplayable.
The CSGA had hoped to make a decision by 3:30 p.m., but then another big cell moved through, extending both the delay and their decision. After a more than 5-hour delay, play finally resumed at 6:20 p.m. We finished 7 ½ holes, marking our ball in 17 fairway. At that moment, Calvin was 2 over on day, and 6 over for the event. We were informed play would resume the next morning at 7.
Wednesday, June 19
My eyes opened at 3:58 a.m. even though the alarm was set for 4:30. Both of us had not gone to bed until well after midnight and were starting the long day ahead of us.
We pulled into the course around 6:10 and were indeed in position at seven, although play did not start until 7:30 as the maintenance crew had to finish preparing the entire course, as the previous day’s entire afternoon wave of players was on it. The goal Wednesday was simple — make the cut to match play.
My anecdotal formula for predicting the cut has always been whatever was inside the cut on Day 1, multiply by two and add one shot. This math would have suggested 11 over would be the number, so in my mind we had 10 ½ holes left and needed to play them in 5 over or less.
This is when my stress level began to elevate, as you literally feel the added importance of every marginal shot played. Calvin was cruising, playing the next 7 ½ holes even par, standing at 6 over for the event on the tricky, 90-degree dogleg, par-4 seventh (remember he started this round on 10 tee).
I wanted him to hit hybrid. He lobbied for 4-iron. We had hit hybrid Monday and had 7-iron into the green. He reluctantly took my advice but swung uncommitted, quick-hooking it into a tree with the ball ending up in two feet of fescue. This is where the fun began as there was no straightforward recovery shot. The lie itself was doable but there were thick vines and fescue around the ball and the club would have to travel through after impact. He needed to carry it 100 yards to cover the first penalty area, but travel no more than 130 to avoid the second.
We chose gap wedge and he made great contact, but the brush slowed the ball enough such that it carried 99 ½ yards, embedding in the penalty area, but not crossing the far red line. This was not good news, as his drop area put him in thick rough 230 yards from the hole, with water still in front of us, and all down the left side between us and the green. We were hitting 4.
His hand on a hybrid, I saw the whole event crashing down on us in these two minutes. I walked him off the ledge and convinced him to hit 8-iron so we could limit further damage. He hit a great shot, leaving a 60-yard pitch to the back left pin, tucked over a slope, teasing the players as it dangled near the water’s edge. He played it well, spinning down the slope to about 8 feet but the putt lipped out. Triple-bogey 7. We were now 5 over on day and 9 over for the tournament, with two holes to play.
After parring the par-3 eighth, we headed to nine, a medium-length par 4 with trouble left and a green that has three tiers. The pin was front, and the approach shot played uphill, such that any shot that landed short of the green would come back down a steep hill and leave a blind pitch shot.
Calvin piped a hybrid, and had 137 to the pin. We settled on wedge, which he hit well, but due to the uphill nature, it needed to carry closer to 143, which it did not. Landing on the fringe, we watched helplessly as the ball trundled back down the hill, into the primary rough about 15 yards below the green and hole. He hit a beauty of a pitch to about five feet directly above the hole. The putt for par was straight downhill. We talked about how easy to hit it, ensuring a two-putt, which in our minds would be inside the cut line. Stepping away, he took his stance, and calmly rolled it in, just dying it in the middle. A great putt and a bonus we thought. He was in the house at 75-76, for 9-over 151.
As we were grabbing lunch, we kept refreshing our phones, watching the cut line move as the remaining players’ scores were updated every three holes. The cut moved from 11 over, to 10 over, then one guy jarred a shot from the fairway on 17 which moved it to 9 over. We raced back to the course, wondering if 9 over would be a playoff. After everyone completed their round, it turned out 9 over made it right on the number. There were exactly 32 golfers at 9 over or better. Calvin was in!
That was the good news. The bad news was he would be seeded 30th and next up in match play was Brian Zito, the 3-seed, who had shot 69-74–143.
Our match was slated to begin on 10 tee, at 1:56 p.m. Yes, it is still Wednesday. Calvin got off to a steady start whereas Brian wobbled a bit out of the gate. After Calvin birdied 15 to go 3 up, Brian stiffed it on the difficult 17th for a conceded birdie. They tied 18 with birdies and Calvin made the turn, 2 up.
Both players had lengthy birdie putts on No. 1, on similar lines, over a ridge. Brian putted first to a few feet and Calvin stepped up and made a bomb.
Calvin played steady from there on out, closing out with a conceded birdie to win 5&3. A great end to a long day!
At that point, I was swelling with pride as Calvin putted beautifully and played 1 under for the match.
Next up was Christopher Delucia, a four-year player for UCONN (2008-11), the next morning at 8:24.
Thursday, June 20
As we all exchange pleasantries on the first tee, I meet Chris’s dad who is on the bag as well.
The rest of Chris’s family is also present to spectate. Our walking official is Mike Moraghan, Executive Director of the CSGA, and also former Men’s Golf Coach at UVA. This match is full of fireworks through the first eight holes, with each player birdieing three different holes, meaning their best ball was 6 under through eight. The match turned all tied up.
The pace slowed somewhat on the back as the weather reared its head again, and Calvin ended up with a 7-foot downhill bender on 17 to force the match to 18. He hit an amazing putt, which somehow stopped on the lip, ever so close to succumbing to gravity. Chris then calmly knocked in a 4-footer to win, 2&1.
Calvin’s run in the State’s top tournament came to an end in the Round of 16.
As we drove back home one final time, we reflected on the week that just was. And while he focused on the putt here or there that potentially could have changed the outcome, I was more whimsical on the moment in time that I got to share with my son, doing what he loves to do, and what I used to do at his age. He had just captured something that I never was able to, and I got to walk right alongside and be a part of it.
A Happy Father’s Day (week) indeed.