Caddie Network

COVID Caddie Diary: Observations from Day 1 of the new normal

scott sajtinac, jason dufner
Caddie Scott Sajtinac, left, admits that while Monday was different at Colonial, it didn’t waver from what players and caddies anticipated in this new normal. Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s note: Periodically, Scott Sajtinac — caddie for Jason Dufner and president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies — will be filing a diary to give you an inside look at life as a caddie during these uncertain times. This is his first entry, written after his first full day back to work at the Charles Schwab Challenge, which marks the restart of the 2019-20 PGA Tour season that came to a screeching halt 12 weeks ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alfred Hitchcock said, “there’s no terror in the bang, only the anticipation of it.”

I have to say I was a little anxious about the build-up of Monday, not really knowing what to expect on the first day back in the PGA Tour’s return to golf. Seeing folks I hadn’t seen in a long time. All of us coming from some sort of hibernation from our sport, our jobs, our day to day lives. I’ve seen very few for three months, how will people be? How are we the first big-time pro sport back? Did I bring my hand sanitizer?

I was excited for sure, getting back to work is something I’ve longed for. I love what I do and I wanted back at it. But Monday, the first day of school of sorts, was quite uneventful. And I’m glad it was.

It sounds pathetic to to admit the COVID-19 nose swab test is what I feared most. The very idea gave me the shivers and I only added fuel to the fire by watching YouTube videos on the procedure.

RELATED: Check out our COVD Caddie Blog with daily updates from the Charles Schwab Challenge

The practitioner wore cargo shorts. Nothing wrong with cargo shorts, other than they should never be worn by anyone other than Boy Scout leaders, but I certainly don’t want my medical practitioner about to shove something up the proboscis wearing them. I prefer scrubs to be honest.

He assured me it wouldn’t be bad, maybe my eyes would water a bit. At that moment I thought of the story my good buddy told me a couple days ago trying to comfort me in my time of pre-swab jitters. “Hey man, it’s the anticipation of it that’s the worst part.”

“Just think”, he said, “babies wouldn’t fear the test. If you were a baby and you had no knowledge of what the test is, it’s no big deal, right?”

As cargo shorts was about to shove a swab up the nostril, I closed my eyes, clenched the jaw, and I thought, “they do this shit to babies?”

He was right though. The test was quick and easy and painless. The result gets pushed straight to an app on our phones. Negative popped up on my phone app 90 minutes after the test and I headed to the golf course.

Monday is a pretty quiet day in general on Tour, even with crowds. Only the purist of golf nerds show up on a Monday to watch the guys grind out a practice session. To be frank, it felt like just any other Monday.

Registration and collecting IDs and access badges was obviously a more regimented system, social distancing a must. Digital temperature checks on arrival. A health survey to be completed. X marks the spot where to stand at all times. All things we were educated about pre-arrival and played out in our minds weeks before. Familiar Colonial faces we only see once a year, waving too from 6 feet.

Was it odd? Sure, but we all know what this is and we know what we need to do. It didn’t take anything away from the feeling of seeing old friends. It wasn’t tough to navigate any of the intricate PGA Tour protocols in place to keep the event safe. Big credit to the PGA Tour for making this feel pretty much like any other Monday.

Off to the putting green to do our putting drills we went. It was hot as balls as out there. The Texas sun was beating down and our practice session was effective and efficient. We did what we needed to do, an hour or so of putting drills, a few buckets of balls, an hour of short game and we got out of dodge. Duf is too wily to waste energy on a Monday, even after three months off. It was hot and it’s only going to get hotter as the week goes on. There will be weak knees out there this week, and we are doing our best not be one of them.

Can’t wait to see the golf course. Colonial is arguably the best we play all year.

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