From Tour player to revered caddie – the story of ‘Last Call Lance’
He is known for his unique nickname and for pulling a rare double-shift on the PGA Tour. Lance Ten Broeck also should be known for being a darn-good caddie and an even better player.
One of the more colorful characters in golf, Ten Broeck — otherwise known as “Last Call Lance” — caddies these days for Hall of Famer Ernie Els when he’s not beating PGA Tour players in practice rounds at high-end clubs such as the Medalist or Old Palm.
At 62, Ten Broeck still has plenty of game. He nearly shot his age, a 62, at last year’s PGA Tour Champions q-school, despite that being his second job behind looping.
He led the 2012 U.S. Senior Open at the halfway point (finishing ninth) and last year made it past local qualifying for the U.S. Open. His goal remains to be the oldest player to tee it up in a U.S Open. He played in seven U.S. Opens, the only major he qualified for.
Ten Broeck has been playing golf for a half century and the sport has enabled him to carve out a decent living, though there have been times when his bank account was less than his handicap.
He is a golf lifer who knows no other way to make a few bucks. Els has become a part-time player, but that’s fine for Ten Broeck, who grew up in a golf-playing family in Chicago and resides in Singer Island, Fla.
“I love having my days off,” Ten Broeck said. “I’ll play golf, maybe do some gambling and have a few drinks. That’s a great day for me.”
Ten Broeck is old school, with a gravelly voice and skin that has taken a pounding from the sun. He’s also done some damage to his body at night, but more on that later.
Ten Broeck played his first event on the PGA Tour in 1975 at age 19, finishing T49 at the U.S. Open while earning All-America honors at the University of Texas. Thus started a career that has had far more downs than ups.
It took him five more years until he made it to the PGA Tour in 1980, three years after he turned professional. He played at least 14 tournaments in 12 seasons, compiling a journeyman record: 355 starts, 11 top 10s, 49 top 25s, more cuts missed (186) than made (162) and career earnings of $790,347 – less than what a guy makes for finishing second in a major or World Golf Championship event.
“I probably didn’t have enough confidence, but it’s hard to have confidence when you’re not playing well,” Ten Broeck said. “And when I played badly, I didn’t want to play.”
Ten Broeck won one event, the 1984 Magnolia Classic, but that wasn’t considered an official victory because it was played the same week as the Masters. His best finish in a PGA Tour event was second at the 1991 Chattanooga Classic, earning him a career-best paycheck of $75,600.
“I played a bunch of golf with Lance when he was in Austin,” Tom Kite said at the 2012 US. Senior Open, when he was a shot behind Ten Broeck after 36 holes. “He has had so much talent for so many years and in a lot of people’s minds, didn’t take advantage of all the talent that he has.”
In 1999, out of playing status and cash, Ten Broeck was asked by Jesper Parnevik to start caddying for him. Ten Broeck had nothing to lose because, well he had almost nothing.
Their first event together was in Greensboro … and Parnevik won!
“Couldn’t have happened at a better time,” Ten Broeck said. “I was dead broke.” (He earned $46,800 — 1/10th of the winner’s share).
This caddying gig proved to be quite a mulligan. Parnevik would win four of his five career PGA Tour titles with Ten Broeck during their decade together on the golf course.
“What made Lance such a good caddie for me was he had this sixth sense when I was about to mess up,” Parnevik said. “He would know when I was anxious or uncertain about a shot. So I would play a safer shot or lay up. And he was always very into it, whether I had a chance to win or finish tied for 50th. I always respected him for that.”
Off the course, there was plenty to like about spending time with Ten Broeck. Hence, his nickname, “Last Call Lance.” Here’s the real story on how he acquired the sobriquet, thanks to former caddie Jeff “Boo” Burrell. It happened when Ten Broeck was playing in the 1980 Pensacola Open at Perdido Bay.
“Jeff used to make football bets with me and I would phone them in to the bookie,” Ten Broeck said. “He came into my hotel room Sunday morning and there was a guy sleeping on the floor in a bartender uniform. Jeff said, ‘Who the heck is that?’
“I had gone to Rosie O’Grady’s the night before and I needed a ride home. I had to stick around for last call for the bartender to give me a ride home. So Jeff started calling me ‘Last Call Lance.’”
(Two things of note: Ten Broeck shot a 1-over 72 later Sunday to finish T55 at Pensacola; he has no idea of the bartender’s name.)
Almost four decades later, the nickname lives on in PGA Tour lore, especially among the veterans.
“Most people now don’t know me by that nickname,” he said. “A lot of people use it in a degrading way, but it doesn’t bother me. Some people who call me that nickname don’t know me well enough to do that, if you know what I mean.”
Parnevik can use that nickname without getting a stare from Ten Broeck. They’ve spent a night, or 20, together sharing drinks.
“He would sit down and ask for a vodka-and-cranberry and tell the guy, ‘Keep ‘em pouring and easy on the cranberry,’” Parnevik said with a laugh. “He was always a great guy to be with. Whenever we traveled, there were always people who knew him. He had best friends at every place we played. That says a lot about Lance.”
Ten Broeck saved his most noteworthy performance on the PGA Tour for one of his last, the 2008 Texas Valero Open. Because he had made 150 cuts on tour, he was savvy enough to register for upcoming events in the off chance a player withdrew and there wasn’t an alternate on site.
That’s exactly what happened at La Cantera. After carrying Parnevik’s bag during an opening even-par 70, Ten Broeck learned he was in the field after David Berganio WDed.
There were a couple of logistical issues: Ten Broeck wasn’t wearing the required long pants, he didn’t have his own clubs and, oh, yeah, he had lived up to his nickname the night before, downing more than a dozen cocktails at a nearby Kona Grill.
No problem: Ten Broeck dashed to nearby Dillard’s to buy pants, he borrowed Richard S. Johnson’s clubs, Tag Ridings’ putter, David Duval’s shoes, Lee Janzen’s glove and Parnevik’s used balls from the morning round.
With that rag-tag set and virtually no warmup, Ten Broeck shot 71, amazingly. The second round brought about different complications because his morning round overlapped with Parnevik’s and Johnson’s.
He put together a bag that included Johnson’s backup irons and 3-wood, Fredrik Jacobson’s wedges and a hybrid from Glen Day. Playing with 13 clubs, he made five birdies while shooting a 70 that was just above the cut line.
He then had to dash off to catch up with Parnevik (Ten Broeck’s son, Jonathan carried Jesper’s clubs the first five holes). When Lance arrived, Parnevik had one question: “What did you shoot?”
Parnevik shook his head in amazement. But there was one advantage to his caddie showing up late.
“We were looking at a putt we disagreed on and I told him it goes right to left,” Ten Broeck said.
Parnevik: “How do you know that?”
Ten Broeck: “Because I just had it!”
How many caddies on the PGA Tour can use that kind of first-hand knowledge?
Ten Broeck missed the cut by two strokes, but what he had done was something usually read in a Dan Jenkins novel.
“Guys bring in their instructors, mental coaches and practice 10 hours a day and he beats half the field hung over and tired,” said Parnevik, who finished three shots behind his caddie after a 74.
Said Ten Broeck: “I don’t think it was embarrassing for me to beat Jesper, but I think it was a wakeup call for him. ‘If my dang caddie is beating me using a rental set ….’”
Ten Broeck’s only regret was not making the cut. It wasn’t like he was high-fiving everyone afterward.
“It’s kind of hard to celebrate two missed cuts,” he said.
Ten Broeck also spent significant time caddying for Jacobson, Robert Allenby and Tim Herron before moving on to Els. Asked if Ten Broeck was/is a better player or a caddie, Parnevik thought for a second.
“I will say this,” Parnevik said, “Every time we play together, he makes between five to eight birdies. He has somewhat of an unorthodox swing, but he can still play.”
Ten Broeck, who has the one top 10 and four top-25s in 28 career starts on the PGA Tour Champions, insists he’s a better player in his 60s than he was in his 20s.
“Without a doubt,” he said. “I figured a few things out by listening to lessons some of my guys have gotten and watching what’s going on with current swings. I see tendencies – everybody seems to miss the putt or a shot in certain spots.”
Asked if he could choose between playing a full schedule on the PGA Tour Champions or caddie for a top-50 player on the PGA Tour, Ten Broeck didn’t hesitate.
“I’d choose playing, even if I play like a chump,” he said. “I like to play, I like to compete.”
If Ten Broeck could play the role of PGA Tour commissioner for a day, he would make two changes: Get rid of the green-reading books and require that putters are the shortest club in the bag.
“I think some of the (players with) long putters are fudging a little when it comes to anchoring,” he said. “You’re going on some guy’s word. This would make it cut and dry.”
Unlike many purists, Ten Broeck said he is looking forward to The Match this fall between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. His only complaint is it’s going to be pay-per-view.
“I wish it was on regular TV, so it was accessible to everyone,” Ten Broeck said. “I’ll be watching.”
No doubt with a vodka-and-cran nearby and a few bucks wagered on it. The end of another great day for Lance Ten Broeck.
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