Gregg: This is how I prepared, as a caddie, for success at the PGA Tour’s Latino America Qualifying Tournament
Aside from double bagging at my local country club and chasing a little white ball of my own during the summers of my high school years, I don’t have much experience as a caddie. I played Division I golf at the University of Nevada and recently turned pro, so I have a strong understanding of the game. I’m currently playing on the Women’s All Pro Tour, a mini tour based in the central U.S. that feeds into the Symetra Tour. After a summer of preparation, my plans are to play in Symetra Tour Qualifying School at the end of August.
With all of that said, the golf course is one of the only places I really feel at home. I’m more comfortable walking down a fairway than almost anywhere else. But when my boyfriend, Fredrik Lindblom, asked me to carry his bag at PGA Tour Latin America Q School, it’s not a stretch to say I was a nervous.
Qualifying School at any level is one of the most stressful weeks of the year for a professional. A good performance on that stage opens the door to many opportunities, especially the PGA Tour LA. For Fredrik, not only was this a great way to advance his career, it also meant a chance at redemption. He attempted to qualify for the same tour two years ago and barely missed the cut for status.
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Looking back on it now, there were several things that happened before and during Qualifying School that had a significant effect on our performance that week. Although I’d like to think that I single handedly carried us to a fifth-place finish and full status on the PGA Tour LA, unfortunately I don’t think that’s the case.
In the weeks prior to Q-school, Fredrik and I synced up our practice schedules to spend more time on the course together. This allowed me to get a better understanding of his style and how he likes to attack golf courses, as well as helping me get comfortable in my new role. Just before Q-school, we played a string of smaller events to get in the mindset of being a caddie/player team during tournaments, and it worked. Three days before Q-school’s first round, he shot 64 in a mini tour event and won by five.
Our focus the week of the event was to create a solid game plan and stick to it. Our qualifying site was in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida, at Mission Inn. We went to Mission Inn a day early to play an extra practice round at the tournament course, El Campeon. All of this was to make sure we had every bit of information we needed to feel prepared. Two practice rounds gave us extra confidence in our game plan and made it easier to trust decisions along the way.
Fredrik is an exceptional driver of the golf ball, so we picked aggressive lines off the tee and put ourselves in position to play well from there. That gave us an advantage on the field because El Campeon is tricky off the tee, with narrow tee shots on most holes that don’t allow for much error.
In addition to being accurate off of the tee, another advantage in Fredrik’s game is his length. His ability to carry the ball consistently over 300 yards and still hit the fairway meant that almost every par 5 was now reachable in two. We planned to play aggressively on the par 5s and have a more conservative approach to the trickier holes.
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In a few ways, when the week came, we got lucky. The qualifying site was less than an hour from our house, and with afternoon tee times every day we were able to stay at home and commute to the course. This meant better meals and better sleep. We also set aside extra time to get to the course, which definitely came in handy when we blew a tire on the way to the course the first day. All obstacles aside, we were able to get to the course stress-free and ready to execute our plan.
Our knowledge of the course helped us not only build a solid strategy, but it also meant that we were comfortable stepping onto the course. Little things like knowing the practice area and the lay of the land help take the edge off of the nerves that will inevitably come around.
Along with having a solid game plan in place for where to hit the ball, we spent extra time each day preparing both the physical and nutritional side of things. Walking seven rounds in the Florida heat isn’t easy, and remembering to properly eat and drink during high-pressure rounds is essential to performing well. One thing that I learned that week was to make myself a priority. It’s one thing to remind your player to eat and drink, but it was difficult for me to remember my own needs during those rounds. While it’s easy to get swept up in what your player is doing, you can’t be of much help to them if you pass out in the third round.
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Along with having our strategy in place and making our physical care a priority, my knowledge of Fredrik’s game helped me immensely to be a better caddie for him. One of the hardest parts of being a caddie is knowing what to say, and when not to say anything. Since I know him so well, it was easy for me to see the early signs of him getting frustrated or tense. It also helped me to sense his hesitation about certain shots, and then help out accordingly.
The rest was up to him, and he delivered. On the first tee, he was cool and collected every day. His mental preparation was a huge advantage for him during the week. Looping me in to those conversations with his coach gave me great insight not only as his caddie, but as a player as well. Fredrik works with Jon Tattersall, an instructor in Atlanta, Georgia.
One word that sums up their focus for Qualifying School would be “acceptance.” Basically, as a team, we had to accept that we would be nervous. Fredrik had to expect the nerves and then choose to deal with those feelings in a positive way, rather than ignoring them or running from them. Knowing that we (especially Fredrik) were going to have a physiological reaction to the importance of that week helped us both prepare for it and then accept it.
Looking back on that week, it’s likely that Fredrik would have performed well no matter who was carrying his bag. Personally, I’m just happy to have been included in such an important week of his career thus far — and to have an up-close view of someone performing at such a high level. Watching him advance to the next stage of his career motivates me to incorporate the same strategies in my own game as I compete this summer.
Evidently, I did a pretty good job as caddie, since I’ve been re-hired as Fredrik’s official looper at his first PGA Tour LA event in Panama at the end of March. Although he’ll be gone for most of summer to play all over Latin America, he’s agreed to caddie for me at Symetra Qualifying School in August.
So, who knows? Maybe he’ll earn a permanent spot on my bag as well.