What do you do if you’re a loyal PGA Tour caddie and your boss is out with an injury?
If you’re Corby Segal… you go home and play golf.
Segal – a 19-year veteran looper on the PGA Tour – works for Brandon Hagy. Hagy made just three starts in the 2017-18 season – all before the calendar flipped to 2018 – due to a wrist injury. He is playing the new season on a major medical exemption and made his return a few weeks back at the Safeway Open, where he missed the cut.
Rather than go looking for another bag in Hagy’s absence, Segal decided he wanted to stick by the young man.
“Brandon got hurt, but I’m committed to him and I see the future in him,” Segal said. “He’s got the talent.”
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So, while Hagy sat out, so did the 47-year-old Segal. Sort of. He went back home to Santa Clarita, Calif., and played golf.
Tons of it.
And damn good golf, too, we might add.
So much so, in fact, that Segal was recently named the Southern California Golf Association’s Player of the Year. Other names that are on that distinguished list include Rickie Fowler and Patrick Cantlay.
“To be on that list is very special to me,” Segal said.
We’re not just talking small, local events either. Segal teed it up this year in the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach and the U.S. Mid-Amateur at Charlotte Country Club. Last year, he played in the U.S. Amateur at Riviera. All in all, he guesses he’s played between 13-15 USGA events in his career.
Segal played college golf as a walk-on at Cal State Northridge and, shortly after he started there, was offered a scholarship by the head coach. It was there that Segal was teammates with eventual PGA Tour winner, Bob Burns, who – incidentally – became his first, full-time PGA Tour loop after a short-lived, post-college, mini-tour career.
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“Out of college, my dad gave me $3,000 and I turned pro and played mini tours in California for two years on the initial $3,000,” Segal said. “I had wins and a bunch of top 10s and that allowed me to play while I was growing up still. I worked at a couple of country clubs. I was a young golfer and playing for as long as a I could. In the back of my mind, I knew I didn’t hit it far enough to ever be out on Tour. My college teammate, Bob Burns, I caddied for him while I was in school a few times. I worked four tournaments for him each of the years I was in school. I enjoyed it but didn’t know I’d do it for a living. After college, he went back to Tour school and asked me to caddie. We made a deal that if he got through, I’d caddie for him. He got a conditional Nike Tour card. Then it was a whirlwind. He won the fourth tournament he played in that year, then won the Nike Tour Championship and we got on the PGA Tour. Now I’ve been out there with various guys for 19 years.”
Caddying for Segal meant less time for him to play in tournaments. As a result, he went and got his amateur status back and joined a country club with some friends for those weeks he wasn’t out on Tour.
“Next thing you know, at about 38 years old, I started playing in qualifiers again,” he said. “I qualified for a U.S. Mid-Am, a U.S. Am – all while I was caddying. I was trying to qualify for the national tournaments. I played a U.S. Am while I was in college. But from age 39 to 47, I’ve played in 13 or 14, maybe 15, USGA events now.”
There will be more to come, too. When playing a USGA event, participants receive a beautiful money clip that doubles up as their player’s badge.
‘What’s it like caddying for a guy who you know you can beat right now?’ And that was the truth.
“I always leave my last badge in my golf bag to fire me up when I dig in there to grab a ball marker,” he said. “It pumps me up a little bit.”
Segal has never reached the match-play portion of the U.S. Amateur, but he’s played well enough in the U.S. Mid-Amateur to qualify for match play on four of the seven occasions in which he’s played, advancing once as far as the quarterfinals.
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He’d love to make it to the match-play portion of the U.S. Amateur.
“I feel like I could I piss someone off if I got to match play in a U.S. Amateur,” he laughed, “’How is this 47-year-old guy beating me?’ They hit it so far. The second hole this year at Pebble, I’m playing with a kid from Oklahoma State and a high school kid. They’re 60 yards by me and I chuckled down the fairway and said, ‘that’s good, but that’s not the record.’
“Back in Columbus one year, I played with Kyle Stanley and Chris Wilson in U.S. Open qualifying – this was before Kyle went nuts winning,” Segal added. “He hit one by me 109 yards. I call that ‘the record’ in competition.”
What does a week in the life of Segal look like when he’s back home – which, again, has been the case for much of the last 10 months or so?
“This week, I’m playing Tuesday-Saturday,” he said. “Money game yesterday and today, practice round Thursday and a best-ball later in the week. If I’m not playing a money game or a tournament, I play 2-3 times per week. When the kids are in school and I’m not working, I hit balls and come home. I also play indoor soccer to stay healthy. I’ve done that a lot more this year. This is one of my good weeks. I play this week three nights in a row – I’m a goalie. I play in a 40-and-over league, a co-ed league and in the 30-and-over league. I’m clinching my fists to not hurt my fingers when I make saves. I don’t try to catch them anymore.”
Segal credits his golf game and ability to earn spots in tournaments at the national level to what he’s learned from players he has caddied for. Briny Baird, particularly, is someone Segal says was a big influence.
“I feel like I’ve helped Brandon a lot with the course management that I learned through Briny – which has helped me in my own game, too,” he said. “Briny was phenomenal at that. That’s what has helped me be on Tour so long as a caddie.”
You might find this hard to believe, but Segal says he’s far from one of the best playing caddies on the PGA Tour.
Paul Tesori, who caddies for Webb Simpson, won the St. Augustine Mid-Amateur Championship in Florida, recently. Kip Henley, Austin Cook’s caddie, can get it around, too. As can Damon Green, Zach Johnson’s bag-man, who has made his share of starts on the PGA Tour Champions.
Segal said that at the Safeway Open in early October, he was having lunch with J.J. Jakovac, a fellow Tour caddie.
Jakovac told Segal of Silverado, the host course, “I bet you could get around here nicely.”
Segal, knowing Jakovac has plenty of game himself, replied, “I bet you could, too.”
Without missing a beat, Jakovac said, “Yeah. I actually have the course record here.”
The next day, Ricky Barnes would establish a new record with his dazzling 61, but still.
Segal admitted that the competitive juices he gets from playing, carry over to the PGA Tour when he’s caddying.
“It’s the reason I caddie,” he said. “I want to win so bad – I have 4-5 second-place finishes, lost two playoffs and won twice on the Nike Tour. Friends say, ‘you’re going to get one.’ I’ve never gone out thinking my guy had no chance. That’s the competition for me. I make the effort to play what I can when I can, but caddying is my living and how I support my family. I feel what they feel. I think it helps the guy I work for. He knows I’ve done a lot under pressure as well. I’m not the biggest talker, but I can feel and sense what they’re going through and calm the situation. I can also see when they don’t have the right attitude and so I pump them up and do what you need to do to get them going in the right direction. A lot of good caddies do that. Caddie times have changed. People ask if I’m the best golfing caddie out there and there’s no chance. They’re so good. You don’t want to play them every day for 100s, 10s or even 5s. They’re so good.”
Though you might think, given his success as a player, that Segal may be getting a little jacked up at the thought of turning 50 in a few years and taking a crack at the PGA Tour Champions as a player, think again.
“I have no thoughts of playing the senior tour,” he said. “I couldn’t beat those guys when I was young, and I won’t do it when I’m 50. I’ve worked a couple of senior events for Woody Austin. Maybe 5-6 times out there for him, filling in. I played the course in San Antonio from their tees the day after. I’m hitting it 40 yards short of them. I’ve got a Corey Pavin game. It’s unbelievable what he does with 5 woods to compete. I want to qualify to play with them in a Senior U.S. Open, where you don’t have to shoot low.”
I had a chat with former PGA Tour player Carl Paulson just the other day. Segal was one of the caddies Paulson once employed. When Segal’s name came up, Paulson shared a brief story.
“Let’s put it this way,” Paulson said, “I remember one time I wasn’t playing great and I said to Corby, ‘What’s it like caddying for a guy on the PGA Tour who you know you can beat right now?’ And that was the truth.”