EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a guest post by Mark Milatz, a local caddie at Whistling Straits. Be sure to give him a follow on Twitter @caddietales.
I started caddying at Whistling Straits in 2019, and hardly a day has gone by that the Ryder Cup hasn’t been a topic of conversation and excitement. After attending the opening practice round on Tuesday, I am even more pumped to watch the best players and caddies in the world trek around the course that I’m privileged to walk for six months out of the year.
What makes the event even more special is that it is taking place a mile and a half from the family farm that my wife grew up on. She never envisioned that her little rural farming community would one day be the center of the golf universe. Thankfully Herb Kohler and Pete Dye did possess such a vision!
The thing I enjoy most about caddying is the fellowship that is so prevalent on the links. I am thankful for the brotherhood that exists in the Caddie Shack, along with being grateful for the different groups that I get to meet on a daily basis. The Ryder Cup brings out the sense of community among golfers and fans more so than any other event in golf. When Jim Furyk led the crowd in chants of USA on the first tee box Tuesday morning, it was a brief reminder that life is better when we possess a sense of unity.
Speaking of the first tee box, the first hole (a 364-yard par 4) was a fun place to be for the first practice shots. I can only imagine what it is going to be like on Friday when the opening matches get underway! One of the things that I was paying attention to because of my position as a caddie was what club selection the pros would make for their tee shots. They all chose to hit their drivers, which is what I was hoping for, signaling that we may see some eagle opportunities for the big hitters on the squad come the weekend.
One hole that I’m especially excited to see the pros tackle is the 508-yard, par-4 eighth hole. It is the one hole on the course that looks most different from where the teams will play versus where we tee it up with our players. They will not even be able to see the fairway when they step up to hit. The second shot is likely to be 200 yards or more. 102 bunkers and a steep hill descending into Lake Michigan add to their challenge.
My favorite holes at Whistling Straits are the par 3s. Tuesday, I saw most of the guys stick it close to the hole on the third hole, but the pin is likely to be in a much more difficult position than it was for the first day of practice. The seventh hole is still a hot topic for many visiting players who remember John Daly throwing his club into the water during the PGA Championship. Take note if you ever visit the Straits that it’s also one of the best holes on the course for a picture.
The 12th hole is the shortest hole, but depending on where the flag is placed it will either be the easiest hole on the course, or as it is often described by local caddies, the shortest par 5 in America.
The final par 3, the 17th hole, is long and visually intimidating. One of the wishes of the local caddies is that a bunch of matches make it this far. It would be a shame if it didn’t factor into the outcome.
Speaking of wanting matches to make it far, there would be nothing better than a match coming down to the 18th hole, aptly named “Dyeabolical.” In three years caddying at the Straits I’ve seen a total of three birdies on this hole. It is an awesome test worthy of the Ryder Cup.
I hope that everyone watching from home gets a sense of the majestic beauty at Whistling Straits. Not every loop is fun. Not every loop leads to a great tip. But I can honestly say that I look out at Lake Michigan at least one time on every loop and possess awe about the amazing track carved out on its shores.
If you ever want to experience it for yourself, be sure to look me up so that I can help navigate you around the course.