What 40-year-old Michael Sims did last week by teeing it up in the inaugural Bermuda Championship – his first PGA Tour start – has been done before, but it’s awfully rare.
With the start, it meant Sims both played – and caddied – on the PGA Tour in 2019.
Back in April, the Bermuda native played fill-in caddie for longtime friend Lucas Glover in the Valero Texas Open while Glover’s regular bagman, Don Cooper, had a week back home.
“Lucas texted and asked what I had going on that week,” Sims recalled. “I said, ‘nothing.’ He asked me to come hang out and I said, ‘yeah.’ That’s how it went down. Arrangements were made and I happened to go buy a pair of sneakers to walk the course and the rest of that jazz.”
His caddie gig with Glover was merely a pinch-hit situation, but it was a fruitful one, as Glover finished T14, one of a remarkable 16, top-25 finishes in 26 starts last season.
So, that was the caddie segment of 2019 for Sims. The player segment was still to come.
Like we said, it’s been done before, but it’s rare. Perhaps the most notable example was in 2008, also at the Valero Texas Open.
Our Craig Dolch detailed that tale in a fantastic feature on Lance Ten Broeck. Here’s the excerpt from the feature, explaining how Ten Broeck caddied for Jesper Parnevik AND played in the same tournament:
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 WD’ed.
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.
Back to Sims.
He earned his spot in his maiden Tour event through a local qualifier and, all things considered, played darned well in the Bermuda Championship – especially for a guy who hadn’t played an actual round on a competitive Tour since 2013. With rounds of 72-70, he missed the 36-hole cut by two strokes at even-par 142.
But keep that in perspective, folks. That’s even par for two days on a course set up for a PGA Tour event – with regularly competing PGA Tour players – not one set up for a group of weekend warriors.
“It was freaking… I mean, how cool?” Sims said. “If you told me six years ago that I’d be playing in a PGA Tour event in Bermuda, I would have chuckled. OK? It was so special. I had the support of friends, family, the local crowd. The support was awesome. My niece and nephew were there. It was such a fun walk. And having Mac Daddy [Mac Barnhardt] on the bag, too, it was such a special week. It would have been really nice to be playing the weekend, but it was a lot of fun.”
Sims played his college golf at the University of Rhode Island in the late 1990s/early 2000s, and transformed into a star on the amateur scene, winning the North-South Amateur and Players Amateur in 2001, along with reaching the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur at East Lake and becoming the first amateur to win the New England Open that same year.
Shortly after, he turned professional and spent several years on what is now known as the Korn Ferry Tour.
He did collect some wins on mini tours as a pro, most notably the 2005 Bermuda Open at the same course – Port Royal – where the Bermuda Championship was contested, but despite several close calls at the old Q-School, he was never able to reach the PGA Tour.
Even still, he plugged along on the Korn Ferry and mini tours – including the eGolf Tour, where he fired a 59 in the 2012 Southern Open – for many years.
But, in 2013, after 111 career starts and five, top-10 finishes on the Korn Ferry Tour to go along with countless starts on other tours, Sims decided to step away from the professional game. After a while, that grind to make cuts and travel city to city hoping to cash a check just wears on you both physically and mentally.
Once that happens, it’s not uncommon for the thing you love to suddenly become a chore. Sims knew there was a whole lot more to life than chasing that little, white ball. So, he set out to see what else was out there.
His journeys had him spending time in Colorado, Oregon, Washington state and southern California, where he resides today and studies at the Y.O.U. Institute, learning something called “Ultimate Life Tool technology,” described in part as, “a patented proprietary assessment instrument of understanding based on the laws of nature, and grounded in science. It has been around for a very long time, but it is now distilled in a form that we can use and apply to life to help us truly understand ourselves and others.”
Simply put, it’s an institute where Sims is studying to be a life coach. And he saw instant dividends while playing last week with his composure on the course and how the little things just didn’t get to him and annoy him as they did at times in the past. He was living in and enjoying the moment.
Whether that means the Bermuda Championship reignited a fire for Sims remains to be seen. He does play plenty of golf at friend John Ashworth’s Goat Hill Park in Oceanside, Calif., with the likes of Tour players Dean Wilson, Geoff Ogilvy, Mike Weir and more.
“Playing there made it fun to play again,” Sims said. “You play with good players and hang out with great humans. They’ve created a really cool scene there. It’s a tremendous community.
“As for more golf for me, I’m going to take stuff step by step,” he said. “I wanted to enjoy last week for what it was and what it is. Whether I start playing more or I don’t is irrelevant. What helped me is the stuff I’m going through and learning and using that mindset. The technology I’m learning is so cool. And it was so cool to see it in action. I didn’t get mad once. I was able to better walk around and enjoy the moment within myself and everything around me and stay focused on what was in front of me.”
Imagine: Sims worked most of his life to play on the PGA Tour. Just when it looked like that wasn’t in the cards, nearly 17 years after turning pro and about six years removed from his last event on a professional Tour, he made his debut in his home country and was able to sleep in his childhood home just minutes from the course.
“There were so many cool moments,” Sims said. “To start off the week on Sunday, I did a junior golf clinic. At the end, I looked at my friend Mac Barnhardt, who caddied for me last week, and asked if he wanted to walk nine. That was very special. I played the back nine, just the two of us, no pins. That was really cool. On Thursday, the first tee shot was amazing. Putting out on 18 was super cool in front of everyone. All the support from everybody was so cool. Staff, greens crew, everybody was out there. They were feeling the emotions more than me sometimes. The whole thing was really cool. I mean, wake up at your own house and go to the course you grew up around to play in a PGA Tour event? That was freaking rad.”
Sims and Glover first met when they were just 13 years old and playing in the Future Masters.
“There was a range we all went to that had grass and Lucas showed up and I was tiny compared to him then,” Sims laughed. “I was like, ‘how am I supposed to compete with this?’ In college we became friendly and then after turning pro we were with the same group, traveling and practicing a lot. We’ve remained good buddies ever since.”
So much so, that throughout last week – even while Glover and Cooper were in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions – they were texting Sims encouraging words.
“I had people walking up to me all week – players, caddies, Tour officials – all saying that Lucas and Coop said to stop over and say hi.” Sims said, “It was great.”
That’s just the kind of friends they are.
Back in San Antonio last April, Sims relished the chance he had to walk alongside Glover inside the ropes.
But the experience did nothing to change Sims’s feelings on caddies – he always held them in high regard.
“I totally have always appreciated the caddies and respect what they do,” he said. “It’s a lot of juggling and hard for people to understand until you pick up a bag. They’re not the lightest thing in the world. Throw in weather on top of that – umbrella, two sets of raingear. Extra towels. Others know how to handle that. The bag just gets heavy. A lot of them make it look darn easy, I think. It’s not as easy as it looks. When they’re not doing one thing, they’re doing another thing and getting ready.
“It was a lot of fun being on that side of it,” Sims said. “I didn’t feel the pressure of anything and that was the best part. If Lucas missed a shot, ‘oh well, let’s get it up and down.’”
Sims also confirmed what many on Tour already know: Glover is one of the easiest guys in the world to caddie for.
“I was mostly there to keep him loose and figuring out when he needed his space, etc.,” Sims said. “Practice rounds are one thing… you need to get into the flow of the round and understanding what his flow becomes. That, to me, was a lot of fun to observe and watch and I was proud of him. It was cool because – as Coop will tell you – he’s also a great person to caddie for. I mean, he’s Lucas. He’s got that edge, but he also wants it to go as smoothly as possible for you, too. He’s respectful of everyone around him. Very professional.”
Whether it was as a caddie on the PGA Tour in 2019, or as a player, Sims experienced two special weeks he won’t soon forget.
“Time away from the game gives you great perspective and caddying in that one event for Lucas gives you such a cool perspective,” he said. “I understand the feelings they’re going through. Lucas hit a couple of shots sometimes and I would just smile. Like, ‘I don’t see that, but I’m not telling him that’… and he’d pull it off. We were on 8 and he hit it in the right stuff and he’s like, ‘I‘m taking this low and doing this,’ I’m like, ‘OK, bud.’ He’d say, ‘You like that?’ And I’d say, ‘I love that!’ His focus and resurgence has been really cool to watch.”
And the same — even if just for one week — could be said for Sims.