Ryder Cup caddies have a lot to look forward to this week, especially first timers


Mrk Urbanek, caddie for Tony Finau, is looping in his first Ryder Cup this week. Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Ryder Cup week.

As golf fans, it doesn’t get much better.

This week’s event features nine first-time players. But there are also a number of first-time Ryder Cup caddies raring to go in this mega event.

Among them is 17-year veteran looper Mark Urbanek (Tony Finau).

“Obviously I’m not playing, but to just have a part in it is extremely exciting, it’s definitely a bucket-list type of work situation for me,” Urbanek said. “Some goals of mine that I’ve had for my caddying career have been not only to work (a Ryder Cup) but to win one, especially on our home soil. It’s super exciting and I can’t wait to try and contribute wherever I can to help Tony get some points for the U.S.”

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Finau hit the first tee shot to open the 2018 Ryder Cup in Paris en route to a solid 2-1 debut. It will be interesting to see how he does in his second appearance.

Bryson DeChambeau is another who played his first Ryder Cup for Team USA in 2018 and returns this year with a different caddie. That would be Brian Ziegler who is in his sixth event since taking over the bag in July.

“It’s going to be awesome,” Zeigler said. “I’m pumped.”

When the Philadelphia native walked a couple practice rounds as part of Team USA’s outing there just over a week ago, he felt right at home with Whistling Straits though he’d never been there before.

“I used to work in Northern Michigan (True North Golf Club in Harbor Springs), so I‘m used to courses that are sand-based and right on Lake Michigan,” Zeigler said.

Though it felt familiar, Zeigler still saw many challenges facing caddies at Whistling Straits.

“The sight-lines off the tee are really tough. There’s a lot of blind fairways and you’re hitting over bushes and hitting at bunkers,” Zeigler said. “Thankfully we have great yardage books and Google Earth.”

First-time Ryder Cup caddie Matt Minister looped in the 2015 PGA Championship for Sang-Moon Bae and also caddied during Team USA’s outing.

“For the new guys to Whistling it is a bit of an eye opening golf course the first time you see it. There’s bunkers everywhere and you can’t always see where you’re going,” Minister said.

Now that he’s seen it a few times, he’s getting locked in.

“I feel pretty comfortable. Once you know where the lines are on the course, you just need to make sure you have the wind right so you can hit the fairway. The greens are pretty crazy but it’s a good golf course.”

Minister’s earliest memories watching the Ryder Cup were the more recent of the many at the Belfry (1993, 2002) and also that certain one in 1999 at Brookline.

Though Justin Leonard’s winning putt in 1999 is a memory Minister recalls fondly, he mostly remembers the sights and sounds of this event, not so much the specific play.

“I’ve always watched the Ryder Cup, it’s not the golf that stands out, it’s the excitement around the team, the players and the fans more than it is of certain matches.”

And now Minister gets to taste that excitement for himself this week.

“I’m very excited,” Minister said. “I’ve heard enough stories of the first tee on Friday and how exciting that is with the fans pumped up for the start of Ryder Cup. That’s probably the part that I’ve been most anticipating.”

Fellow first-time Ryder Cup caddie Scott Mcguinness also can’t wait for the first-tee experience.

“I hear it’s crazy, there’s nothing like any other tournament and more like a football setting,” McGuinness said. “It’s going to be an amazing experience.”

Urbanek has been given a similar description from his friends.

“You could work super late on a Sunday of a major or go to a Super Bowl or a World Series and experience some incredible sports moments, but from what I understand the Ryder Cup is the best thing in sports,” Urbanek said. “To be there as a golf fan and a huge sports fan in general, that’s just very exciting, I can’t wait.”

Heck, even caddies who aren’t caddying this week are understandably wishing they were working the event.

“I’m jealous of those first-timers caddying in the Ryder Cup,” Brennan Little who’s never worked a Ryder Cup said. “I’d love to be out there one day, I hear so many great things about working that event.”

For Zeigler, one of his good friends on Tour is Mcguinness. So when Mcguinness’ player Scottie Scheffler got picked, Zeigler called him out of excitement.

“I told him ‘I think you, me, and Scottie are three of the happiest people about this Ryder Cup coming up. Everybody else in the Dallas area has already been on a Ryder Cup team (Spieth/Bryson),” Zeigler said.

Though he’s not a first-time Ryder Cup caddie, this event at Whistling Straits holds special meaning for Eric Larson (Harris English), the only caddie from Wisconsin from both teams.

Larson grew up and went to high school in Appleton, Wisc., just over an hour away.

“It’s going to be a special week. It’s great to be here and to be a part of it,” Larson said. “Harris has worked very hard to get here and I’m happy for him.”

Larson will get the chance to caddie in the Ryder Cup in front of friends and family, including his brothers Lance and Jeff as well as his nephew Leif and grand nephew, Lyric.

Lyric is 12 and his father initially thought it best that he stay in school this Friday.

“They were worried about taking him out of school on Friday, and I said, ‘you need to take him out of school, this is a once in a lifetime thing.’  And his dad, my nephew said ‘yeah, you’re right.’

“It’s very cool to have family see it.”

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