‘Take a hit to make a play’ — return to golf analogous to hockey days for Tour caddie

Tim Giuliano
Caddying during the COVID-19 pandemic means loopers like Tim Giuliano have had to add more tools to their trade. Photo: Tim Giuliano

Editor’s note: Tim Giuliano — who spent the last four seasons caddying on the PGA Tour — is currently caddying on the Korn Ferry Tour. He will be checking in with The Caddie Network regularly to paint a picture for readers as to what life is like bouncing around on the road during this uncertain times.

You probably don’t know me and most likely have never heard of me; however, it is likely you’ve seen me in passing, briefly, tending a pin, picking up the bag or the time Tiger Woods went to shake my hand on the 18th green at Quail Hollow but I clumsily dropped my hat and sunglasses on the ground and then proceeded to fumble with them so bad I pretty much missed the handshake altogether.

Yup, cameras caught that and my buddies made fun of me for it. If none of these ring a bell, it’s OK. My name is Tim Giuliano: professional caddie, husband, father, music aficionado, and Covid-19 combatant. I spent the last four seasons on the PGA Tour and this past March I took a chance leaving the PGA to go back to work on the Korn Ferry Tour; that was assuming we would graduate and get back to the PGA Tour in a matter of months.

Well, thanks to a series of unfortunate events, that graduation to the PGA Tour will be postponed another entire season. This means it’s back to the grind and I can assure you that life out here is way different than that of the caddies that have become household names.

As my good friend Jerry Roger says, “Life out here is just one decimal point away from that on the PGA Tour.” In other words, caddies on the Big Tour may have a Platinum Amex, while guys on the Korn Ferry have a Platinum promise that they will pay you back somewhere down the road, when they make a cut to pay back this past week’s share of the hotel. That is why it isn’t uncommon to sleep three or four in a hotel room, hit the open road in a packed one-way rental with a couple of guys instead of flying, and normally where you might see a sponsor’s logo on the chest or collar of a caddie’s shirt, we don sweat marks and stains from the bag strap. Ironically, however, none of this was what was on my mind last night as I packed my bags and loaded up my car before heading out early this morning.

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It’s simple: you do this enough and you get really good at it. Everything has its place and except for the random book, or different clothing items to suit the coming weather, my bags are pretty much packed with the same contents week in and week out. Ziplock bag filled with pens and pencils, iPad, headphones, previous year’s yardage books, laser, 7 or 8 golf shirts, comfy clothes, toiletry bag and my little green book that I make travel notes in so that in subsequent years I can either replicate my travel arrangements at specific events or avoid them like the plague. The difference being that this time I found myself mixing up 20 ounces of Lysol antibacterial concentrate into a spray bottle so that I could wipe down surfaces in my hotel room. Hand sanitizer and antibacterial hand soap found their own ziplock baggie. Lysol antibacterial aerosol spray to disinfect the hotel bed, nitrile gloves for stops at the gas station or shopping at the grocery store. Clorox wipes? Check. Check again. Masks? Got three of ’em. Call me crazy, whatever, but these are strange times and I would rather be safe than sorry.

“Take a hit to make a play!” My high school hockey coach used to yell that to us all the time. Basically, it meant sacrificing yourself in some small way to achieve the desired end result. All of us associated with the PGA Tour are doing this right now. We want to get back to the sport we love and to show the world that despite a pandemic, economic troubles, and uncertainty, that we can prevail during ambiguous times. I took a seven-second nasal swab this morning that felt like it was 20 feet long and scratching the back of my throat.

My family and I pretty much isolated ourselves the last couple weeks to limit exposure before leaving so that I wouldn’t test positive. If I have to spray and wipe down all the surfaces in the hotel room upon arrival, carry hand sanitizer in my bib, and avoid some sweaty handshakes on the 18th green following play, I will do it. I care about my family, our safety, and the safety of our golf family as well. If we all do our part we will back to normal in no time.

So, as guys on the PGA and Korn Ferry Tours receive their Covid-19 results, guys like me are anxiously awaiting the pending news in our hotel rooms, and it is nerve wracking. WAIT! You won’t believe what just happened. My roommate just received a phone call and the ID said “Covid-19 Testing.” His heart skipped a beat, I got the mouth sweats. I grabbed my mask as if that would save me from his germs. We are supposed to get the news via email, this must be bad news. In the two seconds it took for him to answer the phone it was pandemonium inside our minds. He answered. His jaw dropped. He said thank you, hung up. He looked at me and paused. “Negative.”

What the heck!?!? My nerves cannot take this! I am like “What About Bob” over here, bathing in hand sanitizer and living in a cloud of disinfectant spray. That was great news, but what a way to receive it. I am still shaking. I received my results and I am “Negative” as well. Disaster avoided.

So, the good news means that we can keep moving forward. Progress is being made and I am back to the game I love. Yes, there may be some hotel room floors in my future and sleepless nights on long car rides, but I believe whole heartedly in my player. That is what drives me and it is why I am willing to make these types of sacrifices on this tour. It is that belief that drives all of us caddies and it’s what makes it all worth it in the end.

I am a caddie and I love competition. I am excited to be back out on a golf course with an opportunity to win and collect some flags. It isn’t the ideal situation to have to spend another season down on the Korn Ferry Tour, but I will take a hit to make a play and I am pretty sure I will come out stronger for it. So until then, I will wear my mask, maintain a good distance of six feet or more, and I will arm myself with hand sanitizer and smart decisions so that I can continue to pursue my dreams in the game that I love.

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