Being recognized and asked for an autograph has got to be flattering on some level.
For the best golfers in the world, it probably gets old. But there had to be a time where it was, well, kinda cool.
Since the success of the Big Break Season 2: Las Vegas back in 2004, Kip Henley – who currently caddies for Stewart Cink – estimates he’s been approached by fans of the show “thousands and thousands” of times.
Cool? Sure. But not always.
“Every golf nut, period, watched the Big Break… but it gets old,” Henley said in a recent ‘Under the Strap’ podcast. “You don’t want fans calling out your name as you’re leaving a tee with your player. That’s not a good thing. I love people coming up to me and speaking to me, but sometimes – we got TV famous for about 10 minutes – when you’ve got people screaming out your name instead of your player’s name, that’s not a good thing. Don’t do that to me. I don’t like that. Speak to me after the round – all of you – I love that part of it. But I don’t like it when people call me out, really.”
Don Donatello, who starred on the Big Break with Henley, also joined the podcast. He’s had his share of fan encounters, too, some that left him blushing.
“You know what’s crazy is that I had a couple of things I did and said on the Big Break like, ‘Booyah!’ or ‘Pull the tape tight!’ and I have that all the time with people in the gallery,” he said. “‘Pull it tight,’ after my player hits it close and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my God. Don’t look at him. Please don’t look over at him.’ That’s a tough thing.”
And there was also a time where Donatello didn’t want to let a kid down when asked for an autograph that led to some instant scorn from his then boss, Jay Williamson.
“I was working for Jay Williamson after the Big Break was done,” Donatello explained. “Somebody came up to me and asked me for an autograph while my player was giving autographs. I’m thinking, ‘OK, I’m just going to sign this real quick. It’s only one person. It’s a kid.’ And after we got done, Jay Williamson comes up to me and says, ‘Don’t sign another autograph in front of me, before me, ever.’ He goes, ‘I’m the pro, you’re the caddie.’ So, from that day forth, I’ve never signed any autographs when my player is standing there. I even tell the person, I say, ‘Sorry, I can’t sign it. But I’ll sign it later after my player’s gone.’ And I don’t sign many now, but because of that reason, because I don’t want to overshadow the player… it’s kind of tough for me and Kip, because the player’s important and sometimes the Big Break is bigger than the player, unfortunately.”
On seven occasions, it would have been no problem whatsoever for Henley to sign autographs, take pictures and schmooze with the fans. That’s the number of times he teed it up as a player in the St. Jude Classic.
The last time was in 2011 – the only time, Henley said, that he played in the event while he was a full-time caddie.
“I won the (PGA) Section that year (to earn an exemption) and it was a miracle,” he said. “I beat the boys without playing any golf, but I think it came back to me caddying on the PGA Tour and watching how guys do it. I just felt like I was mentally stronger than them. But, that week in Memphis, I shot I think 81-79, or 79-81 (it was 82-78) and, I mean, I putted it like Ben Crenshaw on steroids. I putted it lights out both days. The guys I played with had to babysit me and find my ball and it was just gross.”
Henley did use his status as a player that week to take a stand for his caddie buddies in a way only he could…
“I was sitting in player dining Thursday, or something like that,” Henley said. “And I stood up – there was 20 or 30 guys in there and their families eating – I stood up and said, ‘hey, I need to make an announcement.’ I said, ‘Us, players, I really feel like we need to start letting the caddies come in here and eat with us.’”
Pretty nice of Henley, right? He wasn’t finished.
“And I said, ‘But let’s start it next week.’”
That garnered plenty of laughter, as Henley wanted to keep that VIP player treatment to himself for just one week.
You can listen to the complete podcast with Donatello and Kip Henley in the player at the top of the page, or find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and Stitcher by searching “Caddie Network.”