Inside the working relationship between golfer, caddie

By Chadd Cripe
Published on

BOISE, Idaho -- Curt Peterson began caddying in the early 1970s and learned the "keep up, shut up" style. Tour-leading money-winner Patton Kizzire wasn't born until 1986. His ideal caddie is a little different.

"I've told him, 'Silence is no good to me,' " Kizzire said this week at the Albertsons Boise Open. "I'm not that talkative of a guy, but I like to have little conversations here and there with Curt and my playing competitors. Just being able to talk about anything and everything and nothing -- he's good at all that."

Scores: Boise Open | John Deere Classic | Encompass Championship

Golfers and caddies form often-fleeting alliances for tournament golf that require them to spend long hours together each week and rely on each other to succeed.

The relationship is built on communication as they trade information and ideas to ensure the golfer selects the proper shot for the situation.

Kizzire and Peterson allowed the Idaho Statesman to listen in to their conversation Wednesday during the Boise Open pro-am. Kizzire shot a 5-under-par 66 in the first round of the tournament Thursday, shaking off a rare missed cut in his previous start.

The duo has worked together since the El Bosque Mexico Championship in April. Since then, Kizzire has five top-10 finishes (second twice, third, fifth and 10th) in seven events.

"You have certain players that are very independent, very self-sufficient," said Peterson, who has caddied the past four years on the Tour after a 20-year hiatus. "Some people want a lot of information and insight. You have to sort of read that and just encourage them to do what they do well."

Kizzire falls on the independent side of the line.

"But he does want to have a conversation to make a decision," Peterson said.

A perfect example came on the short par-4 15th hole during the pro-am.

"If I'm feeling good and the pin is in the right position [I'll go for the green]," Kizzire said on the tee.

He hit a 3-wood and watched his ball sail into an unplayable lie in the trees.

"That was bad," he told Peterson as they walked down the fairway. "I'm just gonna hit 5-iron every day."

As he dug his ball out of the trees, Kizzire added to the monologue.

"I'm glad I made this mistake today," he said.

Peterson helped Kizzire plot the best place to hit his shot off the tee but didn't need to say anything after the misfire. Kizzire reached the proper conclusion -- that a layup shot is smarter -- just by talking about the situation.

"One of Patton's strengths is he makes good judgments for him with the situation that we have in front of us," Peterson said. "So I can't take that away unless I'm real sure that it's not going to work out very well."

Most of the game-management discussion centers on either the target or the yardage for a particular shot.

On the par-5 16th hole, they saw the line differently.

"Finish it at the right edge of the greenside bunker," Peterson said on the tee.

"I like finishing it just left of the [TV] tower," Kizzire said. "I think there's more fairway past that [left] tree than you can see."

Kizzire, who reads his own putts, prefers to hit the shot that he sees in his mind.

"But if I'm in between or can't really decide, I'll ask him what he likes," he said. "He can provide some really good input."

Related: Tour caddie performs double duty

Kizzire and Peterson collaborate on the sometimes-tricky math involved in determining the length of the next shot. They use markers and their yardage books to get the measurement to the front of the green and add the distance to the hole from that day's pin sheet.

Since Kizzire lives in Sea Island, Ga., they also adjust the number for elevation this week. And then they adjust it again for how far short of the hole they figure the ball needs to land.

"It's 218, minus 10 for 208," Petersen told Kizzire on the par-3 13th hole, adjusting for the elevation. "Ninety-eight (198) is the front number adjusted."

"I want to land it 200?" Kizzire said.

"Two hundred is good," Peterson assured.

Kizzire relies primarily on Peterson for yardages but does some of the work himself so they can compare numbers. They also need to factor in wind or, if it's Sunday and Kizzire is in contention, adrenaline. And Peterson reminds Kizzire whether it's better to miss short or long.

"He does [yardages] more than I do," Kizzire said, "but we like to double-check ourselves. You never can be too sure, because I make mistakes and he does, too."

Between shots, the two chatted about current events (the Florida State quarterback caught on video striking a woman), tools of the trade (a new towel shipment sparked a conversation that included all the places to find cheap towels for caddying) and other topics (Peterson briefed Kizzire on his pro-am partners' connections to the tournament).

In the more tense atmosphere of a tournament round, Kizzire counts on Peterson to keep him calm.

"I like to tell little stories," Peterson said.

Said Kizzire: "He's been really solid. A consistent caddie is huge."

This article was written by Chadd Cripe from The Idaho Statesman and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.