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Original Issue

Getting a taste of Miller's high life

The intent, mustachioed young man who accompanies Johnny Miller around the course is Andy Martinez, a new breed of caddie, who is enjoying a chunk of his boss' wealth and fame

Picture this: Johnny Miller, bent over an eight-foot birdie putt, a lock of straw-colored hair falling over his eyes, his ascetic, handsome face scowling in concentration. It is a familiar sight, thanks to 11 tournament victories in the last 15 months. But the picture is incomplete without a crouched figure stationed, motionless, some four feet behind the ball.

Andy Martinez, caddie of the new school, as dark as Miller is fair, a skinny Sancho Panza to Miller's Don Quixote, balances lightly on the balls of the blue Pumas that a manufacturer's rep laid on him only yesterday and watches the roll of the ball toward the hole. He seems to be glowering from behind his drooping mustache and heavy eyebrows, but at close range his elegant features are impassive; he is intent upon the effect that grain and slope and speed have on the direction the putt is taking.

Andy Martinez can scarcely believe his good luck. At 25 he is making a better living than he thought he ever would. Last year he earned more than $26,000, which, if he were a touring pro, would place him around 90th on the money list, somewhere between Rod Funseth and Dewitt Weaver and well ahead of George Archer, Phil Rodgers, George Knudson and a lot of others. This year, thanks to Miller's fast start—three wins in his first four outings—he has already earned nearly $10,000.

Martinez likes the money, but he loves the work, and he is known in the trade as one of the best. His feeling for his employer, who is only two years older than he, is compounded of gratitude and admiration and the pride a younger brother has in the accomplishments of the elder. Martinez' own brother died at 20 in a surfing accident. "I was 12," says Andy, "and he was my idol."

Of Miller, Martinez says, "He's such a good person. I tell everybody how considerate he is, how kind. And he's really intelligent. His brain capacity is the main area where he has it over other pros."

Of Martinez, Miller says, "Number one, Andy is a good friend. Number two, he's a hardworking caddie, the hardestworking caddie on the tour. You can ask anybody. And number three, he's the smartest caddie out there. Caddies used to be stereotyped as dummies, guys who were caddies because they couldn't do much else. But there's a new breed now, and Andy was one of the first of that new breed. He is trying to be the best at his job, just as I'm trying to be the best at mine. That's the key to our relationship."

The fame that engulfed Miller last year has begun to spill over onto Martinez, causing him both embarrassment and pleasure. Wherever the two appear these days Miller is a headline in the local paper and a few minutes at least on the evening TV news; Martinez is a companion piece, a short feature for one of the early days of the tournament. His interviews are usually conducted at the edge of the practice putting green or outside the locker-room door. His pals, like Pete Bender, who caddies for Jerry Heard, and Tom Cronan, who works for John Mahaffey, watch from a discreet distance. Martinez never fails to beckon them over for introductions, and he will whisper later, "Please get my friends in if you can."

The fringe benefits of even reflected celebrity are gratifying. A lady representing Foot-Joy waves her mink-coated arm at Andy and greets him by name—effusively. A Sears outlet in San Diego takes Miller and Martinez on a tour of the factory and afterward fits Martinez for new clothes. Martinez recently found himself seated, in a rented tux, at a banquet in the grand ballroom of a Beverly Hills hotel. The kid from San Pedro, 25 miles down the Harbor Freeway and a socioeconomic light year or two away from the manicured lawns of Beverly Hills, was bedazzled. "I never thought it would be like this," he said. "I never thought I would be at a formal at the Beverly Hilton."

It's a long way from the days when a caddie was a guy in a sun-faded wind-breaker and three days' worth of grizzled whiskers who might or might not show up at the first tee on time, depending on the events of the night before. Most touring caddies are now paid from $125 to $150 a tournament and also receive a percentage of their pros' winnings—perhaps 3% at the beginning, rising to a standard 5% or, in some cases like Martinez', 7% or more. A few have other arrangements. For instance, Angelo Argea, Jack Nicklaus' caddie for 12 years, is on a straight salary, plus expenses, regardless of how many tournaments Nicklaus plays. For many, caddying is as much a dead-end job as ever, but for some, the new breed as Miller calls them, there are alternatives and, for a few, even a future. Argea will probably find a place somewhere in the Nicklaus empire when Jack retires. Martinez expects that he will be with Miller when he retires. "The caddies who work for the good players are pretty conscientious," says Martinez. "You work your butt off, but I think you can contribute. It helps to know as much as possible."

Toward that end Andy walks each course as soon as he arrives in a new town, checking its present condition against its condition a year earlier, re-checking his yardages, noting the addition of ponds or bunkers or mounds. Late in the afternoon, after the PGA resets the pins, he goes back out on the course to note the new locations and step off the distances. He works constantly at learning to read greens. "John is really good at it," says Martinez, "and I try to learn from him. When we have an important putt we're both going to look at it pretty carefully—behind the ball, beyond the hole, the grain, the slope. If, for instance, John thinks the putt is a ball outside the edge and I think it's right at the edge, he might compromise. I try to tell him exactly what I'm thinking. It's a bummer when I'm wrong. I consider that I'm an observer back there. Did we figure it O.K.? Was it a good stroke? That sort of thing."

"When Andy measures distances," says Miller, "he checks and rechecks his figures, and if he finds a discrepancy he'll check them three or four more times. I know darn well when Andy gives me a distance it's right."

Being right can be nerve-racking, though. At last month's Bob Hope Desert Classic Miller hit his tee shot on the par-5 finishing hole at Bermuda Dunes into the left rough and had to lay up short of the green. What he needed to know was exactly how short he was and how to hit his approach.

"The ball was 53 steps past my sprinkler head," says Martinez, "and the sprinkler head is 105 steps from the front edge with 15 more to the pin. Now that adds up to 67 yards. But for some reason I got it in my head it was 77. But it didn't look like 77. I went over and over my numbers and I still got 77. So I showed it to John and said, 'Does this look right?' And he said, 'Yeah, it looks about right.' So he got out his sand wedge and was standing there waggling, getting ready to take it back, and I was still stewing. I thought, I know that's not right. And then it came to me. I yelled, 'Stop!' Just in time. He backed off and changed his swing, ended up five feet from the pin and sank the putt for a birdie. I've had a couple of close ones."

Martinez joined Miller in late 1970 when he was two years out of Fermin Lasuen, a Catholic high school in San Pedro. His father Michael was a retired freight car inspector for the Southern Pacific, his mother a small, active woman who had played tennis for Compton Junior College. During his first two years in high school Andy was in the honors group, but after that his interest in academics flagged and sports became his only passion. "If you are a good athlete in my town people know you," he says. Martinez played golf and basketball. He set a school cross-country record that still stands, mainly, he says, because the school is now closed.

Martinez began caddying in 1968, working for Grier Jones in Jones' first pro tournament, the Haig Open in nearby Costa Mesa. During the next year and a half he caddied for Jones 16 times, but in 1970 an attack of homesickness that sent Andy flying from Miami to California ended their professional relationship. Recovered, Martinez flew to Texas, ready to go to work for Bob Menne. He carried Menne's bag in Dallas, but at the next stop, Champions in Houston, he ran into hair trouble. His dark curly locks were shoulder length, and in the eyes of Jackie Burke Jr. and Jimmy Demaret, who run the club, that made him unemployable. "I don't know, I just didn't want to cut my hair then," he says.

The trip to Texas was not a complete waste, though, because it was during the enforced idleness in Houston that Martinez first talked to Miller. "John understood about the hair," says Andy. "I think he thought it was crummy not to let somebody work because you don't like his hair. It was crummy."

The two finally hooked up at the Kaiser that fall and have been paired ever since. They chatter constantly on the course—about golf, their families, anything. Says Debbie Ortego, Andy's 18-year-old fiancée, "They even talked about my weight once, Andy told me. They discussed what exercises I ought to do." When they are not talking, Andy darts hundreds of quick, inquiring glances at Miller's face, as if trying to anticipate his requirements before Miller realizes them himself. Their dispositions seem ideally matched.

Once Andy wanted to try the tour himself. Even though he does not have many chances to play, he is good enough to have shot an 81 at Riviera from the back tees and was even par on the front nine at Pebble Beach with the pins where they were for the last day of the Crosby.

But five years of observing have made Andy Martinez a wiser man: "There are a lot of guys out here who are really working hard and aren't getting anywhere."

Nobody has ever said that about Johnny Miller's caddie.