No working relationship in sports matches that of golfer and caddie, and rarely has that bond been explored with such charm as in The Green Road Home by Michael Bamberger (Contemporary Books, Inc., $16.95). Bamberger, 26, took six months off from a burgeoning career as a newspaperman to work as a caddie on the pro tour last year. It cost him the $5,000 he had saved for the purpose, as well as the $7,000 he earned caddying (PGA caddies average $250 plus 5% of their player's earnings per tournament). He caddied at 22 tournaments, big and small, from the Magnolia Classic in Hattiesburg, Miss., to the Byron Nelson, the U.S. and British opens, and the PGA. He hauled the bag for veteran stars such as Al Geiberger and George Archer, and such soon-to-be-stars (Bamberger believes) as Larry Rentz, Steve Elkington and Jamie Howell. Some he obviously disliked; others became good friends.
Though perceptive and candid, Green Road is in no sense an exposè of the PGA Tour. Like roughly 14 million addicts in this country alone, Bamberger is helplessly in love with the game of golf, and he writes, unabashedly, from that perspective. He persevered toward the goal of all good caddies: to imbue their players with confidence, without being intrusive but with intelligence and concern. Nevertheless, the book brims with good humor. Here is a snippet from a phone conversation with young golfer Brad Faxon. When Bamberger called, introduced himself and offered his services as a caddie, Faxon first warned the author about the uncertainties of the job. Then the conversation went like this:
"What I'm worried about," I said, "is doing a good job, so I can keep my job. What do you think makes for a good caddie?"
"Well," said Brad, "you've got to have all the basics."
"Basics," I wrote on a piece of scrap paper.
"You know: Keep the ball clean, the clubs clean, give accurate yardages, keep things dry in the rain, keep things organized," Brad said.
"Ball clean, club clean, yards good, dry rain, organ," I wrote down.
"That's the easy stuff," Brad said.
"EZ," I wrote down.
Bamberger was, surely, unlike the Scottish caddies he describes as "old men, generally, who wear tweed coats through the summer and who have sharp teeth and shiny noses, and who take you around the links...as your teaching pro, tour guide, and wet nurse, too." There is admirable wit in The Green Road Home, and wisdom, too, and a relaxed style that never tries to impress the reader with its nimbleness but manages to do so anyway—all of which bodes very well indeed for Bamberger's "real" career as journalist.