Perhaps Sigundo Oliva Pinto would be the one holding the coveted US Amateur title with all the spoils, had his inexperienced caddie not whipped his fingers through the sand on the 18th hole in a tight match that was tied. Sigundo actually had the easier chance at getting his shot up and in for perhaps the winning birdie on this finishing hole at Bandon Dunes.
Sigundo displayed some incredible self restraint after the incident, and showed the world again why MOST golfers are athletes with class, integrity and self control. Those that do not display these qualities typically don’t last in this tough game.
I can relate to what must have been going on with Sigundo, as most of us as kids dream of being in a position to win such a coveted event like the USGA Amateur. The Champion and runner-up get invitations to the US Open, Masters and the winner plays in the Open Championship in the UK. It can also be a springboard into a lucrative professional career and its just a fact that an amateur champion will get a shot at some good endorsement money entering his professional career.
All of the intangibles associated with winning this tournament only make what happened even more tragic. I guess my question is: Why did Bandon Dunes allow an inexperienced caddie to work the US Amateur. Was this guy ever properly trained?
I thought I always had the biggest BONE HEADED move in a tournament. In the 90’s I was playing Nick Watney in the NCGA Amateur at Spyglass Hill. I had a one hole led going to the short downhill par three 15th hole. I hit first and stuck my shot to 2.5 feet, almost a gimme, but not quite. Nick hit his shot to about 25 feet. Upon reaching the green, I marked my ball and whipped a low line drive to my caddie, a friend that had woken up at 5 am in the Bay Area to drive down to caddie for me. He was not totally with it, and the ball glanced off his hand and into the lake behind him. I knew the rule, and couldn’t believe that I could be so stupid to whip a golf ball to someone with a lake behind him.
My good friend and caddie went into the lake in search of my ball. He was almost neck deep in water and was pulling up balls with his bare feet. Back then you had five minutes to find it (three minutes now). He found about 20 balls, but never mine.
Instead of leaving that 15th hole 2up I left even, having to concede the hole to Nick for losing my ball in the lake. I lost to Nick on the 18th hole when he made birdie. We would not have played 18 if I had not thrown my ball. But it gets worse-
Obviously everyone heard about this incident, and even the local paper was kind enough to write a very unflattering article about my blunder. Also listing other recent mishaps I had experienced. But years later my iconic amateur championship friend Casey Boyns caddie for me in a late round match in the NCGA Championship after he had been knocked out. Again on the 15th hole I hit a good shot close to the hole, and again whipped a fast ball to the left of Casey. Thank god Casey has superior hand eye coordination and was able to snag my errand toss to him.
We both looked at each other, and clearly I felt like quite the fool for repeating something that had happened before and cost me so much. I however am pretty confident that Sigundo’s caddie will not be testing any more bunkers, at least I hope not.
Golf can be a cruel and punishing game. It will constantly test your patience and mental prowess. However I cannot imagine a better game that allows us to enjoy such beautiful places with such great people of integrity and honor while enjoying this amazing game for most of our lifetimes.
I’ve had my Cortisone and Steroid shots in my ankle so I play to be back in tournament action this weekend at the Antioch City Championship, a fun event, but certainly not a major.
Thanks for your support in reading this crazy blog, and always remember “Do as I say, not as I do”