Public Links players getting comfy with local caddies

Staff writerJuly 14, 2014 


    At The Home Course, DuPont

    Monday, stroke play (first round)

    Leader(s): Cindy Ha, Demarest, New Jersey – 5-under-par 67.

    Highlights: It should be no surprise that Ha, 17, a four-time all-state high school star from New Jersey, is faring well at a United States Golf Association national championship. The Vanderbilt signee reached the quarterfinals in this tournament last summer, and was the co-medalist after stroke play in 2012. She finished strong Monday with three birdies on her final five holes. It all started after a bogey at No. 13, when she rebounded by making a 10-foot putt for birdie at the 14th hole, and then capping it all by rolling in a 5-footer on the finishing hole. The 67 was Ha’s lowest career competitive USGA round. … For nine holes, no golfer went on a roll like reigning U.S. Junior Girls Amateur champion Gabriella Then did Monday. Starting on the back nine, the California golfer went out in 6-under 30 — highlighted by a 60-foot chip-in birdie at No. 14. She shot 68, and sits in solo second place.

    Quotable: “(A 67) gives me a little bit more room (for error) going into tomorrow. But, obviously, it’s not a stroke-play tournament — it’s a match-play tournament. So the goal is to make it to match play and to take it one step at a time.” — Cindy Ha.

    How locals fared: Elma’s Alexis Keating shot a 74, and is tied for 45th; Silverdale’s Katie Lee shot a 76 (tied for 76th); and Federal Way’s Kendall Gray shot an 85 (tied for 150th).

    Cool to know: Florida teenager Terese Romeo aced the 171-yard, par-3 sixth hole with a 7-hybrid Monday for her second career hole-in-one. And later in the day, New Jersey golfer Alice Chen’s 7-iron tee shot at the 130-yard, par-3 14th hole disappeared for an ace. They were the seventh and eighth holes in one since 1998 at this tournament.

    Live scoring:

    Next: Second round of stroke play starting at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Camped out under the “Ye Old Caddie Shack” at The Home Course in DuPont, handing out bibs and calmly explaining instructions is Lakewood’s Scotty Overbo, the caddie master for the week.

It doesn’t happen to be just any week – it is the 38th U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links tournament, which is being held for the final time by the United States Golf Association.

Most golfers in the 156-player field bring their own caddies to this public-course national championship. The ones who don’t often request local caddies.

That is where Overbo comes in. Not only is he the caddie master, but he also is the chief recruiter of golf-bag help.

“I have a great relationship with a lot of great young golfers in the area,” said Overbo, a former standout golfer at Washington High School who is now the facilities manager at Tacoma Country and Golf Club.

Overbo first worked in this capacity at the 2007 U.S. Junior Girls Amateur in Lakewood. Because parents are not allowed to caddie at USGA junior events, Overbo was in charge of matching 93 local caddies with golfers.

The pool of caddies needed this week isn’t as extensive – it’s around 30. Overbo started calling prospects starting in May trying to gauge their interest.

He targeted college golfers, such as former Bellarmine Prep star James Feutz, a UNLV junior who is on the bag for Doris Chen, last year’s Public Links runner-up. He also got three current members of the Pacific Lutheran University women’s golf team — Kelly Miller, Kadyn Coltom and Desirae Haselwood — to help.

But he also contacted older adults who caddied at the 2007 U.S. Junior Girls – such as Rob Hoover, the golf coach at Spanaway Lake High School; Tim Morrisey, a men’s club member at The Home Course; and Terry Elvrom, a former bartender from University Place.

And some of the caddies have come from the host site itself, directed by Brent Hathaway.

Overbo said 22 of his caddies are getting full-time work this week.

All of them were required to attend a one-day training session in late June at The Home Course.

“It was just to go over … some of the guidelines,” Overbo said. “Ninety-five percent of our caddies know the rules of golf because they are great players or had caddied before.”

Each caddie receives $50 per day for practice and tournament rounds, plus tips.

As far as pairing up a caddie with a golfer, Overbo said the USGA requires it be selected by random draw.

That’s how Feutz got paired with Chen, the reigning NCAA Division I champion from USC.

There was very little interaction between the two Monday in the first round of stroke play. Feutz said he was consulted on how far some approach shots were when an afternoon breeze kicked up. He was never asked to read any putts, however.

“You need some luck (on caddie selection),” Chen said. “James is a really good caddie. We are both college players … and sometimes I need some information. But I don’t have that much of an expectation; I just need somebody to carry my bag.”

Added Feutz: “Different things go through different players’ minds – and I have stuff that normally goes through my mind on certain shots. But I have to filter what I say. She doesn’t like to hear too much.”

That is a stark contrast to Coltom’s experience with teenage golfer Alice Jo.

“I know some golfers do not want a caddie to start a conversation, but (Jo) told me, ‘If I mess up, I get quiet and upset … so talk to me and help cheer me up,’ ” said Coltom, a Cascade Christian graduate. “I can tell stories, so I knew I could do that.”

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 @ManyHatsMilles

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