During most of the years that I played on tour, I often used local caddies from the courses where the tournaments were being played. A lot of guys on tour used the same caddy for all their games, but I liked getting to know the young players around the country.

When I was a kid, I worked my way up to become the number one caddy at the Highland Country Club in Indianapolis, Indiana. I always seemed to be able to caddy for the best players, and it meant a lot to me to be able work with them. I got to see a lot of great golf during those years. Most of the players were very encouraging to us as we made our way around the course. That’s where I first developed a deep love for the game and the people who play it. And when I finally made it on tour, I saw it as my chance to give back a little of the encouragement I had been given as a boy.


“The ardent golfer would play Mount Everest if somebody would put a flagstick on top.”

–Pete Dye 


During my career, the people who ran the Western Open understood the importance of encouraging the younger generation of golfers and made a rule that anyone who played in the tournament had to use a caddy from the area. It was a great idea, even though some of the players didn’t like it.

The young men and women they brought out to caddy for us were exceptional people. They were high school kids from the area, the best caddies from all the country clubs in the Chicago area. Many were in line to go to college on an Evans Scholarship—a program set up to help the most outstanding caddies with their education. These kids were the cream of the crop from the Chicago area. It was a great tradition that has since given way to big bucks and pros with egos. It’s sad the organizers don’t still hold to this wonderful tradition.

The Western Open was one of my favorite tournaments to play, mostly because I so enjoyed getting to know these bright, young players. They loved the game as much as I did, and there was nothing I enjoyed more than getting together with them on the course or in the clubhouse and telling great golf stories. You could see in their eyes how much it meant to them when we included them in our activities. I understood, because I felt the same way when I was a young caddy and players showed me the same kindness.

Today I still keep in touch with a few of my past caddies from that event. Many of them are now doctors, lawyers, or schoolteachers, but I’m willing to bet that every one of them is still a golfer. Once you’ve been bitten by the golf bug, you seldom lose your zeal for the game.

Golf is always more satisfying when you’re able to share it with others. My advice to anyone who loves the game is to look for opportunities to pass on your passion, especially to the younger generations. There is no better way to keep the history of golf alive and fresh.


Catching Sam Snead’s Passion 

During my rookie year on tour, 1974, one of the first tournaments I got to play was the World Open at Pinehurst. It was an eight-round marathon of golf on four different courses, and a lot of the old players were there to compete. Over two hundred men from around the world showed up to play.

My wife, Debbie, was as thrilled to be there as I was, and during the first two rounds of play I kept looking up to find her. I assumed she’d be watching me. I later found out she’d been following along with Arnold Palmer’s gallery (“Arnie’s Army”). It didn’t bother me; if I hadn’t been playing, that’s where I would have been too.

On the third day of the tournament I got my pairing sheet and found that I would be playing with the great Sam Snead on the famous number two course. What an amazing honor and privilege! I’ll never forget the thrill of playing with this living legend. His strength and flexibility were something to behold—even though he was well into his senior years.

I’d heard stories of how Snead still worked to retain his flexibility. Even in his sixties and seventies, he would stand flat on the ground and try to kick the top of a door with his foot. Every day he would stretch and work out to keep his edge and stay in shape. And you could certainly see that in his swing as he crushed the ball a country mile on each hole.


“What you have to remember is that golf is a game that you can play almost forever. In other sports, a 40-year-old athlete is an old man.”

–Curtis Strange 


Like most legends of the game, Snead was tremendously competitive and gave it his all throughout every hole. We had a great time trading shots and stories on the course. From the first tee box, it was apparent he hadn’t lost his competitive edge and his desire to win. He played every shot as if he were on his way to win the U.S. Open, and his drive and passion flowed through to the rest of us. Just playing alongside him served to inspire me and push me to play better—to be the best I could possibly be.

The last time I saw Sam Snead at an event was at the Southern Open in Columbus, Georgia. He was hitting balls on the practice range, surrounded by a bunch of younger players, and I quickly grabbed my clubs and a bucket of balls to hit near him, hoping to overhear what he was saying. What I remember most about that practice range was that it was long and downhill, with a twenty-foot-high fence about 250 yards down the range. The fence was there to catch the balls on their first and second bounce. To make it over the fence, your ball would have to carry at least 260 or 270 yards. Many players couldn’t do it.

It was quite a sight to see the aging Snead challenging a bunch of flatbellies to see who could carry that fence. He would crush his balls one after the other and sail them safely over to the other side, while the young, strong players would swing for all they were worth to try and keep up with him. Few could. It was a wonderful afternoon of competition, and I could tell that Snead was getting a kick out of it. It was probably the highlight of his week. Snead loved to show off his powerful swing.


“Tennis players don’t sleep in parking lots on Saturday nights.”

–David Owen 


One of the greatest aspects of golf is the way it brings generations together. Young players are able to play right alongside the older ones, catching their love and enthusiasm for the game, getting advice and pointers, and learning about the rich history of the sport from the very ones who made that history. You’d be hard pressed to find that dynamic on a basketball court, or a football field, or even a baseball diamond. But golf is a great equalizer, a game of skill, finesse, and experience.

More than any other game, golf is played better when caught instead of taught.


Passing On Your Faith 

Through my writing and speaking ministry, I get the chance to travel the country and talk to a lot of great young men and women. I speak at a number of Fellowship of Christian Athletes  gatherings, summer junior golf camps, Christian businessmen’s luncheons, and golfing events. These engagements are the highlight of my life at present.

There’s nothing more encouraging than meeting young people with a deep love for God and his Word—young people with a passion for growing in their faith. Though they love hearing some of the great golf stories—almost as much as I love telling them—they’re much more interested in hearing the testimonies of faith and integrity in the game, stories of people who have used their platform as a celebrity or athlete to further God’s kingdom and shine the Lord’s light to the world—players like Tom Lehman, Scott Simpson, Paul Azinger, and the late Payne Stewart. Instead of using their highly visible careers for personal gain, these players choose to let God work through them to reach a generation of young fans and players. Many of these men give a great deal of their time and resources to ministries and charities around the world and look for every opportunity to be a witness for Christ. Every time the TV cameras and microphones are turned on them, they see it as an opportunity to share their faith and spread God’s love to others.

To me, that’s the true sign of greatness—both in golf and in life. It’s not about how many tournaments you’ve won or how much money you’ve made; it’s about how many people were touched along the way by your life and words.