Flipping the Script
Nearly two dozen caddies at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort had their games in shape to attempt to qualify for this summer’s U.S. Amateur Championship, which will be held in their own back yard. Goodbye to all that.
by Tony Dear
Every December, the top six caddies at Bandon Dunes take on their counterparts from Pine Valley, Cypress Point, and Pebble Beach in a three-day Ryder Cup-style event at Bandon Dunes known as the Looper Cup.
To be a member of the home team, players must advance from an 18-hole qualifier held on one of the resort’s five regulation courses. In 2017, the qualifying round was contested on Old Macdonald and Jason Humphrey guaranteed his spot on Team Bandon Dunes quite handily. He shot 64.
Seven-under-par on any course is pretty stout, but on Old Macdonald? The Tom Doak/Jim Urbina-designed, CB Macdonald-inspired course is widely acknowledged as the perfect layout for a match-play duel, but a tough place on which to keep a medal score going.
Shooting 64 there takes some different-level ball-striking – touch, finesse, scrambling, putting, patience, and course management – and it was these skills Humphrey had hoped would take him far in this year’s U.S. Amateur, which will be played at Bandon Dunes on August 10-16.
But with the USGA’s announcement that all qualifying for the Amateur would be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that only exempt players would play in the championship, the dreams of Humphrey, and of 20 or so other of the resort’s caddies, went poof.
Bandon’s caddies, which have a well-earned reputation for their playing skills, were all looking to take advantage of their familiarity with the resort’s courses and weather conditions. Vince Quattrocchi, the Director of Caddie Services at the resort, believed a handful would have made it through to the championship proper.
Humphrey, 39, grew up in Coos Bay, 20 miles north of Bandon, and still lives in the area, with his girlfriend, nine-year-old step-daughter and three-year-old son.
He began caddying at the resort in its early days when David McLay Kidd’s debut design, Bandon Dunes course, was the only course there.
“It’s probably my favorite to play and caddie on,” Humphrey says. “I’ve always felt most comfortable on Bandon Dunes, even though my best there is only 66 (he has 64s on the others).”
Naturally, Humphrey was beyond excited when, in May 2015, the USGA announced Bandon Dunes would be the site of the 2020 U.S. Amateur.
But there was just one snag. Following college, Humphrey had played some mini-tour golf and a couple of seasons on the Canadian Tour (now Mackenzie Tour) as a professional.
“I obviously needed to get my amateur status back,” he says. “I really wanted to play.”
It was a long process, but Humphrey officially returned to the amateur ranks on May 9, 2019. “It was a big relief,” he says now. “My priorities had changed a lot with the birth of my son, and with the U.S. Am coming to Bandon.”
Humphrey was prepared.
“I prefer to play rounds than beat balls,” he says. “I’m not a big range rat. I’ll practice on and around the greens mostly. I strike it pretty well. I hit it about 300 off the tee. I’m not a bomber like Kyle.”
That would be Kyle Crawford, who had been the resort’s other big hope of being represented in the final 64. And yes, he can really get it out there. The 31-year-old also grew up in Coos Bay and began caddying at Bandon Dunes in the very early days.
After graduating from Oregon State University in 2012 with a degree in Political Science, Crawford spent six months in New Zealand caddying at Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers.
“It was fun, but I think I realized I don’t really like traveling,” he says. After returning to the U.S., he drove to Florida to caddie at the Streamsong Resort and entertained the notion of turning pro and playing mini-tours. He soon realized it wasn’t for him.
“The life didn’t really appeal,” he says. “Living out of your car, barely making enough to cover expenses, all that.”
He came home to Oregon, married a Coos Bay school teacher, and never looked back.
Twice an alternate in past U.S. Amateurs, Crawford had been looking to make it in this time.
Like Humphrey, Crawford says Bandon Dunes is his favorite at the resort, and he says the players this year will have to face a constant two-club northerly wind in August during the championship.
In 2013, Crawford made it through stroke-play at the PNGA Men’s Amateur at Bandon Dunes, eventually going out in the round of 32, and last year on home turf he and Kevin Rei missed out on a playoff by a single stroke to advance to match play at the U.S. Four-Ball Championship, also held at Bandon.
Humphrey had qualified for the 2007 U.S. Mid-Amateur, another national championship held at the resort.
Instead of playing in the nation’s – if not the world’s – premier amateur championship, what will Humphrey and Crawford be doing? Probably caddying for some of the finest amateur golfers on the planet, helping them win a title in their own back yard, which they know so well.
(This article was previously seen in Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine.)
A former British PGA apprentice professional and member of the University of Liverpool golf team, Tony Dear is an award-winning golf writer now living in Bellingham, Wash. He contributes to numerous publications on both sides of the Atlantic, and has authored four books on golf, most recently “The Story of Golf in Fifty Holes.”