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SVCC caddies enjoy week with the pros

BETHLEHEM - Steve Frisch and Andrew Price were pretty happy just to be caddying in the US Senior Open. The pair of longtime loopers at Saucon Valley Country Club were among the 17 SVCC caddies that carried a pro’s bag in last week’s event.

When two rounds were done both Frisch and Price were among the five local caddies whose players made the cut. As luck would have it, Frisch’s man Craig Thomas and Price’s player Jeffrey Schmid both shot 3-over par for the first two rounds and were paired together for Saturday’s round.

The two close friends would get to work side by side at the biggest event of their careers.

“We’re best buddies,” said Frisch. “We’ve been doing this for years together. It was cool to be out there with one of your buddies that you’re always palling around with. Not only did we make the cut, but we got paired together.”

“It was the coolest thing in the entire world,” said Price. “The biggest event in our caddie lives. It was like winning the lottery. That’s like a one in a million chance, getting to walk with your best friend in the Senior Open.”

Frisch has some experience working for pros. He carried a bag in the 2009 US Women’s Open at Saucon Valley. His player in that event hired him for a six-event stint in 2016.

He’s also carried for his good friend Matt Mattare, a fellow Allentown Central Catholic graduate who plays in high level amateur events.

For Price and most of the other SVCC caddies, this was their first time working inside the ropes at a professional event.

“I literally was like thank you God for this opportunity,” said Price, a 36-year-old Bethlehem native who declined to disclose how many years he’s been looping. “I have been caddying for X number of years and to get a cherry on top, I just felt so thankful.

“The experience was a grind as all caddying is a grind. We made the cut. Our guy is going to go home with some prize money. It was a success on all sides”

Brian Egan is an 18-year SVCC veteran from Coopersburg who worked for Brett Quigley at the Senior Open. While he was considered the most likely local caddie to make the cut, Quigley shot 7-over par and missed by two strokes.

“It was an experience of a lifetime,” said Egan, who was in the gallery Saturday and Sunday cheering for his friends who were on bags that made the cut. “It was really awesome. You feel pride in the fact that local guys are bringing some of these big names through this place. When our guys got knocked out we came the next day to support our boys.”

As Price pointed out, caddying isn’t glamorous. It’s hard work, especially when they find out just days before the event whose bag they’ll be on. This week they had to get acquainted with their player’s game, his personality and his wants and needs on the course all within a few days.

“You had to get to know your guy a little bit,” said Price. “You had to adapt and be like a chameleon. I was gung ho in the beginning and wanted to be this fearless guide. I realized my guy didn’t want to be guided. He just wanted accurate numbers. He just wanted the brass tacks business, so that’s what I gave him.”

SVCC caddie Marc Szilezy was on amateur Jerry Gunthrope’s bag. He shot 17-over par and missed the cut. It took a couple days for Szilezy to get used to walking off yardage and doing the calculations to adjust for wind and slope. Range finders are not allowed at the highest levels of professional golf.

“The hardest part was not using our range finder,” said Szilezy, a 13-year SVCC veteran. “My guy wanted front, middle and back. He wanted pin plus or minus. He wanted the actual pin number and the adjusted pin number. I had to do that math pretty quickly. After the two practice rounds I got comfortable and it felt like it was almost better because you get true numbers.”

Saucon Valley caddymaster Andy Rumble found out most of the names of players who needed caddies about a week or so before practice rounds, but others had last-minute needs that he had to fill.

There were also a few other local caddies who helped for practice rounds but weren’t needed for the tournament. And some of the tournament caddies carried for other players Sunday or Monday before their players arrived. At least a couple dozen worked for a pro at some point during Senior Open week.

The feedback Rumble received was all positive.

“The few that I talked to all had high praise for the guys that were with them,” he said. “So that was nice.”

Rumble had all his caddies’ players bookmarked on the leader boards he watched all weekend on his US Open app and his office computer.

He was more than confident his men would do a great job. On one level it’s a lot like adjusting to different members and guests they work for on a regular basis. Except these players hit it much longer and more accurately.

“Some guys had experiences where they were just kind of carrying the bag and some of them were more involved,” he said. “Most guys know how to adapt.”

Not long after Padraig Harrington received his trophy Sunday evening, all the professional golfers were gone and the club started to transform back into the place its members have enjoyed for over 100 years. This week the SVCC caddies will go back to carrying bags for members and guests like most have done for years. They still enjoy those walks with members. If they didn’t they wouldn’t be out there.

From now on, every time they walk SVCC’s Old Course it will bring back memories of the week they were inside the ropes where few caddies and even fewer people get to walk.

“The experience was once in a lifetime,” said Szilezy.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Andrew Price (left) and Steve Frisch, two longtime Saucon Valley Country Club caddies, carry the bags for U.S. Senior Open players Jeffrey Schmid and Craig Thomas, respectively, during Saturday's round.