With the patience of a junior high school teacher, Jeff Marsh’s nurturing way masks the daily stresses of his job.
For Marsh, in charge of prepping caddies at the pristine grounds at the Chambers Bay Golf Course, the 250-acre layout overlooking Puget Sound is his classroom.
“I would rather teach out on a golf course than in a portable,” said the laid-back Marsh. “It’s not about egos. It’s just about golf, loving the game and service for people and making it the best experience possible.”
Marsh and caddie master Brian Hines are responsible for turning Chambers Bay’s caddie program into an elite service group.
It’s a job that fits Marsh’s background.
He has plied his trade with some of the best, working for a year caddying for Cascade Christian High School classmate and touring pro Ryan Moore on the PGA Tour.
And Marsh has earned his teaching credentials from Warner Pacific College, so he can communicate those skills that he’s learned while looping for Moore.
“On tour, Ryan and I figured there’s over 100 factors that go into every golf shot,” Marsh said. “And it’s the same out here for even the average hack. It’s still the same factors — lie, wind, what kind of grass you’re hitting (from), how far you are — just everything. There’s a lot to learn. And every time you come out here you should be learning something.”
That irreplaceable experience helped Marsh gain the skills he’s now using to establish a well-respected tradition in the caddie program at the upscale public course in University Place.
“I’m kind of running a tight ship because we want this place to be special,” Marsh said. “You never know who’s going to be playing. We’re going to have a lot of names out here. And we don’t want some guy that’s never golfed or caddied before looping for (Ken) Griffey.
“We’re just going to pour into these kids and train them. Teach them golf, you know. Golf first, caddying second.”
Hines oversees the business and logistical aspects of the caddie program, while Marsh is the hands-on trainer.
A local businessman, Hines’ zest for golf took root 10 years ago. Now semi-retired, Hines thought getting involved at Chambers Bay would be a good way to merge his interests in business and golf.
He sees the caddie program as a good investment for golfers playing the hilly, links-style course.
“Personally I think people can play their best golf with a caddie, because it’s like having somebody … helping them on every shot,” Hines said.
Some big names for whom Chambers Bay caddies have looped so far include University of Washington football coach Ty Willingham, former two-sport pro star Bo Jackson (L.A. Raiders and K.C. Royals) and former Gov. Booth Gardner.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates is another big name who has played the course. However, the world’s richest man and two members of his group apparently did not understand the caddie fee structure for the three caddies working for them, much to the chagrin of Marsh.
After seven days of calls, Marsh received payment from the Gates’ group.
Caddie fees at Chambers Bay are $35, paid directly to the caddie. Usually golfers pay a 50 percent gratuity on top of that fee to their caddie after a round, with the more experienced caddies coming at a higher price.
Marsh hopes to have a solid group of 100 caddies trained and ready by the end of this summer. The golf course opened June 23.
Power carts are not allowed at Chambers Bay unless a player has a medical condition. Caddies are expected to do the little things to make a round at Chambers Bay a more memorable and enjoyable experience — give golfers the correct yardage, rake the bunkers, provide consistent reads on putts — all in the name of shaving strokes off of a player’s score so he feels good about his performance at the end of a round.
Caddies run the gamut, from college golfers looking to make a few bucks for the summer to retirees looking for a part-time job, to professionals who have worked at August National, Bandon Dunes and on the professional tours.
“People have to understand the caddies are truly there to help people,” said Jeff Neyenhouse, a 58-year-old teacher in the Sumner School District who caddies on the side. “We want to be more than just being a mule that is there just to carry a bag. We really want to provide the best experience that they can have.”
Chambers bay caddies
What you’ll pay: Caddie fees at Chambers Bay are $35, paid directly to the caddie. Golfers are expected to pay a 50 percent gratuity on top of that fee to their caddie after a round. If you feel you’ve gotten great service, pay more. But $20 is a good starting point.
What you’ll get: Along with someone to carry your bag and save your legs on the hilly Chambers Bay layout, caddies should provide yardages to the hole and to hazards from various points on the course; tell you the direction to hit your shot and what the risks might be; help you find your ball; clean your club after each shot and assist in reading the tricky greens; tend the flag, rake bunkers and wipe off your ball before putting. Basically, you’ll be coddled like you never have been on a golf course, so be appreciative and enjoy it.
At your service
Best round: 81 from the blues at Washington National.
Favorite club: Driver.
Caddyshack or Caddyshack II? “Caddyshack. I haven’t seen Caddyshack II.”
The skinny: The senior-to-be has been playing golf for only three years, but she has improved quickly. On looping at Chambers Bay for the first time. “It was a tough walk. I don’t think I could have had a bigger bag. It was definitely a traveling bag, not an, ‘I’m going to go play 18 holes’ bag. It was bigger than him, actually. But it was fun.”
Best round: 71 at the Links at Hawks Prairie.
Favorite club: Driver.
Caddyshack or Caddyshack II: Caddyshack
The skinny: McPherson, the lead singer for the local band Doxology, likes the flexible schedule caddies have available to them. “I was born with sticks,” McPherson said. “I’m one of those guys. I had sticks in my cradle, and I have been playing since I can remember.”
Best round: 76 at Linden Golf & Country Club.
Favorite club: New Mizuno MP-60 irons.
Caddyshack or Caddyshack II: Caddyshack.
The skinny: Neyenhouse, 58, is a social studies teacher at Sumner Middle School. He has been playing golf since he was 10 years old. “It’s going great,” Neyenhouse said about his experience so far. “I love it. It’s everything I wanted it to be, and probably more.”
Best round: 78 at Gold Mountain, Olympic Course.
Favorite club: Knock-down 7-iron.
Caddyshack or Caddyshack II: Caddyshack.
The skinny: Spitzer has been playing golf for seven years. He played linebacker at Western Washington University and works as a mortgage broker in Kitsap County. “I just want to get them to shave some strokes off of their score and enjoy their round,” Spitzer said about his goal as a caddie. “Make sure they have a good time and help them play better.”