Wellness center takes care of the caddies who take care of the pros at U.S. Open

Chambers Bay has lived up to its reputation as a challenging course for golfers at the U.S. Open.

It’s no different for the guys carrying their bags.

Caddies walk the same 18 holes each round, and the USGA has a set up a mobile doctor’s office at the course to keep them going, said Jeff Poplarski.

Poplarksi is a golf performance specialist and doctor of chiropractic care from Amityville, New York. For 11 years, he’s served as the chairman of the caddies and their treatment.

“The USGA and myself are very, very committed to giving world-class treatment,” he said Sunday. “We take pride in our team.”

That includes 128 assorted health care providers, including athletic trainers, chiropractors and physical therapists, among other specialists. Poplarski began recruiting this group nine months ago, and the slots filled up fast.

Brian Stemp, of the Lakewood-area Stemp Family Chiropractic practice, is working his fifth U.S. Open, but this one is a mile from his house. He also worked at the U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay in 2010.

“I wanted to be a part of it in some way,” he said.

The wellness center, open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the tournament, is in a 14-by-60-foot trailer near the driving range. Caddies can go there to get a chiropractic adjustment, recharge in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber or get a massage.

Like any doctor’s office, there’s a waiting room where caddies fill out a medical chart and make appointments. There are six treatment areas, divided by black curtains.

Poplarski said that during any given championship, close to 100 caddies will receive a share of about 290 treatments. Caddies typically get two or three treatments during the tournament.

Word about the quality care gets around. Poplarksi said the caddies tell the players, and they come in, too. He estimated that 30 golfers had come in.

Chambers Bay has seen about a 15 percent spike in the number of treatments for caddies during a tournament, he said, because of the difficult terrain.

“We knew that going into it,” Poplarski said.

Sunday morning was a little slow in the wellness center compared with earlier in the tournament.

Matt Kuchar’s caddie, Lance Bennett, finished a chiropractic session while Tom Hoge’s caddie, Malcolm Baker, climbed out of a hyperbaric chamber in the back of the trailer.

Baker said the hyperbaric therapy wasn’t his first treatment.

“I’ve been here a lot this week,” he said. “It’s fantastic. We don’t get anything like this any other week of the year.”

He added that the tough terrain has forced him to seek more treatments than usual.

“It’s probably the most grueling golf course I’ve ever walked,” Baker said.

Baker, who stood in for Josh Persons’ ailing caddie on Friday and walked an additional 18 holes, said the center has helped him get through the tournament and, possibly, beyond.

“I might actually make it through the rest of the season,” Baker said.

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