Thursday, September 23, 1999

'Til death (or golf) do us part


Senior wives pitching in as caddies

BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — At the end of June, Alberto Giannone had it. He wasn't playing well on the Senior PGA Tour. He was displeased with his caddies. He needed a change.

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Chris Morgan, wife and caddy of senior pro John Morgan, watches as her husband putts on the second hole.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
        He suggested to his wife, Alexandra, that she become his caddie.

        Alexandra doesn't play golf. Never has. But she took the job. In his last eight events Alberto has finished tied for eighth twice, his only top-10 showings of the year.

        “I used to walk the course anyway,” Alexandra said. “Now it goes faster. It's exciting, really.

        “And he feels more comfortable. He used to get upset with the other caddies, arguing about clubs and things like that. We don't argue. I let him just play his game. I know he's aggressive. I don't push him to play whatever club. He's been playing better. He says we are a team. That's nice.”

        Giannone is competing this week in the Kroger Senior Classic at The Golf Center at Kings Island. The Argentinian couple is not the only husband-and-wife team in town.

        John Morgan can't do without his spouse Chris. After three months in the United States on the Senior Tour, he called home to England and told his wife: Either you join me, or I'm coming home.

        Chris gave up her teaching career. Wednesday she was working the pro-am with John, discussing and taking notes at each hole. “She's very good,” John said. “She does all the yardages. She does all the usual things like putting the divots back, raking the bunkers and holding the flag. But she's good with clubs. She helps me make my mind up and stops me from making a mistake occasionally. She'll remind me of something I did before in a similar situation.

        “It's perfect. She's a great person, a great shoulder to lean on. She's got a sense of fun and humor.”

        Chris caddied for John for three years on the European Seniors Tour, and he said if she had not joined him in the United States, he would have returned to that circuit.

        “I'd been teaching for 25 years, so it was a big decision,” Chris said. “It was such a great opportunity for John and at the same time it was a great opportunity for me to see parts of America that I haven't seen. So we decided to have a go together. It was a bit of a risk in some ways because not every married couple could spend 24 hours a day together.”

        Twenty-four hours a day, indeed.

        That's the best part and the hardest part for Butch and Pam Baird.

        Eight years ago, Butch was in a tournament in Dallas. He was playing with an amateur with whom the Bairds were staying. The amateur's wife was caddying for him. Baird's caddie was unable to get to the event, and Butch asked Pam to do it.

        She didn't want to. He convinced her.

        “After that week, we did two, three more weeks,” Butch said. “From then on she said, "I don't want to be behind the ropes. I can do this.' And so we went from there.”

        It hasn't always been easy. Pam wasn't fully prepared to be a target when her husband got upset or frustrated on the golf course.

        “You have to remember it's not something personal,” she said. “It's just in the heat of battle this happens. It was tough to get used to at the beginning. There were some tears.”

        Pam Baird has had thoughts of stepping aside. But they go away shortly after the two are off the course. All things considered, through the hotels and laundromats and airplane rides, she'd rather be with her husband than not.

        “And I'd rather be working inside the ropes,” she said. “When I'm out here, I'm the caddie. You have to separate it. It's not easy all the time. But it's easier now that I've done it so long.”

       



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