'Dream Job' comes true as PGA Tour event caddy

Joe George of Bonita Bay gets his chance thanks to TV show

Joe George spent a practice round caddying for Zach Johnson at last year's John Deere Classic.

The thrill of being inside the ropes and on a bag in front of thousands of spectators that day in Illinois seeped into George's blood, and never left.

"The bug bit me. I loved every second. I thought it would be great to do it full-time," said George, a 57-year-old who splits his time between Bonita Bay and Iowa.

George hasn't tried to land a full-time gig caddying — he still has work to do as an executive vice-president of a broadcast consulting business — but he did make a brief return to the PGA Tour last week.

Being Johnson's caddy last year came via a successful bid George made on caddyforacure.com.

This time George simply responded to NBC's Today Show's dream job contest six weeks ago, explaining that he would love to be a caddy on the PGA Tour.

"I fired off an e-mail right that minute and then didn't think anything of it," said George.

That is, until he found out that NBC selected him to be part of the feature on career changes.

On Tuesday, George, who has an 18-handicap and actually gave up golf for 30 years, caddied nine holes for Sergio Garcia at the Wachovia Championship in Charlotte, N.C.

George saddled up next to Greg Hearman, Garcia's regular caddy. Granted it was just a practice round, but George wanted to make the most of his audition.

"I really couldn't do anything that bad," said George. "It wasn't like I was going to cost him any money. There wasn't anything at stake. Still, you don't want to make a mistake."

Especially when a production crew from NBC is following your every move.

"I was so into this I didn't think about the cameras until the 18th hole when they ran in front of me to get a face shot," said George. "I was concentrating so much on what Greg was telling me and on Sergio and making sure I didn't make a fool of myself."

George is scheduled to appear on "The Today Show" tomorrow when a story will air about his day with the flamboyant Spaniard.

"This kid is focused. He's going to have a good week this week," George predicted as the first round began on Thursday.

Through his caddying experiences, George said he's learned to appreciate the work performed by regular tour caddies.

"It isn't just carrying the bags and cleaning the clubs. The player expects the caddy to gather as much data about that course and that hole as you can," he said. "The caddies play such a behind-the-scenes, but intricate role in the success of a player. I was stunned by the amount of writing (Hearman) did."

Part-time Bonita Bay resident Joe George is scheduled to appear on 'The Today Show' on Sunday to discuss his day caddying for PGA Tour star Sergio Garcia.

Photo by KEVIN JOHNSON, Banner

Part-time Bonita Bay resident Joe George is scheduled to appear on "The Today Show" on Sunday to discuss his day caddying for PGA Tour star Sergio Garcia.

Other than a misplaced putter head cover that caused some anxious moments on No. 18, George didn't report any major problems during his back nine with Garcia.

"I was there to carry the bag, pick up the divots, clean the clubs and clean the balls, which was just fine for me," said George.

One task George was not permitted to do was rake sand traps, which tend to be treated as sacred grounds by tour caddies.

As if Garcia didn't possess enough star power, the group was rounded out by Camilo Villegas and Luke Donald. George found himself in the middle of a teen idol threesome, especially with the rock star-following that accompanies Garcia and Villegas.

"They had quite a following," said George. "There were some moments old men like me could have had a heart attack. Sergio knew just when to smile at them, and just when to go back to business."

On the final hole, Garcia hit a 3-wood to within two feet of the pin and then had some fun seeking George's advice.

"He turned to me and said, 'OK, I'll let you read this putt,'" said George.

After sinking the short eagle putt, Garcia gave the ball to George.

There's not much on the line in practice rounds, which is why George wants to experience what it's like to face cuts and moving days and be part of leaderboard-watching someday.

"I want to do it when it's showtime," he said. "I'd like to do it when they put their tee in the ground and it's time to make some money."

George, whose 16-year-old son Brad is a scratch golfer with ambitions to play professionally, will retire at the end of the year and would like to pursue caddying on a pro tour. Brad will play in a U.S. Open qualifier in Naples later this month, but will use his older brother for a caddy instead of his father.

That won't alter dad's ambitions.

"It's been a dream of mine to be a PGA caddy," said George.

For a day, that dream came true.

© 2006 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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