'Haul' of Fame
            Interview
      with Pete Bender

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Pete Bender was name 'Most Underrated' professional tour caddy of all time in a Sports Illustrated September 2001 edition article which rated the caddies of the PGA Tour.  Over his 33 years as a pro caddy he's worked for Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Ray Floyd, Lanny Wadkins, Ian Baker Finch, and Jerry Heard in his heyday.  Along with two majors caddy victories, both of them being  British Open Championships, Pete has also caddied in two Ryder Cups for Lanny Wadkins.  He also worked one of the made for TV. early Skins games matches for Ray Floyd when Floyd won all the cash!

CaddyBytes.com
-How long have you been caddying on the PGA Tour, and how did you get started?

Pete -Thirty three years now.  I came out near Monterey California.  I grew up in Los Gatos.  Caddied first at Rio Canada.  I would caddy at Pebble a lot, Cypress Pt. a couple of times a year.   I knew Pebble so well.  I could pull clubs and read the greens real well.  The members would ask me, you're so good at what you're doing you ever think of caddying on tour?  I thought no way I could do that.  So one year decided to try to caddy at the Crosby.  My first job was for Jim King in 1966.  What a tough guy to work for!  Then in 1968 I got to caddy for Frank Beard and we got along real well.  Frank asked me to caddy for him the next week in Los Angeles and I did.  I worked nine or ten tournaments for Frank, then moved on to work for Tom Shaw from 1969 to 1971.  Tom Shaw was my first true steady bag.  Caddied the West Coast, as we couldn't caddy any majors in those days.  Caddied Houston, 15 or so tournaments in my first year, 25 to 30 every year thereafter.  

CaddyBytes.com -Who were some of the caddies who helped you back in the early days when you first came out to caddy?

Pete -When I first came out to caddy, most of the caddies were black guys.   They were my best friends and they helped me a lot getting started.  Big Mitch, (Gardner Dickinson's' and then Lee Trevino fame,) Walter Montgomery, Golf Ball -(Aldolphus Hall -of Ray Floyd caddy fame), Ralph Coffey, Little Rabbit, Bob Blair -Arnold Palmers first caddy, Creamy Caroline -Palmers next most notable caddy), Lee Lynch, Angelo came out back then.

CaddyBytes.com -After Tom Shaw who'd you work for?

Pete -I Worked for Jerry Heard, 1972 thru 1975 who was a great player in those days.  I learned a lot from working for him and started to develop the use of yardage books then.  Got my first caddy win with Jerry at the Jackie Gleason Inverary Classic. From 1976 to 1980 worked for Lanny Wadkins.  Then in 1980 got to work for Jack Nicklaus, worked for him the next two years and my highlight was a 6th place finish at Augusta in 1983.  We played practice rounds at Augusta that year with Greg Norman and I got to get to know him first there.   Then Greg Norman asked me to come to work for him.  Jack  was playing less and less it seemed back then and I decided to go to work for Greg beginning in the 1984 season.  We missed the cut at the Memorial in '84' and Jack won.  But we never missed a cut again together after that one and I worked for Greg for the next 3 and 1/2 years.  In 1986 with Norman and we had a big year.

CaddyBytes.com -That was the year that Norman lead all the majors going into the final round, 1986?

Pete
-Yes.   Led all four majors going into Sunday in 1986.  Nicklaus beat him at Augusta, Bob Tway beat him holing bunker at last hole at Oak Hill to win the PGA Championship, Ray Floyd came from behind to beat us the last day at Shinnecock Hills. 

CaddyBytes.com -Then you go to Turnberry in 1986 with the press all over Norman with, 'Can he finally win a major championship' etc.  The proverbial monkey on his back.  But the results are different this time, you lead going into Sundays final round and Norman wins his first major with you on the bag.  Tell us about that!?  

Pete -My goal no matter what was to keep his loose.  And we did just that.  I tried to joke around whenever appropriate to deflect the pressure.  When we had a good lead on Sunday Greg uncharacteristically snap hooked a drive.  He was off the tee quicker than usual marching towards the ball.  I noticed he was speeding up.  After he played that one back to the fairway I grabbed his sweater from behind and told him to slow down a little.  And that he was the best player there that he was going to win the tournament to take his time  and enjoy it.  Then I changed the subject and told him a joke.  He told me I was right and that he was going to relax and enjoy it.  We beat Tom Watson and won the tournament. 

CaddyBytes.com -Your first major caddy win and then you do it again with Ian Baker Finch again in 1991 at Royal Birkdale for another British Open victory.  -You always seem to make the right caddy move at the right time.  You quit Shaw and pick up Lanny Wadkins.  You quit Jack Nicklaus, and then it's Greg Norman at the right time, and then late '80's early '90's you go to work for a young and very talented Ian Baker Finch, and win another major.  Now it's to Rocco Mediate and you've got 3 wins with him.  Besides being a proven caddy, you're moves to opportunities have been very well timed?

 
Pete -Again, I do it by feel about who to work with.  It' s tough to quit a player you like or have spent time with. I've been lucky with some of the guys I've worked for have given me credit after tournaments for doing a good job.  Norman said that for me after the British Open win.  Rocco has said good stuff for me.  

CaddyBytes.com -So who are some of the other top players that you've caddied for an won with over the years and how many wins total?

Pete -Somewhere between 25 and 27 wins.  Jerry Heard, Lanny Wadkins, who I worked for five years.  Won with Ray Floyd, Greg Norman, Finch, John Cook, Hal Sutton, Rocco Mediate -3 PGA tour events with him, plus the unofficial Monterey Callaway tournament, in my hometown. Won with Bert Yancey.  Didn't win with Jack Nicklaus but I learned a lot from him.  

CaddyBytes.com -When I first caddied I was used to pulling clubs on a given shot based on the actual yardage and then take into account the conditions, factor them in, then come up with the club I think is correct.  But I had to learn, how to factor in all the conditions and come up with a tangible, 'How many yards the shot is going to play".. As you know, these guys can hit different shots, and may want a stock shot, a high shot, a low shot, etc, so it's almost required that we provide this sort of information to the players today.  How do you come up with that sort of decision, and are you from that old school of caddying?

Pete -  You know its funny.  Actually I do everything by feel. I tell them what I think.  I I think they've got the wrong club, I tell em, I never hesitate if I think it's the wrong club.  I think I learned a lot from Lanny Wadkins when I caddied for him for the five years that i did.  He was a very aggressive player, wasn't a pin he was afraid to go for.  Granted sometimes he'd shoot himself in the foot doing that.  But for the most part, it taught me going and not going, and not being afraid to go at pins when you have to.  By the same token, when it's a pin not to go at I don't hesitate to give my opinion.  

CaddyBytes.com -How about if it's an in-between-er?

Pete -If it's an in-between-er, say it's tucked over a bunker, I like them to hit the hard shot.  If it's not over a bunker and say you've got green to work with I like them to hit the softer shot.  Now like with Rocco, he loves to hit the hard shot probably 90% of the time.  Players are different.  You have to know their strengths and weakness's.   Ray Floyd was very good at picking the ball off of the fairway, gripping the club down a little bit and hitting the 'little' version of the shot.  Lanny Wadkins most always liked to hit the hard shot because of the fast tempo.  

CaddyBytes.com -So Floyd was good with that little shot on the in-between-er?

Pete -Yeah, he told me he loved to 'pick' the shot, rather than go down and take a divot.

CaddyBytes.com -Any big caddy disappointments over the years?

Pete -In a situation when I had Chip Beck at the Masters.  Langer had a two shot lead coming into the 15 the par five.  Beck hit a big drive about 30 yards past Langer, Langer laid up.  We had 230 downhill, it's a perfect 3 wood you don't have to kill it.  He decided to lay up.  I stepped in and said, 'You can't give me enough reasons to lay up, I can give you more reasons to go for it!  I said you hired me for this situation.  (To make the correct decision at the right time).   I fought with him for five minutes to go for it and put some heat on Langer and try to win the tournament.  I tried to explain to him, "if you hit a good golf shot in there, you might make three, and we'd be tied.  But he didn't want to, he didn't trust me when he should have.  We had a two or three shot lead over third place.  

CaddyBytes.com -How about giving us a funny caddy story from over the years out there?

Pete  -I was caddying for Tom Shaw I think it was the 1970 Bob Hope Desert Classic.  We were paired on Sunday in second to the last group with Charles Coody.  He had a caddy by the name of 'Wingy' caddying for him, who was aptly named as he was missing part of one arm.  Bermuda Dunes was the host course that year and Charles Coody was one or two shots back with a birdie putt from about 25 feet on the 17th hole there. Wingy is tending the flag with his right arm, and the towel draped over his shoulder.  As Coody hits the putt, Wingy takes the pin out, and while turning away, the towel falls off his shoulder covering the hole and Coody's putt heading straight for the heart.  Sure enough the ball hits the towel incurring a two shot penalty.  Poor Wingy, I felt so sorry for him.  Coody handled it with class, took the two shot penalty in stride, never chewed the guy out there as some could have, and proceded to birdie the last hole!

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