A caddie can be a golfer’s top confidant. That’s why plenty of participants in this week’s US Amateur tapped someone familiar — from brothers to fathers to college coaches — to accompany them on the course.
Gavin Hall, however, opted for a complete stranger. It’s a move he saw as an advantage.
“It’s preference,” Hall said. “But for me, that helped me a lot.”
Hall was one of 80 golfers who used a local caddie — someone who has walked, surveyed, and even played the courses long before this championship arrived.
Of the 80 local caddies, 65 regularly work at The Country Club while 15 are from Charles River Country Club.
“We know the course, and we can give them some inside information,” said Watertown’s John Berardinelli, a regular from The Country Club who caddied for Hall.
“It’s especially important at TCC,” added TCC caddie Chris Utsey, from Brighton. “Because if you’ve never seen it before, if you don’t know where you’re going, you can get uncomfortable out there real fast.”
The Country Club features long rough and putting surfaces about 40 percent smaller than a typical course.
“You hear a lot of people say that TCC could host a US Open,” Utsey said. “With that difficulty, I don’t blame golfers for wanting to lean on someone who has been there before.”
Caddie pairings were determined by compatibility. Golfers called the club and expressed what they were looking for.
“And the club selected someone they thought could match,” said Berardinelli, who has caddied at The Country Club for seven years. “Some want guys who can read putts, others want someone who is quiet. It’s really based on personality.”
Berardinelli and Hall met for the first time last Saturday.
“I researched him a bit on the Internet first,” the caddie said.
At first glance, they seem like an odd pairing.
Berardinelli, 54, is a fast talker with a thick Boston accent. He caddies all summer, then picks up odd jobs, like painting or snowblowing, in the offseason.
Hall, 18, a baby-faced freshman-to-be at the University of Texas, is very serious. He speaks softly, with little inflection in his voice.
On the course, it made sense.
“He wanted someone who was a yardage guy,” Berardinelli said. “And I give a lot of yardage.”
“He read those greens so well,” Hall said. “I was fortunate to have him.”
On Monday at TCC, where Berardinelli has caddied hundreds of times (“I literally couldn’t count if I tried,” he said), Hall excelled. The New York native, who was the youngest participant in this year’s US Open, shot a 73. His best shots? Birdies on 13 and 17.
At Charles River Tuesday, where Hall shot a 1-over-par 71, Berardinelli didn’t give as much instruction.
“I read putts for him a lot more over at TCC because I knew it,” Berardinelli said.
Amateurs using local caddies for tournaments is nothing new.
At June’s US Open at Merion, for example, Michael Kim selected caddie LaRue Temple — who worked at the course for 16 years and is a part-time bartender. Fans at Merion chanted “LaRue!” when they walked the grounds.
The TCC caddies selected for the US Amateur relished the opportunity. They get paid, as usual, by the club.
“But it’s exciting to be a part of a big event and play with some pretty great golfers,” said Simon Ebbott of Brookline. Ebbott caddied for Justin Shin of Canada — a star Tuesday after shooting 66 at Charles River.
“It’ll be fun to follow him the rest of his career,” Ebbott said. “I’ll definitely keep track of how he does.”
Some pairings will spend the entire week together. Others ended after two days if the golfer didn’t make the cut.
It may not be a friendship that lasts a lifetime.
“But you do get to know that person quick, and you know them well in the time you have together,” Utsey said. “That’s not really a problem, because in our job, you need to know how to read people quickly.”