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THE INSIDE TRACK | J.A. ADANDE

Caddie Maintains Low Profile for Durant's Record-Breaker

February 19, 2001|J.A. ADANDE

LA QUINTA — Bob Low sat in the shotgun seat for a ride into history Sunday. Well, at the time of Joe Durant's putt that sent Durant to a record-low 36 shots below par, Low was seated on a rock about 15 yards away. But for most of the day, Low was right by Durant's side, toting his clubs, checking the yardage, making suggestions for the critical "right number" of iron selection.

That's the fate of a caddie. Their names never get recorded next to the winners. Their only shot at fame is to attach themselves to a star as bright as Tiger Woods, who can illuminate everything that surrounds him.

Durant, who had only one PGA Tour victory before taking the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic with a new standard cumulative score of 324 this weekend, is anonymous enough. At least after a few holes Sunday the gallery could make him out--"He's the one in the yellow shirt."

Not so for Low.

"I keep forgetting which one's his caddie," one fan said to her friend. "The caddies all look alike to me."

Even when Durant graciously expressed gratitude to Bob Hope, the tournament sponsor and volunteers during his acceptance speech, he left out Low.

The name is Low and not Lowe because, as he explained it, "We came from a very poor family, we couldn't afford that 'e'."

Low, 52, has been a caddie on the PGA Tour for 12 years. He has carried bags for Curtis Strange, Brad Faxon and Bruce Lietzke, among others.

He has worked with Durant for four years, and sounded more concerned that his player get the attention than anything that might come his own way.

"He's a wonderful human being and I hope the world gets to know him through this," Low said.

"I was just along for the ride. We found some good numbers, which helps. He hit so many fairways, but we just kept finding good numbers, and that makes a lot of difference when you can just go and boom-boom-boom, just hit 'em and not have to worry about taking something off or whatever."

The caddie for a record-setting performance is a lot like the catcher calling a no-hitter.

Rusty Uresti would know. He was a catcher at the University of Texas (where he once caught Roger Clemens) and in the Atlanta Braves organization. Sunday he was caddying for Robert Gamez, who had two eagles and seven birdies to flirt with the PGA single-round record of 59. Gamez finished with a 61 after missing a birdie putt on his 17th hole--the equivalent of a bloop single falling for the first hit in the eighth inning.

"Just keep him calm, keep him going, stay out of his way," was how Uresti described his approach to working with Gamez on Sunday. "He had it under control. Any time he asked me for anything, I was just ready to put in my two cents' worth.

"It's a whole lot like calling a ballgame, but it's more about confirming what he's thinking."

They say that game recognizes game. Well, caddying recognizes caddying.

After Durant hit a six-iron to within inches of the cup from 100 yards on the sixth hole, playing partner Kevin Sutherland's caddie gave Low a big pat on the back while the players waited to putt.

And Mark Calcavecchia's caddie joined Sutherland's for some serious high-fives after Durant secured his record with a par on the final hole.

Low got to hold the giant cardboard check for $630,000, but he'll only get a 10% cut of the real thing. He really seemed to cherish his big souvenir: the flag from the 18th green.

After struggling to wrestle it off the top of the flagstick, fighting as if were a stubborn wine cork, he finally got some help from a friend and rolled it up like a parchment.

He was still clutching it a half-hour later.

"That's the most important thing," Low said. "That goes up on the wall in the living room. When the money's gone into all the IRA's and that stuff, this is what's still there."

Low said the pressure of having Tom Kite's 90-hole record of 35 under within reach didn't affect the way he and Durant went about their business.

"We never even thought about it," Low said. "We've been together for four years. It's a routine for us that we stick to and you just don't even think about those things."

So no extra worrying on that club selection, with the knowledge that if it's wrong it could keep his guy out of the record books?

"Twelve years of experience, you know your job," Low said.

"You better. You just better."

He knows his job and he knows his place. To the back, to the side, and out of the books. So while Durant posed for pictures with the Hope Chrysler Classic Girls, next to his record numbers inscribed on the media-tent scoreboard, Low stood where he always does--right next to the bag.

*

J.A. Adande can be reached at his e-mail address: ja.adande@latimes.com.

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