Ethan DeVore has gone from reading textbooks to reading greens.
From final exams to examining the effect coastal winds have on a golf ball.
From the classroom to the caddie shack. Or, caddyshack, if one takes the usage from the iconic 1980 movie that spotlighted looping for a living.
DeVore, who as a senior helped Eagle Point High place sixth in the Class 5A golf state tournament, joined the 300-strong caddie ranks at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in June after earning his associate degree in general studies at Southwestern Oregon Community College in Coos Bay.
It’s an upgrade over previous summer jobs working behind store counters.
“This is way more enjoyable,” said DeVore, who played two years at SWOCC, which uses Bandon Dunes and Bandon Crossings as its home courses. “You get to go out and talk to fellow golfers all day, and they’re just there to enjoy the experience. You don’t get a lot of bad customers. For the most part, everyone out there is super nice and will treat you respectfully. I’ve had a great time doing it.”
Anyone who’s seen “Caddyshack” has an idea of the lifestyle. Caddies show up early, put their name on a sign-in board, then wait for the call for a loop.
If they’re lucky, they’ve been requested by a guest and need only to show up an hour before the tee time.
If they aren’t scheduled, they’re a “free agent” and hang out at the caddie shack for as long as necessary. For some, after nine or 10 hours, the call never comes.
“That’s the only downside,” said DeVore. “If you don’t get a job, it’s a waste of a day.”
During a midweek phone conversation, he was a half hour into waiting mode. He arrived at 6 a.m. and his name was second on the list.
“I should be able to get a job,” he said.
He’s been requested once, when two of his cousins competed in a junior tournament.
“The longer you’ve been out there, the more people will come back and request you,” he said.
The caddie shack he and his peers use isn’t quite the dilapidated structure of Hollywood depiction. It has a restaurant with reasonably priced items, kitchen, living room, locker room, full bathroom, dining room and covered patio.
There’s a putting green in a nearby parking lot.
“But the intercom is not great,” said DeVore, “and you can miss a job if you’re not paying attention.”
Upon graduating from Eagle Point, Devore was torn about which college to attend. The big university experience beckoned, but the community college route was better for him financially.
The allure of continuing to play golf had a role.
“I felt like I hadn’t reached my potential yet,” he said. “I felt like there was a lot more to get out of my game. I wasn’t ready to let it go.”
And what better place than Bandon Dunes to call home?
Southwestern placed third in the Northwest Athletic Conference this spring. DeVore, who hasn’t decided where he’ll transfer in the fall, was in the middle of the pack for the Raccoons.
Once finished with school, he and a half-dozen teammates became caddies.
The first step was shadowing veteran caddies. Newbies are required to shadow at least two rounds at each of the resort’s four 18-hole courses.
“You’re really just there to watch how they interact with guests, rake their bunkers for them, look for balls,” said DeVore. “But you don’t give advice. You’re there to learn.”
When they’re deemed ready, caddies, who are independent contractors, pay the resort $200 to work.
The recommended fee for a caddie who meets expectations is $100, so the initial fee can be recouped quickly. Carrying two bags in one group or looping 36 holes in a day is not uncommon. Tough, but not uncommon.
“These courses aren’t your normal courses,” said DeVore. “They’re not flat. Walking uphill and downhill is pretty tiring. If you do double bag, you’re in for a treat. It’s very hard on the body.”
The weight of the bag matters, too. Extraneous clothing, hydro flasks and 30 golf balls add up.
“When they don’t carry a bag, people don’t realize how heavy they can get,” said DeVore. “A light bag is a good day.”
Even though paying a shadower isn’t expected, it happened a couple times for DeVore.
Once, he shadowed for a foursome of Denver Broncos players. He didn’t have a bag to carry, but he did carry their beer. At round’s end, each chipped in to pay him.
“That was like doing a loop,” he said.
When his birthday approached, another grateful player gave him a $100 present.
Interactions with players vary. Some, such as a celebrities, often prefer not to discuss work when on vacation. Others get very chatty about work, family, golf, you name it.
A group of eight wealthy businessmen chatted openly about their entrepreneurial adventures in his presence.
“It kind of blows your mind,” said DeVore.
When the caddies return to the shack, they swap stories about their rounds and the interesting clients they met, “someone you don’t talk to every day,” said DeVore.
One of his roommates, for instance, caddied for a player who said he was a good friend of Tiger Woods’ and often played with the star at his home course.
“He (caddie) got the whole story,” said DeVore.
Often, players pick the caddie’s brain. They ask about the resort, the town, the caddie’s background.
In DeVore’s case, guests are curious about college golf.
When it comes to offering advice specific to Bandon Dunes, there are two things that stand out, said DeVore.
One, always check the wind. It affects the ball in the air and on the ground, accentuating or curtailing breaks.
Two, bring a putter instead of a wedge for shots around the greens.
“The fairways are pretty much like greens, so you can hit the putter from almost 40 or 50 yards,” said DeVore. “That helps a lot, especially for golfers who aren’t that skilled.”
For his part, DeVore enjoys the stress-free part of giving advice and watching someone else try to pull off a shot.
“It’s the best job I’ve had so far in my life,” he said.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or firstname.lastname@example.org