I first heard the story several years ago while playing the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course.
The young man serving as our group’s forecaddie that day claimed that former Washington State University head football coach Mike Price had once hit the boat shed with his tee shot on the par-3 14th hole that features the course’s world-renowned floating green.
Those of you who are familiar with the Scott Miller-designed layout realize, I’m sure, what a wretched shot that must have been. Those of you who aren’t will just have to trust the rest of us when we say, “Yikes!”
In any event, it is the kind of legendary, laughable tale you don’t really want to try to verify in fear of it not being true.
But in the years since hearing of Coach Price’s misfortune, I’ve often wondered where his badly shanked mid-iron might rank among the worst shots the caddies at the posh Resort course have seen during their white-coverall tenures.
And where Price might rank among the worst golfers they have served, as well.
So earlier this week, I sat down with three experienced forecaddies – Don Buchen, Dustin Gannon and Brandon Haas – to satisfy my curiosity.
None of the three was witness to Price’s alleged hosel rocket, the shot in question, but all three had heard about it.
And surprisingly, none of them considered it that rare.
“A lot of guys have hit that boat house,” said Haas, who is in his third year at the course. “Guys have hit both of the docks, the boat … heck, I even had one hit the boat while it was crossing, with me in it.”
According to Gannon, a fifth-year forecaddie, the clubhouse – which sits some 40 yards behind the 18th green – has been hit by an approach shot on the finishing hole.
But the worst shot Buchen has witnessed was the 8-iron that drilled him in the back.
“It was one of those things where I was out ahead of the group and didn’t have much room,” he said. “I saw it coming and got turned in time, but it still left a heck of a mark, with dimples and all.”
And while the most memorable of bad shots can sometimes leave a long-lasting impression – or, in Buchen’s case, a deep bruise – a forecaddie’s worst nightmare is trying to track down balls for golfers who string their bad shots together, say for the entire 18 holes.
“One day, I had four guys that all shot at least 150,” Gannon said. “After the first hole I told them to play ready golf, because we can’t hold anybody up, and they were fine. They ended up having a lot of fun.”
Haas, just one week ago, caddied for a foursome that finished 15 strokes over par in a four-man scramble event.
Think about that.
“Those guys were atrocious,” he said. “On No. 8, it took us three shots to get past the fairway bunker, so I introduced what they call the ‘Callaway Rule,’ where if you’re double over par in the center of the fairway, you pick up.
“And that helped.”
Buchen once caddied for a father and son who had never golfed before, and, for some reason, thought the Resort course would be a great place to launch their amateur careers.
“But the end of the first hole, they’ve probably taken 24 shots,” Buchen said, “so I talked them into doing a two-man scramble from the second hole on.”
Buchen also caddied for a first-time golfer who had just returned from serving a stint in Iraq with the military.
“He shot about a 180,” Buchen said. “But he hit the floating green with his second shot, and had a great time.”
Forecaddies at the resort can log between 10 and 12 miles during an average round, raking sand traps, reading putts and, perhaps, even giving a swing tip or two along the way. And they can often tell by the time they get to the driving range to hook up with their assigned foursome what kind of personal workout is in store.
“You can tell, a lot of times, just by the clubs they’re using,” Buchen said.
“Yeah, it’s not good if they still have cobwebs on them,” Haas added.
“But sometimes, you can have a guy with $1,200 irons, and he plays like he’s never used them before,” Gannon said. “You see all types of swings around here.”
On the day I visited with Buchen, Gannon and Haas, they were preparing for an early-afternoon start to a four-person scramble event.
When I asked them what they expected in terms of the overall talent level of the large group, Gannon was quick to answer.
“There’s supposed to be 60 sets of rental clubs out,” he said, “so that’s a pretty good indication.”
“Yeah,” Buchen added. “It’s going to be a 12-mile day, at least.”
With a pretty good chance, it would seem, of the boat house on the 14th hole taking another hit, or two.