20 Questions With John Dormann

When did you first start playing golf?

Nobody in my family ever played golf. My great aunt thought it was a real good sport. I think I was 10 or 11. She took me to Lincoln Park (Municipal Golf Course in San Francisco) and got me my first lesson. That’s where I learned how to sand and grip the club.

After that, it was taking a golf club to (Panorama Elementary) school and hitting balls on the field. Eventually, I convinced my parents to take me to the golf course in Colma (by Daly City). It’s a 9-hole course by a cemetery and nobody wanted to play there.

When you grow up in San Francisco, to play golf is really odd.

It wasn’t until I went into the Army (1980-84) that I started playing every day. I was in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It was $15.00 a month for all the golf I wanted. It was a great place to get away from everybody, because very few people would be there. A couple of friends and I would go out there every afternoon, dodge the thunderstorms, play golf and have a good time. That’s where I learned the game.

Fort Bragg had a golf course and Pope Air Force Base had a golf course. They were right next to each other. We went to Pope Air Force Base.

Did you ever play competitive golf?

I played some country club tournaments, but never any serious competition.

What, where and when was your best 18 holes of golf?

It was in Dayton, Ohio. I can’t remember the name of the golf course. It was 1995 or so. A couple of caddies and me used to go out and play once a week. It was a nice golf course. I shot two-under (par) that day. It was one of those days where everything went where I wanted it to go. They don’t happen too often for me.

The two guys I played with both played college golf. They were good players. It was nice to beat them for a change.

What are misconceptions about being a golf caddy?

I would say how much the caddy is involved in the decision-making. A lot of it depends on the player. For most players, the caddy is there to provide information and support.

On TV, sometimes I hear “The caddy should have taken the club out of the player’s hand.” That’s ridiculous, because the player is the one making the decisions. The player is the one hitting the shot.

I read articles about Steve Williams, Tiger Woods’ caddy. He’s good a caddy, but Tiger would win just as many tournaments with another 50 guys who caddy on the PGA Tour on his bag, because he is the best player. The caddy has a little bit of input.

I see the caddy as more of a third-base coach. You’re there to make sure you’re going in the right direction.

You don’t get to fly in the airplane with the player. You don’t stay in the player’s hotel. You have to fend for yourself on the road.

You don’t just play four days. Monday, you walk the golf course. Tuesday is a practice round. Wednesday is the Pro-Am. Hopefully, you get to caddy all four days of the Tournament. That mean’s your player made the cut. That’s a lot of hard work. There are almost no days off. It’s pretty exhausting. You’re not just out there for four hours. On practice round days, the golfers like to come, eat, and have you stand around. There’s a lot of standing around, a lot of down time, listening to crazy stories.

As a caddy, what are the top three tournaments or events you remember?

The 1991 U.S. Women’s Open at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. Meg Mallon won with a 32 on the final nine. It was so hot. There were blocks of ice and giant fans on the backs of the greens to keep them from burning up. I couldn’t eat that week. I basically ate frozen lemonades the entire week. You can lose it out there day after day in that kind of heat. I started singing Christmas carols to Meg to get her to think about something different.
You do anything you can for your player to make them as comfortable as he/she can be. That’s what you try to do as a caddy.

The 1992 Solheim Cup in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was the first time the Americans lost the Solheim Cup. The way it was turning out, the Americans were going to lose on our match (Catrin Nilsmark vs. Meg Mallon). You could see on the scoreboard we were going to lose our match on the 16th hole and this was going to be the one to do it. In Scotland, they tend to let the spectators take over the golf course. The hole was one where you had to walk around a ravine to get to the green. They let Catrin through and they let the crowd go. Meg and I are stuck in this sea of spectators. And, we’re about to lose. It wasn’t a good moment. So, she grabs on to my back and says, “Push your way through.” That was the first time I didn’t mind carrying an umbrella. They can be used nicely as weapons. We had to fight our way through the crowd to get loose. The umbrella sticks out at the end of the bag “Excuse me! Excuse me!” Meg was holding on to my jacket. It rained the entire week.

The latest one was caddying for Dana (Dormann) at the 2006 U.S. Open in Newport, Rhode Island when she made the cut. That was really special, because Dana never played well at U.S. Opens. We really didn’t expect her to make the cut, but she played awesome. After a lot of years, it was fun to be out there again and be playing on the weekend of the U.S. Open. That was really cool.