Bob Gillespie



Caddy making great run at Heritage

Posted 4/13/2012 10:26:00 PM

Last summer’s news that Royal Bank of Canada and Boeing had signed up as sponsors for the RBC Heritage in 2012 and beyond was greeted with excitement by a vast majority of the PGA Tour membership. But it wasn’t just the golfers – those from South Carolina and those from elsewhere – who were happy to know they’d keep coming to Harbour Town Golf Links every year.

The men on the bags – the PGA Tour caddies – also love spending a week each spring surrounded by beauty and luxury at Sea Pines Resort. At least of couple of them, both S.C. natives, enjoy for other reasons as well.

Take John Davenport, a Prosperity resident who caddies for Savannah native Brian Harman. “It’s great. It’s like a home event for (Harman) with everyone pulling for you,” Davenport, 32 and a four-year caddying veteran, said after Harman’s first round of even-par 71 Thursday. For Davenport, too: his brother Chris Davenport and sister-in-law Gwen Davenport have followed Harman’s group, “and I’ve got 7-8 friends here, so it’s going to be fun.”

Is Davenport the only caddie with his own gallery? “Probably not,” he said, laughing.

Don Cooper, who has caddied for Greenville’s Lucas Glover for 10 years, is a North Augusta native who also appreciates what having a PGA Tour event in South Carolina means to the state. “I didn’t care who the sponsor was,” he said. “This is one of my favorites. Especially after the Masters with the pressure, this is so laid-back.

“I’m so glad RBC and Boeing did it. We need this event for relaxation as well as the competitiveness. It’s a shot-maker’s course, and while my guy’s not 100 percent (Glover is battling a pulled muscle near his rib cage), he loves this event. It would’ve broken his heart if he couldn’t have played in it, and he took that extra step to make sure we were able to play.”

For Davenport, who started out as a caddie at Graniteville’s Sage Valley Golf Club, being at Harbour Town with Harman is a double treat. Last February (2011), Davenport was between jobs and hanging out in the parking lot at the eGolf Tour’s Swiftwick Shootout at Palmetto Hall in Hilton Head. Harman, who had split with his caddie and “didn’t want to carry my own bag,” approached Davenport and offered him the job.

“He looked like an able-bodied young man,” Harman said with a laugh. “We hit it off and have gotten along great since.” It didn’t hurt that in their first tournament together, Harman made (and lost) a sudden-death playoff.”

The highlight of their time together came at the Honda Classic, where Harman shot a course-record (by three shots) 61. Davenport’s eyes light up as he recalls how close his man came to a PGA Tour record-tying 59.

“We had a legitimate shot,” he said. “We had a bogey from the fairway on No. 12; had a good putt (for birdie) at 17 and left it an inch-and-a-half short. We were at 9-under then, and at 18 tee we talked about trying to knock it tight (and make birdie).

“(Harman) knocked it in the front bunker, but that’s not a bad place. He told me, ‘I got to try to hole this,’ and he hit a good shot that missed, rolled five feet by and he missed coming back.” Still, Davenport said, “I’ve never been a part of anything like that. That was the most fun I’ve ever had doing this.”

Davenport figures he earned his pay that day. “I had to calm him down a little during the round,” he said. “The day before, Lucas Glover told Brian to walk slower (to avoid frustration at slow play), and that’s helped him a lot since.”

This week, Harman and Glover have enjoyed the benefits of this rare “home game.” Says Harman, “I hope I play well enough so I can get invited here every year.” Their caddies, too, are happy to be doing what they do, in front of the home folks.

“(Harman) and I spent two years on the mini-tours, and you know what that’s like and don’t want to go back,” Davenport said. “It’s hard to get out here – but once you do, it’s a great life.”