Weight off her shoulders

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:51 AM ET

At the tee box, Mike Louden pulls out his range finder to spy the exact yardage he wants the ball to travel.

Alongside LPGA Tour pro Wendy Ward, he takes into consideration elevation changes, wind and even the altitude.

Finally, Louden gives a final figure for Ward to consider.

Ward, a 14-year pro, pulls out a driver, addresses the ball, takes a fluid swing and sends it down the fairway at the Priddis Greens Golf & Country Club.

"Perfect," is all Louden needs to say before grabbing Ward's driver and putting it back in the bag.

It's a sequence which takes place throughout the 18-hole practice round.

Time and time again, the pair stand alongside each other -- yardage books in hand -- and plan the attack, where to hit the tee shot for the best approach shot, how far is necessary to clear a bunker or how far is too far, what pitfalls could lay ahead.

Same thing happens at the approach shots.

And when they reach the green, it's time to figure out the potential pin placements for the tournament, decipher how far from front to back the tiers start and end and every other piece of information imaginable when trying to sink a putt.

Anyone who watches this week's CN Canadian Women's Open will find out a caddy is much more than just a pack horse and club-cleaner.

They're a confidante, sounding board, amateur psychologist and teammate.

"A lot of it is just knowing what they're like or how they play their game," Louden said.

Louden, who played minor tours in the Western U.S. after his college career, became a caddy because his wife, Stephanie, is on the LPGA tour. He caddied a half-dozen events for her, but decided it would be best to carry somebody else's bag. Ward, one of Stephanie's close friends, asked Louden to caddy for her, as he's done for two-plus years.

"It's much better not to caddy for your wife," Louden said. "There are couples who can succeed, but it wasn't good for us.

"I'll say some dumb things out here."

It's a partnership that's worked well, in big part, Ward points out, because Louden understands what life on the LPGA entails, from being married to a player, plus having played competitively.

"He knows a player's emotions and knows a player can be mad, but it's at the situation and needs to vent," Ward said. "For a caddy not to take that personally is huge."

But that's just a small part of the job.

Louden hit the course Monday, not to play a round -- that doesn't happen nearly often enough for the scratch golfer.

He had to double-check the yardage book, ensure the markers are correct and check out the nuances to have a clear idea for yesterday's practice round.

Of course, you have to ask whether he has to be more a voice of reason so his player doesn't pull a Tin Cup, or a cheerleader?

"It depends on the player," Louden said. "Wendy is very confident in her abilities. She's like any player who gets down and needs a pick me up, but she's confident in what she can do. She's shown me a thing or two. When she says, 'Watch this,' I know it's going to be a good shot."

A caddy's pay generally involves a weekly salary, plus 5% of the earnings if they make the cut, 7% for a top-10 finish and 10% for a win.

For Louden, the lure is to be with his family -- he and his wife have a 16-month-old son, Luke.

Even if it means carrying a bag -- which was light yesterday because there was no need for rain gear or an umbrella -- that can weigh about 50 lb. when everything is in it.

"When the player's making birdies, it's light," he said. "When they're making bogeys, it gets heavier."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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