Bill Reardon fell into the caddying business almost by accident
(Kristen Forbes is a freelance writer living in Tigard. To view her blog, visit www.krissymick.blogspot.com.)
Tigard's Bill Reardon responds to a lot of names. Billy from Philly, some of his friends call him. Others shorten his last name to Reardy. And then there's the sound-alike, a name bestowed on him when he first became a professional caddy for the LPGA tour: Weirdy.
When Portland's John Schiffer (whose father was in charge of a golf tournament at the Riverside Country Club by the Columbia River in 1988) saw a need for caddies, he asked Reardon if he'd be interested. Reardon had caddied when he was a kid, but knew nothing about doing it professionally.
Still, he agreed, going to work for Australian Sue Tonkin.
'She knew I didn't know anything,' Reardon says. 'She just wanted someone to carry her bags and just stay out of her way.'
They missed the cut that week, but Reardon decided to accompany her again the next week in Sacramento. He was instructed to bring his clothes and golf clubs. Reardon, who was not an avid golfer at the time, brought a set of clubs, but had no head covers. The airline balked at letting the clubs on the plane. So Reardon improvised, pulling a pillow case out of his luggage and using that to cover the clubs.
'Well, we get to Sacramento,' Reardon says, adding that several longtime professional golf caddies were there to pick him up from the airport. 'And my golf clubs come out of the baggage claim. These guys started laughing. They were falling on the floor.'
The caddies asked Reardon his name. Most of them were from North Carolina. When Schiffer introduced Reardon as Reardy, the North Carolinians repeated it back with thick accents.
'Weirdy!' they called him.
'Well, you know how nicknames stick?' Reardon says now, laughing.
Reardon is a man who knows how to make an entrance, and it didn't stop at the introduction in the airport.
'In my first hole in my debut as a caddy,' he says, 'Sue throws me the ball and of course it bounces right off my hand. I go to pick it up. All golfers know that there's a putter's line that's sacred - you never step on that line. Well, what do I do? The ball bounces off my hand, rolls across the line, and I go walking right across it.'
Reardon laughs at the memory, recollecting how golfer Trish Johnson looked to Tonkin and asked, 'Where did you get this bloke?'
Despite his fumbled debut, Reardon got hooked on caddying. He thought he'd do it for a year or so, but ended up doing it for 20. He now calls himself retired, but he still goes on tour from time to time. A few weeks ago, he returned from a tour in Phoenix.
Caddying was the ideal career, Reardon says, because he traveled, constantly met new people and enjoyed a laid-back lifestyle in the sun. He was often able to visit his family back East (Reardon was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Delaware). Since he's not married and has no children, it was easy for him to pick up and go wherever and whenever needed.
Reardon has always worked in the restaurant industry, which allowed him even more flexibility. During 13 of the 20 years he spent on tour, Reardon divided his life into two seasons: golf season and ski season. When he wasn't going on golf tourneys, he was working for Timberline Lodge and Ski Bowl.
Now, he works for DeAngelo's Catering and Events in Tigard.
Reardon says the tour has changed - it is younger now, and different. The tour now requires more flying and less camaraderie. He misses the days when he and the other caddies would drive from one location to the next, forming a brotherhood along the way. He recalls the days of 'rest area golf,' when he and the other caddies would make golf targets out of bathroom roofs, trees and garbage cans.
Reardon says he earned his reputation as the worst golfer out of the caddies, but that this weakness actually served him well. It wasn't his job, he says, to be a know-it-all and tell the players what to do. He wasn't supposed to be a coach, he says - he was supposed to be a 'friend, psychologist, cheerleader and whipping post.'
'Shut up and keep up,' was a philosophy he returned to often.
Now that he's not caddying constantly, Reardon is happy to devote more time to catering, skiing, hunting, fishing, camping and going to the beach. Still, when he's asked to come back for occasional tournaments, Reardon is always ready to step back into that life.
'If I need to go caddy,' he says, 'It's like riding a bike.'