By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
Mini-camps are over and training camp doesn't start until July 25. So New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton decided to sneak in a quick vacation at The Greenbrier, an iconic resort located in the scenic West Virginia mountains.
Did we mention he planned to caddy for his good friend Ryan Palmer in The Greenbrier Classic, too? So what started as a little R&R quickly became much more -- and Payton wouldn't have it any other way.
"After two days I've quickly realized, this isn't a vacation,” Payton said. “… I take the opportunity very seriously in that this is how he makes a living. It's interesting to be on the course and to watch these guys, the athletes, the consistency, the way they hit the ball, it's pretty amazing.”
Payton has learned quickly that a caddy's job is more than the classic "show up, keep up and shut up." Particularly when dodging raindrops ike the two have done during the first three days this week.
"I certainly have a great appreciation for the job that these caddies have," Payton said. "All of a sudden it starts raining a little bit, you're one hand short, you've got umbrellas going, towels going everywhere."
Payton and Palmer, who is a three-time PGA TOUR champ, have been friends for quite awhile. Palmer comes to see the Saints play when he can, the two meet up at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and they play as often as their schedules admit.
"It's going to be fun to get the advice from a hard-nosed football coach," Palmer said. ".. I’m looking forward to having a lot of fun and try to win this thing."
Payton sees parallels between a TOUR player and a quarterback in terms of visualizing a round or the progress of a game. He's been very struck by the discipline involved and the hard, even "tedious" work that has made Palmer such a successful pro.
"I think the challenge, and you take it for granted, but 18 holes, however many shots, however many days in a row, the ability to have 100 percent of your focus on that shot," Payton said. "I know when we jump in golf carts and drive around a course and shoot in the 90s, we might have great focus on eight shots total, but to do that and force yourself to have that same discipline I think is probably a big challenge for these guys."
One of Palmer's buddies, D.J. Nelson, who caddies for Chad Campbell, texted him and told the TOUR pro to make sure Payton knows where caddy dining is. Ditto for the Quality Inn where many of the caddies are staying.
"They've talked to him on the range, some players and some guys as well," Palmer said. "You need to have somebody like that amongst us that we look up to and watch and follow in a sport we love in the game of football. It's pretty cool to hear the mindset of one of the great coaches in the game, Super Bowl winning coach. It's a lot of fun to hear -- to have a coach like that is pretty cool."
So does Payton plan to return the favor? Will Palmer be on the field at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, donning a headset at one of the Saints' games?
"Well, that's if he's allowing me to club his round tomorrow," Payton said. "He can carry the headset cord."
"I'm trying to teach him the yardage right now," Palmer said.