Dilan Bat-haee of Raleigh first spotted a banner that said the Rex Hospital Open was looking for volunteers to work the Web.com Tour tournament.
Bat-haee was graduating from Broughton High and would have some free time before the graduation ceremony. He had begun playing golf. He was born in Rex Hospital, so had that connection. Why not volunteer for the Rex and check it out?
Come tournament time, Bat-haee, 18, was all set to cart the golfers from the putting green to the practice tee at TPC Wakefield Plantation. But that changed when Dawie van der Walt was the final addition to the Rex field on Wednesday, when the South African suddenly needed a caddie for the week.
What about the kid driving the cart?
“He gave me a ride and I said, ‘Hey, buddy, do you want to caddie for me?’” van der Walt said Saturday.
“I said that would be great, that I just needed to ask the volunteer coordinator to see if that’s OK,” Bat-haee said. “I asked and they were really excited for me. They told me they would make it work.”
This wasn’t some local amateur tournament where a buddy asks a buddy to caddie for him. This was a professional event with several veteran caddies on hand and a certain caddie etiquette to be followed. There are a number of do’s and don’ts of being a caddie and Bat-haee knew none of them.
But van der Walt, who has two career Web.com Tour victories, has made it easy for him. Instead of his usual Tour bag, which can weigh about 40 pounds, he is using a much lighter nylon bag. And he’s handling all the on-course logistical work — mapping out yardages for club selections, reading the greens — for himself.
“I carry his bag and clean his clubs,” Bat-Haee said. “It’s been great. Definitely the first day I was shocked by how much I have to walk, so many miles. Since then I’ve definitely adjusted.”
Van der Walt’s game hasn’t suffered. After missing the cut in his past three events, he had rounds of 69, 68 and 69 on hot, muggy days at Wakefield before closing with a 73.
“Everywhere I go I try to get a local, like a young kid to caddie,” said van der Walt, a big man at 6-5 and 260 pounds. “Sometimes there are caddies hanging around who aren’t much better than he is.
“He’s doing everything perfect. I just do my own thing. At least I have someone fun to talk to.”
On van der Walt’s last hole Saturday, the par-5 ninth, he reached the green with a hybrid second shot and two-putted for birdie. Not a bad way to finish.
By making the cut, van der Walt will earn his first paycheck on the Web.com Tour since February, which brings up an interesting point: how much will the caddie be paid.
Bat-haee, who will attend the University of South Carolina, smiled when asked if he had Googled “standard tour golf caddie fee.”
“I know a little off the top off my head,” he said. “Since I can’t help out with yardages and things of that nature, I’m a cheaper rate.”
Beats the volunteer rate.
“Exactly,” he said. “It’s much more than free.”