LaRue Temple is the only North Philly guy competing in the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club this week.
Temple, 30, born and bred in Philadelphia, is one of two caddies who work at Merion year-round that got lucky enough to be asked to carry the bag for one of the 156 golfers competing on golf's biggest American stage.
He said it was sheer luck that afforded him the chance to caddie for Michael Kim, an amateur golfer who plays for the University of California.
"Being in the right place at the right time," Temple said Wednesday night, just roughly 10 hours before he and Kim were to tee off at 8:24 a.m. Thursday morning.
He's worked at Merion since he was 14, Temple said, yet he came as a spectator Monday afternoon for one of the practice rounds. Despite 16 years working at one of the most prestigious courses in the country, Temple's mother had never visited the Ardmore club.
"I was there on Monday because I wanted to bring my mom. She never saw the golf course and wanted to see Tiger [Woods]," he said.
She did get to see Woods and then Temple got the most important caddie job of his life.
It happened simply by random timing. He went out to the parking lot by one of the merchandise tents to meet a friend when one of Merion's course officials told Kim, who arrived without a caddie, that Temple was around — and available.
"To be honest, these sort of things just happen to me," he said.
As a young teenager, he was a Phillies ballboy after he befriended an apparently influential season ticketholder. Temple said he would go to 30 or 40 games a year in South Philadelphia to get autographs and met a man named Joe Hetrick, who got him the ballboy gig. Hetrick also eventually introduced Temple to a Merion member, Lisa Ginn, who told him of the opportunity to caddie at Merion.
"She said, 'Hey LaRue, I can get you a job at the golf course,'" Temple recalled. "So I get a job caddying at one of the best courses in the country."
He said he's not that nervous about the crowds or the pressure of the Open, that he's walked this course thousands of times over the last 16 years.
"I'm pretty confident I’m pretty relaxed. It’s the U.S. Open, but it’s still the course I’ve been walking since I was 14 or 15 years old," he said. "It's Merion, Merion’s always been a tough course to play. But it's not going to change for the Open. Five still gonna feed right to left down to the creek."
Of course, he did get a feel for the world-class stage that U.S. Open brings during the first practice round on Kim's bag Tuesday.
"It turned out K.J. Choi and Padraig Harrington are playing with Michael Kim," Temple said. "I saw K.J. and I'm like, "O.K., he’s really good. He’s won a major. And then comes Padraig."