2013 U.S. Open: Amateur Michael Kim and his Philadelphia caddie in hunt at Merion
Amateur Michael Kim was on fire to start the back nine on Saturday at Merion Golf Club, with birdies on four of the first six holes. But this is the third round of the U.S. Open and the course has been giving the best players in the world fits all week long, especially the final three holes.
Kim would go four-over on those holes, finishing one-over par for a 71. He is four-over for the tournament, and has outplayed his fellow amateurs by five strokes.
After the round, he credited some local knowledge — his caddie LaRue Temple, 30, has carried bags for members at Merion since he was 14 years old.
"He's been great. He's been a good help," Kim said of Temple.
And Temple's local popularity may have even helped a bit take some of the pressure off Kim.
"For the first 12 holes, he was getting more cheers than I was," Kim said. "Everyone was yelling, "LaRue! LaRue!"
Temple, who also bartends in Center City at Tangier at 18th and Lombard streets, is remaining humble - and swears he still feels calm despite the crowds.
"It's still him. Mike's the story," he said as numerous reporters asked for his story this evening. "It's really special. It's really cool. It's cool to represent the course, it really is. This course has meant a lot to me for a long time."
As Temple told Philly.com earlier this week, he's walked the course thousands of times. Born in North Philadelphia and now living in Roxborough, he happened into the job of carrying Kim's bag when the 19-year-old University of California golfer arrived at the course for a practice round without a caddie on Monday. Temple happened to be at the course and nearby when Kim inquired with Merion's caddiemaster.
"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," Temple told Philly.com in an interview Tuesday. "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."
Temple said he and his mother came for the practice round so his mother, who had never been to the course, could see Tiger Woods. Coincidentally, as reporters swarmed Temple at the interview area after Kim's round was finished, Woods walked a few feet away to sign his scorecard. Woods even gave a quick glance toward Temple before entering the trailer to sign his card.
Here's more from LaRue, who answered questions from the media, something quite unusual for caddies. Then again, this isn't an ordinary story.
Q. How much of a difference is it for you to walk out there for the first time and see the massive amount of crowds?
LaRUE TEMPLE: It's a little bit different, but it's not that bad. I still see the same familiar faces. I still see the caddies, they're still out here, they're spectating. I'm seeing them. It's just like walking around as a member guest. There's just a lot more people walking. I thought I was going to be really nervous, but I'm surprised at how comfortable I was with the whole situation. It's a U.S. Open.
The joke with us is when people are playing and they're playing slow, and they're like grinding every shot. We say, come on, dude, this is the U.S. Open, here. Wow, this is the U.S. Open. (Laughter).
Q. Is your phone blowing up a little bit this week, old friends?
LaRUE TEMPLE: My Facebook page. And just my mom. Just talking to my mom back and forth. She's really excited, just to see us on the TV and see pictures on the TV. That's pretty good. But I'm representing Merion. But I'm rocking the bucket hat. All us Merion caddies, not all of us, but a select few are wearing the bucket hats, we're the bucket boys over there. I've been wearing my Merion bucket all summer. I'm sticking with the bucket all week.
Q. When they found you, what was the chance, one out of what?
LaRUE TEMPLE: They have about 60 caddies here. We have another caddie Jim Kamp, he got in. Jack Hopkins, he walked around. One of the caddies, he used to caddie here, he walked with Bubba for a few practice rounds. There are some of the caddies who were selected for their knowledge and see what they had to offer some golfers. But just being in the right place at the right time. Me not wanting to work The Open or work the carts or the bag room or anything kind of led me to the job. I had tickets for the week, no, I'm going to watch, I'm going to see Tiger, I'm going to hang out and have fun. I have a friend of mine, we got tickets last August. But I can't go up to The Open with you, I have to work. But I'll bale him for a bag.
Q. How special is this?
LaRUE TEMPLE: It's really special. It's really cool. It's cool to be able to represent the course, it really is. This course has meant a lot to me for a long time. I've been hearing my name yelled out.
Walking down the first tee, Mike's, like, wow, you're getting more cheers than me. It means a lot. Plus I bartend at a bar and a lot of people that are from the bar are here. I've seen a lot of new faces. A lot of old caddies. It's very sweet. But I want to represent for Merion.