Almost everyone knows Charles Barkley has a golf swing that resembles a, well, really bad golf swing. Few know how it got to that point, however.
Chris Detsch, the head professional at Genoa Lakes, is one of those people. Detsch has caddied for Barkley, a staple at the American Century Championship, for the last decade (last week included) at Edgewood’s event.
He weighed on Barkley’s swing.
Chris, you’ve been caddying for Chuck for 10 years. You caddied for some others before him, how come it stuck with (Barkley)?
In 2003, I just won the club championship up at Edgewood and that next coming season in 2004 … past champion Mr. Mario Lemiuex was supposed to come back. He always liked to take a local guy.
We kept it down low, the caddy master and I, and all of a sudden (Lemiuex) showed up a half hour before tee time with Jerry Kelly’s caddy from the (PGA) tour and all of a sudden I’m out of the loop.
The caddy master just looked at me and handed me a stack of badges and said ‘I’m sorry man, take your pick.’
I saw Charles’ name and that sparked my interest. I said, ‘well I’m going to go get some TV time, I’m going to talk a lot of trash and I’m going to go have some fun.’ And that was probably the best decision I ever made … He is a fantastic individual … I can consider him a friend now over the last 10 years.
Have you tried working with him at all to work past the mental block? Is it fixable?
What we came up with a couple years ago, I actually had him close his eyes. And what I told him was, ‘take the ball out of the equation.’ Because he kept wanting to try to hit the golf ball so when he closed his eyes, I would line him up and right before he would pull the trigger, he would close his eyes and swing away and he would actually make really good contact.
The downside of that was he could never play golf by himself, because he would never know where the ball was going. The next year we tried it again, because it worked. He’d say ‘I can’t do that, I’m uncomfortable.’
The hitch ultimately came from hitting somebody in the gallery. He took a lesson. The drill stuck. And he hit a few people and because he’s such a nice guy and he’s so sympathetic, he didn’t want to hurt anybody. That’s where it all started. He’s just afraid to pull the trigger because he’s anxious, he doesn’t want to hurt anybody.
I believe what we’re finally going to do, we’ve finally come to the conclusion, and he’s going to go left handed. We did a lot of left-handed swings this year between just shots just in preparation and practicing. There was not hitch. There was nothing. So we may have a new guy next year.
He’s got all things going on with his game. There’s a huge mental issue for him, now he’s trying to swing left-handed, he’s swinging one-handed, he’s doing everything. Are you surprised ever? Because he just goes out there and has such a fun time. Golf can be so frustrating.
I’m not surprised because he really enjoys Tahoe. He enjoys the camaraderie with the other athletes. Does he enjoy playing bad golf? No.
Do we as a team hear all the snickers and comments and giggles about the hitch and what he does? Absolutely. And he’s human and it hurts his feelings.
But he also realizes that he’s out there for the fans. And he’s there for sunshine and enjoyment of playing the game that he ultimately loves …
He was an 8 handicap when he played for the Phoenix Suns. Not a lot of people know that …
He used to shoot 78, 79 and like I said he took a lesson. The instructor at the time gave him a drill to work on to create lag. The guy held the golf club which creates the dip then the dip stuck … Then he played in a tournament and hit a kid. That’s how the whole process starts because he was really, really good.
This might be a really tough question to ask you. You guys are working on all these things, maybe a left-handed swing. What would be a place you maybe want to see Chuck get his game to? A realistic goal?
Knowing what his swing and potential is, on a driving range. Knowing the athlete he is and was, for starters, just advancing the ball and playing golf at least. Who knows what it’s going to be, whether it’s good or bad, but making a move through the golf ball is just where you need to start, just making solid contact …
We have so much fun just talking trash and making jokes, that’s a lot of what I do, is just keep his spirits up and have fun …
In a couple years, who knows where he’s going to be?
So you’re not going to come out and say he’s going to upend Mark Mulder (who defended his title this year) at next year’s American Century Championship?
No. I’m not going to say that.
But, the nice thing is that traditionally we have last place locked up pretty good. I’m willing to bet that we will have a contest for last place and somebody else might be in the running here in the near future.