AMERICAN CENTURY CHAMPIONSHIP | Els, who’s your caddy? |


Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 07: Ernie Els of South Africa (R) waits with his caddie Dan Quinn during the second round of THE PLAYERS Championship held at THE PLAYERS Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass on May 7, 2010 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Ernie Els;Dan Quinn

Two-time U.S. Open golf champion Ernie Els raised more than a few eyebrows when former National Hockey League player Dan Quinn showed up on his bag at the outset of the 2010 PGA Tour.

Prior to the season, Els arranged a unique dual caddy rotation, employing his longtime caddy Ricci Roberts and Quinn.

The addition of Quinn gives Els a unique looper – a former professional athlete who also is an accomplished golfer in his own right. Quinn has won the American Century Championship four times and is one of the favorites when the celebrity tournament returns to Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course on July 16-18.

“It certainly doesn’t harm that he’s not a bad golfer, and he’s one of the best readers of greens I have ever come across,” Els said. “He’s remarkably positive. He knows what’s going through my mind. He knows what to say and when to say it. And most of all, he knows when not to say anything.”

Quinn and Els struck up a friendship several years ago in Jupiter, Fla., where they both live. Their player-caddy relationship evolved last fall when Quinn was on Els’ bag at tournaments in Singapore and China.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting out of the house and getting in the ropes with one of the top two or three players in the world,” Quinn said. “It’s been a lot of fun, but I tell anybody it’s work and I take it seriously.”

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Before the PGA Tour season concludes, Quinn and Roberts will each work 13 tournaments, including two major championships. Quinn has already carried Els’ bag at the Masters, while Roberts caddied for his smooth-swinging boss’ at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Els plans to use Roberts for the British Open at St. Andrews, with Quinn working the final major tournament at the PGA Championship. Both of Els’ tour wins this season have come with Roberts on his bag.

“It was a great thrill to be inside the ropes at the Masters,” Quinn said. “At the same time I was just there to do a job, giving the guy I’m working for the best opportunity to do well and maybe win.”

Before forming a partnership with Els, Quinn dabbled in the caddy profession. Quinn carried John Daly’s bag at the 2000 U.S. Open after being contacted by Daly’s agent, who is a friend of Quinn’s.

Quinn became serious about caddying in 2003 and 2004 when he worked the bag for Jesper Parnevik, who earned five PGA Tour wins before hip and back injuries hampered his career.

“I knew what I was getting into by then,” Quinn said. “When I got a call on Sunday night and I was caddying for John at Pebble on Monday, I can’t pretend that I was prepared for it.”

Since retiring from hockey in 1996, the former first-round draft pick of the Calgary Flames has filled that competitive void with golf. He dominated the ACC from 2001-04, winning three times and earning $687,556 in 19 tournament appearances.

“You know me, I love golf,” Quinn said. “I follow it in every form and aspect.”

His knowledge of the game exceeds other caddies, but that doesn’t mean Quinn is overstepping his role as Els’ caddy.

“I know the priorities of what a caddy does and doesn’t do, and at the end of the day I get the person I’m working for in the best frame of mind so he can perform as well as he can,” Quinn said.

Even though Quinn has starred in celebrity golf for nearly two decades, he hasn’t been tempted to launch a pro golf career.

“I have no illusions of how hard it is to play golf and working with Ernie has only proven to me that I definitely chose the right sport with hockey,” Quinn said. “The top players are incredible, and there’s a huge difference between the guys who are on the tour and guys who aren’t.”

The 45-year-old Quinn has aspirations to some day play on the Champions Tour, but Els has advised his caddy: “Don’t give up the day job.”