Evan Vollerthum’s career as a caddie began when he was a 14-year-old high school student at John Carroll and he started making the trek from his home in Fallston up to Bulle Rock Golf Course in Havre de Grace.
That was nearly 20 years ago.
On Sunday at Caves Valley Golf Club, Vollerthum reached what he called the pinnacle of his caddying career when he helped Scott McCarron win the Constellation Senior Players Championship.
Vollerthum’s road from weekend and summer looper to carrying the bag of a major champion took shape when he returned a couple of months ago to Baltimore from Los Angeles, where he worked as a caddie since 2010.
“I used Bel Air [Country Club] as my home base for when I was trying to become a full-time caddie on [the PGA] tour,” Vollerthum, 33, said. “Eventually I built up my clientele enough where it was very lucrative for me to stay there.”
Having worked at Caves Valley for seven years after high school — where he sheepishly conceded he didn’t make the golf team in tryouts — Vollerthum came back to the prestigious Owings Mills club for the summer.
On Wednesday, he got a call from McCarron, whose regular caddie had to leave suddenly with hopes of seeing his father in El Paso, Texas, before the man died.
McCarron had initially thought about using his wife, Jenny, who had caddied for him “six or eight times,” including his debut on the PGA Tour Champions two years ago in the Senior British Open Championship.
“She knows what to do. She can caddie,” McCarron said.
The only problem was that his wife had set up her own game at the nearby Greenspring Valley Hunt Club while McCarron was set to play in the pro-am with Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and Hall of Fame Maryland men’s basketball coach Gary Williams.
Because McCarron was unfamiliar with Caves Valley, he needed someone with local knowledge to help him with yardages and the nuances of the course to prepare properly for the tournament. Vollerthum informed McCarron that he would be on his bag Wednesday.
Vollerthum received an endorsement from former U.S. Open champion Corey Pavin, who had used Vollerthum at Bel Air and was aware he had previous experience on pro tours.
“Before I teed off, Corey Pavin came up to me and said, ‘Hey, if you’re thinking about hiring Evan, he’s the real deal, he knows what he’s doing,’ ” McCarron recalled Sunday after beating three-time defending champion Bernhard Langer and former UCLA roommate Brandt Jobe by a stroke.
“So I gave him a little trial on the front nine on the pro-am and he did great. I was asking him questions, ‘What does it do over this bunker? On the green?’ I was having him read some putts to see how he did, see how we got along. See how we worked together and he did great. I think by the ninth hole or something like that I offered him the job and I’m glad he wasn’t busy.”
And what did Vollerthum know about McCarron?
”I just knew he was a really good player and his money list standing represented that,” Vollerthum said of McCarron, who is now second on the money list behind Langer. “I could see how long he was and I liked the fact that he was a clean-cut guy and a really good player and that’s what I was clicking with — a really good player.”
Vollerthum said the years he spent working at Caves Valley had given him an advantage over the regular tour caddies and thus gave McCarron an edge as well.
“I felt like Scott was walking to the first tee 1 under with me on the bag,” Vollerthum said. “But from there on out, it was all him. Just one shot, that’s it. I’ll give myself some credit.”
Said McCarron, “It was like having a tour caddie [step] right up and do a tremendous job, and also I think being a local guy and knowing this golf course so well really helped.”
Five days later, Pavin’s assessment proved to be accurate.
“He did a great job all week long, because only playing this course twice [in practice and the pro-am] coming into a major event, I was able to ask him questions, what it does here, help me with a read there and he did a wonderful job, ” McCarron said after the first major championship win of his career and his fourth overall win on the PGA Tour Champions.
Vollerthum acknowledges that he might have underrated the 52-year-old McCarron a bit.
“This guy right here is the best golfer I’ve ever caddied for,” said Vollerthum, pointing to McCarron.
Rich Mayo, McCarron’s regular caddie, is expected to be back on his bag for the next tournament, the Senior British Open Championship in Wales in two weeks.
Vollerthum said that with the money he earned working for McCarron, he plans to make a donation to the Amercan Diabetes Association in honor of Mayo’s father, who died from complications related to the disease.
Vollerthum declined to share how much he made carrying the bag for McCarron, whose victory was worth $420,000. Typically, players give their caddies a percentage of their check, sometimes as much as 10 to 15 percent.
“This is my biggest paycheck,” said Vollerthum, who added that usually gets around $200 a round at Caves Valley.
Vollerthum’s next professional job will be working with former PGA Tour pro Frank Lickliter, for whom he has caddied on both the PGA and Web.com tours.
In truth, Vollerthum is not sure he wants to become a tour caddie, and what happened Sunday night didn’t help in the decision..
“This is what I love to do, but I don’t know if this is what I want to do,” Vollerthum said. “This is a climactic event in my life.”