Noah Norgren and his new golfing buddy Mike.
Noah Norgren’s sleeping in today. Typical teenager-with-a-Wednesday-off-of-school stuff, really. But for Noah there’s also the trifling matter of what he did yesterday.
The 19-year-old Iowa State sophomore from Chanhassen caddied...at Hazeltine National...in the Ryder Cup Celebrity match...for Michael Phelps. It’s not exactly 10-year-old Eddie Lowery carrying the sticks for Francis Ouimet in his historic 1913 US Open win at Brookline, sure, and it was only nine holes, yeah, but it’s not nothing either.
The first-year Hazeltine caddie was one of a handful of the course’s caddyshack regulars who’d been deemed to have worked the hardest this summer and thus earned Ryder Cup nods. Once locked in, the caddies’ names were put in a hat and paired at random with the celebs. Noah’s peers got the likes of Bill Murray, Niall Horan (from One Direction), Kurt Russell, Huey Lewis, and Rob Riggle. Noah got the greatest Olympian of all time.
The rag tag group of Hazeltine caddies get ready for the round of their lives.
As he said via text when he finally woke up, while “everyone was pretty pumped for whoever they got to caddie for” the two most popular draws were Phelps and Murray. “[It was] by far one of the coolest things I’ve done so far in my life. [It’s] not everyday you get to hang out at the Ryder Cup with the most decorated Olympian of all time. The atmosphere and energy that surrounds him is something I’ve never seen first hand before.”
US Celeb Team members Jeremy Roenick, Michael Phelps, and Kelly Slater ham it up with a young patron on the practice green while Noah tries to act like he's been there before.
On the putting green prior to the match, some teenage girls who’d pushed their way through the 10-deep gallery to the ropes had been trying to get Michael Phelps’ attention but to no avail. So they shifted their calls to the kid wearing the Phelps bib.
“Hey, Michael Phelps’ caddie,” they loudly implored. “How does it feel to be Michael Phelps’ caddie?”
Noah turned from his perch with a couple other caddies, red-faced, and meekly offered up, “Amazing.”
“How did you get to be Michael Phelps’ caddie?” the girls said, taking the inch Noah’s reluctant response had given them.
“They pulled my name out of a hat.” Noah wheeled back around to his mates, hoping the encounter was over.
And for a second it was, until, “Hey, Michael Phelps’ caddie?”
Noah paused and almost didn’t answer. Then said, “Yeah?”
“Can I take a selfie with you?”
“Sure.” He walked over to the ropes and took the selfie. His trudge was reluctantly prideful.
It was just the beginning. The first tee bleachers were packed and the gallery ropes were lined clear to the par 4’s green. As Noah and Phelps and the rest of their foursome that included Kelly Slater, Martina Navratilova, and English Olympic sprinter John Regis and their caddies, and a cadre of reporters and photographers made their way to the tee box, patriotic party rock like John Mellencamp blared out of the loudspeakers stopping only for the Phelps to pure his drive right down the middle and the others three celebs to follow suit. Phelps handed his driver back to Noah and off they went.
Michael Phelps tees off in front of a packed house on 1 while Noah just tries to remain upright.
Of the moment Noah texted, “[It was like] nothing I have ever experienced before. It was nerve wracking and exciting.”
The round itself was a surreal blur of mediocre golf and a gallery that wasn’t shy about engaging the celebs producing it. Martina Navratilova’s shoes were giving her blister and despite her Hazeltine caddie’s best attempts at assuaging the pain, by the middle of the third she was playing barefoot, which became the crowd’s day-long fixation. Kelly Slater, a 3.7 handicap, was serious most of the day, but could be cajoled into the occasional selfie. And John Regis went mostly unnoticed, save a fan on the third tee who, as Regis addressed the ball, said, “This is the sprinter.” To which another said, “Apparently he stopped sprinting a while ago” in reference to the 49-year-old’s physique.
Mostly they fixated on Noah’s buddy Michael, though.
“Hey, Michael Phelps! Show us your best breaststroke,” one bonehead on the 2nd yelled. “You know, breaststroke?!” Someone scolded the guy for being crass, and he half-apologized saying, “What? He laughed!”
The Phelps peanut gallery mainly issued less juvenile quips though. Like when he missed a short putt on 4 by a fraction of an inch and a dude bellowed “That’s a silver!” to bemused laughter. Or when he hit his approach in the drink on 6 and someone said, “You should go swimming for it.” After Phelps stopped to sign a kid's “MP” swimming cap (while he wore it) and then take a picture with him, an adult nearby snorted “Now let me put that on!" at the boy.
The 23-time gold medalist spent a lot of his time between shots, doing stuff like this.
Phelps dutifully bounced from taking selfies with fans and signing autographs to hitting shots and making baby talk with his son Boomer, whom his fiance Nicole had shown up with midway through the round. All the while Noah did what a caddie does: clean clubs, read lies, cross under the ropes to gather the occasional errant Phelps ball, and most importantly make small talk with his player whenever they weren’t busy with any of the above.
“We talked about a lot of things, but a lot about golf and the Olympics,” Noah texted. “One thing that stood out to me was him saying that he was so nervous on the tee last Ryder Cup [celeb match] that he could barely put the tee in the ground. Then we walked up to the first tee and he smoked his drive about 310 yards splitting the middle of the fairway. That made me realize how much he is used to pressure.”
Noah also played the role of unwitting force-field for Phelps. On the 6th green, a woman to the back of the golfers and caddies made a beeline under the ropes, around the small pond Phelps had just hit into, and up toward the green. Nobody on the putting surface noticed, though, and when a drunk guy yelled “Mikey! You’re gonna get hugged, bro!” Phelps, who’d been hearing bizarro chatter all day, didn’t bat a lash. When the lady got the edge of the green, however, she chickened out, and, in a moment of panic, with Phelps still 20 yards out of reach, grabbed the next best thing, the kid on his bag. She globbed onto Noah’s shoulder, startling him, and exclaimed, “He told me to do it!” of a guy in the gallery, and then fled back into the obscurity of the crowd.
By the time the foursome had finished, Noah was old-hat at the trappings of celebrity bag schlepping; helping fans including “some kid from my high school Spanish class” around the 9th green get paraphernalia to into Phelps’ hands to sign, even escorting Nicole and Boomer over to someone for a selfie opp.
Someone mention that Noah’s mom had been following him around most of the day. Later, after the day had ended and Noah had watched Phelps ride back off into the stratosphere of superstardom, I texted him to see if that was true.
“She followed me all day, haha,” he said.
“Classic mom,” I replied.
“Haha, yeah,” he said. “She loves Phelps.”