Golf has taken Duane Bock all over North America since he left East Hampton for college in North Carolina 30 years ago. The game has sent him to the top of the amateur ranks, made him a professional, put him on tour for more than a decade and then turned him from a player into a caddie.
Now it has brought him to another interesting place, Long Island.
Working the Northern Trust tournament at Glen Oaks Club in Old Westbury has been a bit of a homecoming, or at least a chance for Bock to educate his fellow caddies and tour pros such as his boss, Kevin Kisner. “They think this is East Hampton. I try to tell people, this is not East Hampton. It’s still a different world out there than it is here,” he said with a laugh outside the clubhouse the other day.
Close enough. Close enough for a cousin to make the trip from the South Fork to see Bock, who settled in North Carolina after he played for Campbell College and married Geraldine, whom he met there. Close enough for Bock to schedule a golf date early this coming week with his best buddy from Little League, Michael Sarlo, who grew up to be the East Hampton Town police chief.
Bock’s whole life is close enough to his dream of being a PGA Tour member that he loves every bit of it. “The second-best job in the world, for me, is caddying,” he said.
When he was an East End kid, before he played basketball for legendary coach Ed Petrie, Bock took a job at Maidstone Club, caddying and working in the pro shop. “The pro there at the time was Dave Alvarez and Dave took me under his wing,” he said.
Lessons from Alvarez led to a college career and a victory in the prestigious North and South Amateur Championship 25 years ago. Bock was the ninth-ranked amateur in the country when he turned pro in 1993. He played the Canadian PGA Tour and occasionally beat golfers who would become some of the best in the game.
“I was able to support myself for 12 years. When I first turned pro, the members at Maidstone got together and helped me out for two years. They kind of gave me my start. After those two years, I was on my own for the next 10 or so,” he said. “I played all around the world but I just couldn’t get through tour school. And I didn’t want to be a minitour player. Then I started a family.”
For a while, he made enough to pay his expenses while Geraldine handled the household bills through her job with a North Carolina manufacturing company. He lost the desire to do all the off-week practicing that being a tour pro requires. He began caddying for fellow pros. “I fell in love with it,” he said.
Bock was working for PGA Tour player Doug LaBelle when he met Kisner at a U.S. Open qualifier. They got along and stayed in touch for a year. They began working together at tour qualifying school in 2009, when Kisner missed getting his tour card by a shot. The caddie stuck with Kisner when he twice got and lost his place on the PGA Tour. The loyalty was not lost on Kisner, who won at Colonial this year and bought a brand-new Ford pickup for Bock.
“We’ve been a good team together. I’ve been blessed with it all,” said the caddie who consoled and encouraged Kisner after a lost final-round lead at the PGA Championship the week before last.
Next June, during the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, Bock will share with his boss the local knowledge he developed in many rounds there with Alvarez. And this October, Bock will bring his son and daughter to his hometown when he is inducted into the East Hampton High School Hall of Fame.
“That’s going to be the first time my kids will be able to go out and see where I grew up. So, I’m excited about that,” said the man who will be able to tell them how far you can get from here.