30 Apr 2021 | Professional golf |
Tschudin gives Davis winning edge
by Mark Hayes
Andrew Tschudin is no golfing slouch.
He was good enough to qualify for the 2004 US Open, he won three times on the American Hooters Tour, twice on the Korean Tour and once on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia.
But as successful as the Victorian tuned Queenslander had been, Tschudin knew his touring days were done in 2014 after 17 years as a professional.
He didn’t realise it at the time, but four years earlier at his home club Commonwealth, he’d almost inadvertently put the stake in the ground for what might eventually become an even more rewarding golfing path.
Between his own tournaments, Tschudin offered his services as a caddie when the Women’s Australian Open came to Commonwealth in 2010 and 2011.
Tschudin kept his looping hand in intermittently, including lugging the bag of future superstar Minjee Lee as she rocketed to prominence by finishing second as an amateur at the 2014 Australian Ladies Masters.
From his time in Korea, it wasn’t an illogical step that he would soon find himself as caddie for multiple LPGA Tour winner Mi-Hyang Lee; nor back with Minjee Lee at the 2016 Olympic Games.
Coincidentally and just months later, a young Cameron Davis shone at Mayakoba in Mexico to be the individual winner at the World Amateur Team Championship as Australia charged to a dominant Eisenhower Trophy win.
Strangely enough, that turned out to be a key piece in the Tschudin puzzle.
The following season when new pro Davis took up his Mayakoba prize – a start on the PGA Tour – a chat with Golf Australia’s high performance team put him in touch with Tschudin for the event, where the roots of his next career were finally set in place with a 15th position finish and what would become an invite to go around as a team at the Australian Open later that year.
Tschudin accepted the role, but warned the Sydneysider that he wouldn’t get home from his LPGA commitments until just before the Wednesday pro-am at that 2017 national championship.
“We’d spoken about getting together and our focus was really on the (then) Web Q-school qualifying school (soon afterwards),” Tschudin recalled.
“So I get back on Wednesday morning, we play in the pro-am at the Australian and the next thing we know, Cam shoots 63 in the first round of the Australian Open and we end up going on to win it.
“That was amazing. Really amazing.
“Normally now I’m there at a course for him on the weekend before an event, so to roll up on Wednesday and do that … maybe I should do that more often,” he joked.
“But that’s how it started.
“Looking back it seems an (unusual) path, but we’ve become such a good team now, I’m really looking forward to seeing the next phase of his career.”
For his part, Davis has been on a constant and clearly visible line of progression through the American ranks.
The towering 26-year-old forged his way on to the big tour with a win on the secondary stage in 2018. Four top-25s in 2019 were followed by two top-10s in 2020 and already a third place in 2021 and a vault to 67th on the FedEx Cup standings is proof of that trend.
More, though, with many prominent finishes in the past 18 months, Davis has had exposure to wandering alongside the world’s most famous players.
Tschudin is hopeful that such lessons will be among the last his boss needs to climb the next steps up the rankings ladder.
“He’s improving each year I work with him which is really good … and I think it’s important that it’s slow and steady for him, too,” Tschudin said of Davis.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done, but when we play with other top players at the weekend, I’m confident now that he’ll match them.
“Just recently we played with (world No.1) Dustin Johnson and for quite a while there we were outperforming Dustin, which was great for Cam to see.
“I definitely think he’s got the game to become part of the top echelon of the game, but it takes time and these one-percenters that we’ve got to get right.
“But I have full belief that he’ll get there … the kid can play.”
Tschudin is a key part of the team assembled by Davis, who thrives on stability.
“We have a really harmonious team, actually. Cam has a physio and a mental coach and his coaches and we all click well as a unit.
“We get along well on the golf course, too.
“I think me having that playing background, Cam sort of likes that. He can relate to stuff I say a lot easier.
“I’ve got a few years on him, but I’ve been through a lot of the things he’s going through … admittedly not at the level he’s going at the moment,” Tschudin said with a giggle.
“But I understand what it’s like to be playing well and doing well, but also playing poorly and how that affects you.
“With me being able to map out golf courses and come up with some pretty good strategies, it helps Cam a lot.
“It’s not unusual to do 12-hour days, especially for me as a new caddie on the PGA Tour where I haven’t seen many of these golf courses.
“I try to get there early on a Saturday or Sunday and walk them twice, without Cam, just taking my own notes and working out best way to play holes.
“I then meet up with Cam, do all our work on the range, the chipping green and the putting green and then go and play nine or 18, then sometimes go back out on the course to recheck notes or just figure out the course a bit better.
“I figure I’m 10-15 years behind some of these caddies who’ve seen these courses year after year and have a lot of knowledge of them, so I am just trying to catch up on that.
“I’m just trying to pick up on little things here and there so that if Cam ever gets into a situation they might come in handy.
“Even if things aren’t going well, if you’ve got comfort in these little processes that we have together, he can lean on that and the routines we have.
“I do a lot of reminding. We have a lot of processes in place for certain situations (and) I can pick up on little changes in his mental game or attitude walking around the course.
“If I can get on top of that early enough, maybe remind him that he’s getting a bit quick for example, he’ll know what to do to fix it with the work he’s done with his mental coach to help with that stuff.
“Otherwise I just keep it upbeat, make it as fun and relaxing it as I can. He seems to be doing a good job.”
For someone who “never saw myself as a caddie”, it’s been an unlikely post-playing path.
But you get the strong feeling that alongside his new boss, Tschudin will soon take one of the few final steps he didn’t take with clubs in hand.
“I do enjoy the travel and the golf still, so it’s been good,” he said.
“And I’m more than happy to leave the clubs in the garage.”
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