U.S. AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
Bandon Caddies Rei, Crawford Home-Course Favorites May 24, 2019 | Bandon, Ore. By Tom Mackin

Bandon Dunes caddies Kevin Rei (left) and Kyle Crawford hope to put their local knowledge to good use as competitors this week. (Bandon Dunes)

U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Home

Among the 350 caddies who work at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, an estimated 50 possess a Handicap Index® of 0.0 or better. But two from that talented group – Kyle Crawford and Kevin Rei – will be trading in their white overalls for regular golf attire this week when they tee it up on the resort’s Pacific Dunes and Old Macdonald courses for the 5th U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship.

After logging thousands of rounds carrying golf bags, plus hundreds more playing all four 18-hole Bandon courses – the resort also features Bandon Dunes and Bandon Trails, which will be the layouts used for next year’s U.S. Amateur – on their own time, Crawford and Rei expect to rely on their local knowledge when the competition begins Saturday with the first of two stroke-play rounds. But the duo believes their main edge will primarily be wind-related.

“If it’s not blowing hard, these players are so good they will play well,” said the 29-year-old Rei. “But if the wind is strong, then it’s a substantial advantage for us just because of the comfort we have of hitting shots in those conditions and knowing when you can’t go at certain hole locations in that type of wind.

“The wind can really get into your head here,” said Rei. “I don’t think many of the players coming here have seen what they are about to see. It can mess you up. It’s golf, but it’s not golf. It’s a completely different game. It’s just hard, period.”

Added Crawford: “We know what to expect. We won’t get frustrated if we hit good shots and not get a good kick, especially on Old Macdonald. You definitely have to be mentally prepared for what can happen out there. It can be a grind.”

Rei and Crawford met as caddies in 2010 at Bandon Dunes, but took different routes getting to the Oregon coast.

A native of Sonora, Calif., Rei played golf at Division-II California State University-Chico. A connection at the latter pointed him toward Bandon.

“Danny Clayton (who will caddie for Crawford during the championship) also played at Chico and was caddieing at Bandon in the summers. I needed to make some money after my sophomore year but also keep my game sharp. So I came here in 2010 and caddied for two months.”

After graduating, Rei caddied part time at Bandon Dunes while playing on various mini-tours.

“I got a slice of humble pie,” he said. “Those guys are really, really good. I was an All-America in 2013 at Chico State and thought I was pretty good. But I realized after 18 months that pro golf was not going to happen for me, so I came back to amateur golf [and became a full-time Bandon Dunes caddie] in 2016.”

In his first tournament as a reinstated amateur, he qualified for the 2016 U.S. Amateur at Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan, but failed to advance to match play. That was Rei’s second appearance in a USGA championship. In 2011, he reached the Round of 32 of the U.S. Amateur Public Links at Bandon Dunes.

The 30-year-old Crawford grew up in Coos Bay, a 25-minute ride north of Bandon Dunes, and started caddieing at the resort in 2003 as a high school freshman. He earned a scholarship to Oregon State through the Evans Scholars Foundation, which provides four-year tuition and housing college scholarships to caddies at 25 universities across the country (51 Bandon caddies have received that scholarship since 2020).

Since graduating in 2012, Crawford has caddied at Streamsong Resort in Florida, which hosted the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, and at Bandon Dunes. He played in the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball in 2015 at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, advancing to the Round of 32 with partner Tim Tucker (a former Bandon Dunes caddie who now carries for 2015 U.S. Amateur champion Bryson DeChambeau on the PGA Tour).

“I’ve played with some very good players,” said Rei. “My college roommate and best friend is Brandon Harkins, a 2016 U.S. Open qualifier who currently plays on the PGA Tour. But Kyle is right there with any of them talent wise, and he hits it a mile. He has the ability to make a ton of birdies. I can make a ton of pars.”

“He’s so consistent and that allows me to be more aggressive, which is my style,” said Crawford of Rei. “I can hit it out there a ways. But this format lets me hit a lot more drivers. It’s a fun format.”

During the 2019 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball qualifier last October at Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland, Ore., the duo finished as first alternates.

“We know each other’s game so well and we’ve played hundreds of rounds of golf together,” said Rei. “I trust him and he trusts me. In the qualifier, we had two fellow Bandon caddies with us. And we’re going have two other Bandon caddies (Kurt “Woody’ Woodburn for Rei and Clayton for Crawford) with us for the championship.”

What they won’t be so familiar with are the hole locations that the USGA might utilize.

“Even though we know the greens very well, the locations are very vanilla for resort play,” said Rei. “They’re in one of three spots and they rotate those every day. We know those spots incredibly well. So, I’ve been putting to spots where I think the championship hole locations [might] be. I don’t know those as well.”

Rei and Crawford are scheduled to start stroke play on Old Macdonald at 9:12 a.m. PDT on Saturday and will play Pacific Dunes on Sunday beginning at 12:36 p.m.

“Pacific Dunes is tough when it’s really windy,” said Rei. “There is so much more trouble there when the wind blows that you can actually make team doubles. You need to be a plodder and really dissect that course.”

“Old Macdonald is wide open with massive fairways and massive greens,” said Crawford. “You’re going to have a lot of 30- to 80-foot putts out there. If you’re good at lag putting, it’s a huge advantage.”

The pair takes inspiration from their friends, Floridians Marc Dull (a Streamsong Resort caddie) and Chip Brooke (a former Bandon Dunes caddie) who made it to the semifinals in 2017 at Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort & Country Club and the championship match a year ago at Jupiter Hills Club in Florida, before losing to Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber. The defending champions are not in the field.

“We’ve told ourselves that we’re just as good as those guys,” said Crawford. “We’ve played with them. If they can make it that far, there’s no question that we can make it that far.”

What happens if they face Brooke and Dull in match play? “That would be really cool, especially since we have friends who will be caddieing for them,’ said Crawford. “It would be really interesting with eight caddies in that group if it happens.

“Kevin and I agreed that if there is ever a chance for us to win a USGA championship, this is it right here. We’ve taken it seriously and have put in the work getting our games ready.”

Arizona resident Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to the USGA.

More From the 5th U.S. Amateur Four-Ball