PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Casey Boyns grew up on Monterey Peninsula, attending middle school and high school in Pacific Grove and going to Monterey Peninsula College for two years. For most of the past 37 years he’s worked as a caddy at the Pebble Beach Golf Links on the peninsula.
The only time he’s been off the peninsula was a four-year stretch he spent in Utah, attending the University of Utah and playing for the Ute golf team. It was a time he remembers fondly, enough to make him a Ute fan for life (“that Alabama Sugar Bowl game was the best, that was so cool,” he says).
Not only has Boyns walked the iconic Pebble Beach layout about 10,000 times either as a caddy or a player, he’s also fashioned a successful amateur career that includes two California State Amateur titles, seven Northern California Golf Association senior titles and more than 20 victories overall. No wonder he’s been inducted into both the California Golf Hall of Fame and the NCGA Hall of Fame.
At age 63, Boyns ranks No. 2 on the seniority list among Pebble Beach caddies, which number about 300, and he also works Spyglass Hill and Spanish Bay, two Pebble Beach properties as well. He used to do as many as 260 loops a year, but has cut back in recent years and just does one a day instead of two, around 175 a year now. With his status, he can choose his loops and usually takes one of the first of the day.
“I moved back home and started caddying and got stuck,” he said. “I’ve been here ever since.”
His wife is a successful lawyer, which helps him to, as he puts it, “work for my golf habit.”
Twice over the past three decades, Boyns briefly turned professional, once to try for Tour School and the other time to be a club pro. But he decided he preferred being an amateur and a caddy.
“I like shorts instead of polyester slacks,” he says with a laugh.
After his two years of junior college in the mid-1970s, Boyns was planning to go to work when he received a visit from his cousin’s husband, Jimmy Brown, who was the co-owner of the Utah sporting goods store Stevens-Brown. Brown told Boyns he ought to come to Utah to play for the golf team and sent a tape of Boyns to then-head coach Jack Gardner. Within a couple of weeks Boyns found himself in a totally different environment, playing a tournament at Patio Springs (now Wolf Creek) Golf Course in northern Utah.
“I played in a tournament before I even went to class,’’ he said. “It was pretty cool.”
Boyns was a regular on the golf team for two years and remembers playing the Salt Lake Country Club, Hidden Valley Country Club and Willow Creek Country Club on a regular basis, as well as public layouts like Bonneville and Bountiful Ridge.
He stuck around a couple of years while his wife was finishing her degree and played the local golf circuit in the summer of 1979, getting to the second round of the Utah State Amateur and playing in the Utah Open. He loved playing the Utah amateur summer schedule with its tournaments every weekend, calling it a “really good circuit,” and he even patterned a tournament he started when he got back to California after the ones he played in Utah.
Boyns has caddied the AT&T Tournament at Pebble numerous times, as well as the Champions Tour First Tee Open. Because of his experience, Boyns was recently utilized by the United States Golf Association for advice on pin placements for this week’s U.S. Open and he spent some six hours walking the course with USGA officials offering his expertise.
“They wanted a caddy to kind of go over the greens,” he said. “They’re going over the hole locations and they don’t want any issues. They don’t want any drama.”
Boyns knows the Pebble Beach course like the back of his hand and offered his take on what golfers need to know this week.
“Pebble is the tale of the first seven holes, the second seven holes and the last four holes,” he says.
He said the first seven holes are the easiest, “target golf,” and adds, “You’ve got to score there, be patient, hit fairways and don’t try to overpower it. Just get in the fairway get your birdie looks.”
The next seven are “the gauntlet” where the holes are longer and players need all the power they can get. “Try to come out even par on these holes and if you can you’re going to be ahead of most guys in the field.”
Then the last four get narrow and after bombing it, golfers are going to lay up again and be smart and hit fairways. Both 15 and 16 are layups off the tee, while No. 17 is a tough par-3 when the tee is back and the iconic No. 18 is a par-5 that can be birdied.
“There’s only about five drivers out there, most of the time you’re laying up,” he said. “A lot of really short, short holes and some really long holes. It’s got a good variety.”
As for the greens, they’re small for the most part — in fact, four of the five smallest greens on the PGA Tour are found at Pebble.
“You can’t be too gung-ho on the greens — you’ve got to be sure you don’t three-putt,” Boyns said. “You could have 5-foot birdie putt that breaks a foot.”
A few years ago when Tony Finau was first out on the PGA Tour, Boyns had a chance to caddy for him and some buddies during a fun round. He calls himself “a big Tony Finau fan” and projects him a dark horse to win this week. However, he’s picking Brooks Koepka to win his third straight U.S. Open.
As for the winning score, he doesn’t think it will be anywhere close to Tiger Woods’ 12-under 272 score of 2000 (“they’ve Tiger-proofed the golf course”) but that it will be better than the even-par score of Graeme McDowell of 2010.
“I think it will be under par, a little deeper than normal,” he said. “I think it will be between 2- and 5-under.”
Who knows what will happen this week, but when Boyns has anything to say about Pebble Beach, it pays to listen.