Dan Woodbury has achieved his dream of competing on the PGA Tour, even if it’s not in the role he planned.
The 27-year-old former standout golfer at St. John’s High is caddying on the PGA Tour this year for rookies Trevor Conehis former Virginia Tech teammate.
Cone earned his PGA Tour card last fall by finishing in the top 25 on the Korn Ferry Tour money list, and he asked Woodbury to caddy for him full time. The previous few years, Woodbury caddied for Cone part time on the Korn Ferry Tour and also for members at The Dye Preserve Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, when he wasn’t playing in mini-tour events.
Woodbury regained his amateur status in February and had hoped to play in some Mass Golf events this summer, but the schedule didn’t work out. He hopes he can squeeze in a few amateur tournaments next year.
Cone, a 30-year-old native of Charlotte, North Carolina, missed the cut for the 11th time in his first 20 PGA Tour events at the John Deere Classic in early July. Then last weekend, he nearly won the Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Kentucky. Cone led by a shot entering the final round and birdied 15 on Sunday to tie for the lead. Then he drove into the fescue to the left of the green on the par-3 16th and ended up with a double bogey.
Cone also drove into the fescue on 16 in the first round, but made an 8-footer for bogey. On Sunday, he missed an 8-footer for bogey.
Cone finished at 21 under, one shot out of a playoff in which fellow rookie Vincent Norrman defeated Nathan Kimsey.
“Obviously, there were a little bit of nerves,” Woodbury said, “but when it came down to it, we were feeling great, feeling comfortable, and we made a lot of good decisions out there. Just happened to have one bad swing and fell one shot short.”
With his tie for third, Cone earned $224,200, nearly half of the $453,916 he’s pocketed this year. His previous best finish was a tie for 23rd at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May which earned him $80,546.
Although Cone didn’t win, he and Woodbury still enjoyed their first experience of being in the hunt.
“It was a lot of fun,” Woodbury said. “Obviously, you never know how sleeping on the lead and going into that Sunday was going to be, especially for the first time on the PGA Tour. I thought he handled himself awesome. He said to me walking down the 11th hole, ‘Are you having fun? Because I’m having a great time.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, we should keep doing this.’ We were just having a ball out there.”
Woodbury read most of Cone’s putts, but he urged Cone on Friday of the Barbasol to be more decisive and read his own putts. Cone responded by shooting a 9-under 63 the next day to take the lead.
Learning the trade
As a first-year PGA Tour caddy, Woodbury said he’s learning a lot.
“It’s been fun,” he said. “It’s a little harder than I thought it would be. You have to wear a lot of hats whether it’s Monday through Wednesday with the prep work stuff, just getting ready and learning the golf courses and practicing and how to practice. Trevor is an old college teammate, so we’ve been good buddies, and he really trusts me and lets me kind of give him my thoughts on what we need to work on. Me and his coach work together to create a practice plan routine to get ready for each week. Then when the tournament comes around Thursday, you’re a bit of a psychologist and numbers guy, making a lot of decisions that are obviously pretty important because every shot counts out there.”
Woodbury does his best to stay calm and to keep Cone relaxed.
“Obviously, it’s less on me than it is on Trevor,” he said, “but as a caddie, you still have a little bit of nerves on that last day. Make sure you stay in the moment and not get too far ahead of yourself and keep it light out there to make sure he’s in a good head space. Try to act calm and cool like I’ve been there before so he can look at me and understand that we’re in a good spot, and he can get some comfort from that.”
Woodbury was a three-time T&G All-Star at St. John’s. He finished fifth in the 2011 Massachusetts Division 1 State Championship, and he helped St. John’s won state titles as a sophomore and junior.
Shortly after completing his junior year at St. John’s High, Woodbury entered the final round of the 2013 Mass. Open only two shots off the lead. He didn’t play as well on the last day, but he still ended up tied for 23rd.
Then at Virginia Tech, he was honored as Rookie of the Year and later as co-captain. After trying to make it as a pro golfer, he was considering putting his finance degree to use, but Cone hired him last fall. So now he’s helping Cone compete against some of the biggest names on the PGA Tour.
“It’s been cool to see those boys up close,” Woodbury said. “It didn’t take me too long to realize that those guys are way better than I ever was or I ever will be. So it’s a nice, humbling experience, and it’s been cool to hang out with those guys and meet them and still be around golf and at the highest level, too, and the travel has been awesome. I love it. So you kind of get the full side of the spectrum except you’re not hitting the golf shots, which I’m totally fine with because I wouldn’t be hitting them good enough.”
Woodbury knows of only two other PGA Tour caddies from Massachusetts, and he’s grown to know one of them well, Dean Emerson of Lowell, who caddies for Davis Thompson.
Woodbury shares Airbnbs with other rookie caddies on tour, and some of the older caddies have made him feel welcome.
Old friend there to help
PGA Tour chief rules official Gary Young, a resident of Millbury, also has looked out for Woodbury. Young used to be the head pro at Pleasant Valley CC, and Woodbury belonged to the club. Woodbury’s father, Bobis a longtime member at PV, and he lives off the fourth fairway. Michael O’Brien and former PV member Jay Kunkel bought the club last winter, and Woodbury said his father is excited about the new ownership.
“He was very happy when he found out that Jay Kunkel was involved,” Woodbury said. “He’s very happy with all the improvements they’ve been making.” Woodbury played PV last month and thought it was in great shape.
Woodbury and Young usually see each other at a PGA Tour event about once a month.
“He always checks in and makes sure everything is going well,” Woodbury said. “If I ever need anything, I know I can ask him, and he’s been awesome to me. I’m really lucky to have him out there. It’s cool to have two guys from PV out there.”
PV head pro Paul Parajeckas was happy to see that Woodbury enjoyed a successful tournament with Cone last weekend.
“I’m glad for him,” Parajeckas said. “He’s a great caddy, there’s no question about it. He knows the game, and he knows when to say the right things. The player and caddy will only get better in that situation.”
Woodbury’s father watched him caddy in November in the RSM Classic in Sea Island, Georgia, and his sister, Ashleywatched him in February in the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
Woodbury said he couldn’t ask for a better boss than Cone.
“We enjoy each other’s company,” he said, “which is huge because we’re with each other so much, and we can talk to each other, and we won’t take anything personal. We can have hard conversations when we need to.”
As a PGA Tour caddy, Woodbury has been living mostly at hotels, but he and his girlfriend, Sarah Lubnowwho he met at Virginia Tech, plans to move to Denver this fall.
Woodbury spoke to this columnist from the airport in Denver awaiting a flight to Reno on his way to caddy for Cone this week in the Barracuda Championship at the Tahoe Mountain Club in Truckee, California.
Cone is scheduled to play in two other PGA Tour events before the FedExCup Playoffs begin. The top 70 players in FedExCup points qualify for the playoffs, and the top 125 at the end of the season in October keep their playing status for next year. Cone ranks 155th, and if he doesn’t make the top 125, he could try to earn one of the five spots available in PGA Tour Q-school. He also could return to the Korn Ferry Tour.
Woodbury would like to remain as Cone’s caddy wherever he plays.
“He’s probably one of the best drivers I’ve ever seen, probably No. 1 I’ve ever seen,” Woodbury said.
Cone ranks eighth on the PGA Tour in driving distance with an average of 315 yards. He’s a big guy, standing 6-foot-3.
“He’s got size 15 shoes so that gives you a good idea,” Woodbury said.
Woodbury has big shoes to fill himself — as a PGA Tour caddy.
—Contact Bill Doyle at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @BillDoyle15.
This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Former St. John’s standout Dan Woodbury enjoys life as a caddy on the PGA Tour