The Associated Press
Saints coach Sean Payton (left) will serve as Ryan Palmer's caddie during this week's Greenbrier Classic golf tournament.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - Apparently, golfer Ryan Palmer has stiff requirements for his caddy candidates.As in Super Bowl victories.This week, Palmer's caddy is Sean Payton.Yes, that Sean Payton. The New Orleans Saints coach. The one coming off a season-long suspension for the team's bounty program. The one who just signed a five-year contract extension through 2017. The only coach in Saints history to win a Super Bowl.Payton has Palmer's bag in the Classic."Ryan and I have been friends for quite a while," Payton said on Wednesday. "We met back in Dallas and I've had a chance to follow his career, kind of root for him from afar. Every year we see each other in New Orleans at the Zurich [tournament] and he usually makes a [Saints] game or two."This time of year in the NFL is very quiet . . . So this started as a plan of vacationing at the Greenbrier for a week. After two days, though, I've quickly realized this isn't a vacation. But I'm excited about it.""I'm excited for the opportunity and the unique week," Palmer said. "It's going to be fun to get advice from a hard-nosed football coach."
Payton said he's also friendly with Palmer's regular caddy, James Edmondson, and it all "worked out.""I certainly have a great appreciation for the job these caddies have," Payton said. "All of a sudden, it starts raining a little bit and you're one hand short with umbrellas going and towels everywhere.""But I take the opportunity very seriously because this is how [Palmer] makes a living."Payton said there are parallels between golf and football.
"Quarterback play," said the coach. "The thought process in regard to visualizing a round or how a quarterback might see a game going . . . There's a discipline involved. The challenge [for golfers] is the ability to have 100 percent focus on all of your shots. I know when we jump in golf carts and drive around a course and shoot in the 90s, we might have great focus on eight shots total."Palmer said he's already heard from other caddies about Payton's place this week."A friend of mine, D.J. Nelson, who caddies for Chad Campbell, sent me a text saying to make sure Sean knows where our caddie dining is," said the golfer. "I got [Payton] a family credential, though. He's my father-in-law this week."
Nelson also texted that the other caddies were staying at the Quality Inn in Lewisburg, so "we expect to see him there this week, too.""The other caddies have enjoyed it," Palmer said. "They've talked to Sean on the range . . . It's pretty cool to hear the mindset of one of the great coaches in the sport we love, football.""It's pretty common to find the athlete interaction with these two sports," Payton said. "Coach [Frank] Beamer [of Virginia Tech] was out here today in the pro-am."Payton, by the way, said his Saints players are looking forward to getting past a down season and the bounty scandal and focused on a new season. Rob Ryan is the team's new defensive coordinator."Prior to last season, we'd won 41 games in three years, which led the NFL," Payton said. "It's hard to all of a sudden have a 7-9 season."For now, though, it's all about the business at hand.
"I understand and completely appreciate this is [Palmer's] game week," Payton said. "I know what game week feels like for me in the fall. I'm just trying to be invisible as a caddie and do my job and be supportive.""Just shut up and keep up, that's it," Palmer said.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.