WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton is moonlighting this week as Ryan Palmer‘s caddie at the Greenbrier Classic.
With the start of NFL training camp later this month, Payton said he was planning to spend a week relaxing at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. One thing led to another, and Payton ended up agreeing to help Palmer, who gave his regular PGA Tour caddie the week off.
“It’s pretty cool to hear the mindset of one of the great coaches in the game, Super Bowl winning coach,” Palmer said.
After two days of participating in practice rounds and pro-am events, Payton said Wednesday he realized “this isn’t a vacation.”
Payton and Palmer are good friends who met in Dallas. They see each other when Palmer plays in the Zurich Classic in Louisiana and they’ve played an occasional round together during the summers.
While Payton said he isn’t good at playing golf, he said he’s comfortable with figuring out yardage at the Greenbrier Classic, which starts Thursday.
Payton compares being a caddie to visualizing an NFL game through the eyes of a quarterback and said he’s taking the opportunity seriously.
“I know what game week feels like for me in the fall, and I know what it will feel like for him and what it does feel like for all these golfers,” Payton said. “Just to be invisible as a caddie and do your job and be supportive, those are the things that I look at as being important for me this week.”
To which Palmer added jokingly: “Just shut up and keep up. That’s it.”
Palmer, who has four top 10 finishes this season, said other caddies had warm reactions to Payton.
While the best work in golf is done in a quiet environment while football’s best work is amid a stadium full of screaming fans, the discipline required to succeed is the same, Payton said.
“[There's] a lot of tedious work that goes for the most part unnoticed,” Payton said. “And it’s pretty interesting to be around this venue and just see how these guys get around the course and what’s going through their mind.”
Payton had plenty of time to play golf during his one-year suspension as part of the NFL’s bounty investigation. He was reinstated in January. The Saints went 7-9 last season and missed the playoffs for the first time in four years.
“I know our players are looking forward to getting back,” Payton said.