Life on links is fine for Urbanek

WW-P grad is caddie for Wi

By Justin Feil, Assistant Sports Editor
   Mark Urbanek ended his pursuit of golf as a professional player, but didn’t get out of the game.
   The West Windsor-Plainsboro High graduate (before the school district split) has been caddying for Charlie Wi on the PGA Tour for more than a year.
   ”I started with Charlie at the beginning of last season,” Urbanek said. “I caddied for Matt Davidson back in ‘05, and Charlie and Matt played a lot together. We got to know each other a lot through that.”
   Urbanek still stays in touch with his good friend and former Pirates teammate Davidson, who is trying to qualify to return to the tour. Urbanek got his start as a caddy for Davidson, but he didn’t do it just as a favor for a friend.
   ”I was getting ready to get out,” said Urbanek, who graduated from William and Mary before playing in several tournaments. “He was just getting his card. He asked me if I wanted to go out there with him. It wasn’t really a favor; it was definitely a job. We approached it that way. It was a lot of fun. We didn’t have great results, but it was important for him as a player to understand where he stands and know what he needs to work on. I think it made him a better player.”
   Urbanek is pulling for his friend to rejoin the tour, but he has caught on as Wi’s caddie. Caddying professionally isn’t something he considered while rising in the state at WW-P, but it has worked out well to keep him in the game.
   ”I wanted to be a player,” Urbanek said. “Everybody would rather be out there as a player. My playing days didn’t quite get me there. I’ve accepted that. I like caddying. I think I’m good at it. I’m constantly improving. I enjoy it. It’s definitely second best.”
   It’s not just carrying a bag. Urbanek keeps Wi focused and does as much as possible by studying a course and matching it to Wi’s game to make Wi’s job easier.
   ”For Charlie, one of my main jobs is keeping him patient,” Urbanek said. “He’s done a good job with that. He’s a very consistent player. You take your medicine and you try not to put up any big numbers. We play very patient and try to have even keel tournaments. We just try to give ourselves as many looks at birdies as we can.”
   Wi tied for ninth in his first major, the PGA Championship, before finishing in a tie for 65th at The Barclays at the Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus on Sunday. The Barclays is the first of four tournaments that make up the FedEx Cup playoffs. Wi will play in the second step, the Deutsche Bank Championship, Friday through Sunday.
   ”We feel good,” Urbanek said. “He played pretty well here last year. He’s hitting the ball well. We just have to do the same thing and we’ll have a great week.”
   Wi comes off two contrasting weeks. He was in the final group at the PGA Championship on the final day that included winner Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia. Wi was in competition until falling back with a 4-over final 18.
   ”He was being very patient,” Urbanek said. “That was his first major. We didn’t approach it any differently. A lot of guys, when they play majors, have to adapt. We don’t have to do that. We don’t play an aggressive style. That’s why I think we did well. Up until nine holes, I thought we had a chance to win.”
   Wi was consistent at The Barclays, but had just one par round. He finished with a 2-over 73 to finish 4-over for the tournament.
   ”It was OK. He didn’t have his best stuff,” Urbanek said. “It was a good tournament. It’s a great golf course.
   ”It was good being back in New Jersey. A lot of golfers gained respect for courses in New Jersey. It showed it doesn’t have to be long (to be difficult). The greens were small, and it was tough.”
   The Barclays is the closest that Urbanek gets to his hometown while on the tour. Now residing in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., he is traveling with Wi during the tournament, and when he has an off week, he tries to take some time away from the course. But having the background of growing up playing the game and continuing it beyond college is an asset to a player like Wi.
   ”Playing helps you with caddying,” Urbanek said. “I’m sure that’s what a lot of tour players are looking for — guys who know what to do under certain circumstances.”
   Being a caddie is just the latest big save for Mark Urbanek after his playing hopes ended. He might not be living the original dream, but he is proving that he still has a place on the PGA Tour.