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Bandon Dunes caddies

Caddies Kevin Rei, left, and Kyle Crawford will tee it up during the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. 

BANDON — When the Old Macdonald course was first built at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Kyle Crawford was caddie for owner Mike Keiser for the first 18-hole round played on the resort’s fourth course.

This week, Crawford hopes to be in the last round played on the course during the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, which starts with qualifying today and Sunday.

Crawford and partner Kevin Rei, both caddies at the resort, are among the 128 teams competing in the event, the sixth United States Golf Association championship to come to the resort.

“We’re having a good time with it,” Crawford said. “It’s a really cool opportunity to play in a national amateur event at Bandon Dunes, a place that I’ve obviously spent a lot of time at. We’re real excited for it. I can’t wait to tee it up Saturday.”

In four ball, both players complete each hole and the team counts the best score among the two.

Every team will play one round at Old Macdonald and one at Pacific Dunes and the top 32 sides after qualifying will advance to the match play portion of the tournament, which starts Monday.

The round of 32 will be held Monday, with the round of 16 and quarterfinals Tuesday and the semifinals and championship match Wednesday. All the matches will be played on the Old Macdonald course.

The public is encouraged to watch the tournament. There is no admission for fans. People will be directing traffic for fans who come to the resort. For those familiar with the layout, the best place to park is at the Bandon Dunes Lodge, where fans can catch a shuttle to the courses.

Scores will be updated throughout the event at www.usga.org.

It’s the second USGA event for both Crawford and Rei.

Crawford played in the initial U.S. Amateur Four-Ball with Tim Tucker, then a Bandon Dunes caddie, in 2015 at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. Rei, meanwhile, played in the 2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links at Bandon Dunes.

Crawford has tried to qualify every year since the first four-ball, but this is the first time he has made it back. This is also his first time with Rei as partner and said they are a good combination.

“We’ve obviously known each other for quite a while,” he said. “We’ve played hundreds of rounds together.

“Kevin is a pretty straight hitter. He doesn’t miss a lot of shots. He makes a lot of pars and that allows me to play to my strength and be more aggressive.”

That’s what makes the format fun, Crawford said.

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“I really like this format,” he said. “Any more, I find myself playing a lot of best ball tournaments instead of stroke play. I like having a partner.”

Crawford and Rei have a natural advantage this week because of the familiarity with the courses and with the links style of golf.

“I’ve seen about every blade of grass on those courses,” Crawford said. “It’s a huge advantage, but you still have to pull off the shots.

“An advantage for us is we know where you can miss it and have an easier up-and-down. Knowing the short-game shots out there is huge.”

This week, they also will have two more sets of eyes on every putt — both also longtime Bandon Dunes loopers. Danny Clayton will be on Crawford’s bag and Kurt Woodburn will carry the bag for Rei.

“We’ll probably see some pins this week that we don’t normally see,” Crawford said. “But we know what those greens are doing. (And) we are going to have four caddies looking at everything.”

With that knowledge, though, comes some added pressure.

“We definitely want to play well for the resort and the caddie shack and all our friends that are coming down to watch us,” Crawford said.

The two have been local celebrities of sorts in the build-up to the tournament.

“It’s been fun the last few weeks walking around the resort and having everybody congratulating us and wishing us luck,” Crawford said.

Crawford has been a caddie at the resort about 15 years, since his first years as a student at Marshfield High School. He graduated in 2007 with an Evans Scholarship that paid for his education at Oregon State University, where he got a political science degree. He’s been at Bandon Dunes ever since.

“I love it,” he said. “It’s a good job.”

It comes with free time and a chance to meet lots of people, plus the treats like carrying the bag for Keiser back on the first day for all 18 holes at Old Macdonald.

“It was pretty cool being in the first group to play 18 out there,” Crawford said. “That was pretty special.”

He hopes for more special experiences this week.

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Sports Editor John Gunther can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 241, or by email at john.gunther@theworldlink.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jguntherworld.

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