Sports

Popular caddie was more than night owl

Tiger Woods hits a short pitch shot to the second green on the North Course at Torrey Pines while practicing for the Buick Invitational on Tuesday in San Diego.
Tiger Woods hits a short pitch shot to the second green on the North Course at Torrey Pines while practicing for the Buick Invitational on Tuesday in San Diego. AP

SAN DIEGO -- Steve Duplantis, a popular PGA Tour caddie known for bringing out the best in his players, was killed early Wednesday when he was struck by a taxi while crossing a street.

Duplantis was in Del Mar when he stepped off a center median and into the path of a taxi, said Sgt. Randy Webb of the San Diego Sheriff's Department. Duplantis, 35, was pronounced dead on the scene.

He was working at the Buick Invitational for Eric Axley, who was visibly shaken when he arrived at Torrey Pines and asked for a few days before commenting.

Duplantis was a free spirit after hours -- he often showed up late for work after a night on the town -- who was regarded as among the best caddies inside the ropes. Jim Furyk won four times early in his career with Duplantis on the bag. He steered Rich Beem to his first PGA Tour victory in the 1999 Kemper Open, and he was with Tommy Armour III when he set the PGA Tour's 72-hole scoring record at the Texas Open in 2003.

"He was one of the better caddies," Armour said. "That's why he kept getting hired."

Armour, however, feared Duplantis' nightlife would land him in trouble.

"Am I shocked by this? No," Armour said. "I tried several times to get him some help. And I told him in 2003, 'Bud, if you don't change, you're going to die a tragic death.' "

Duplantis and his nightlife exploits were prominently featured in a book titled, "Bud, Sweat and Tees," a story primarily about Beem.

Beem and Duplantis were together only six months, beginning at the 1999 Kemper Open.

Beem, who later won the PGA Championship at Hazeltine, wasinformed of his death during the Buick pro-am.

Beem mostly remembered how Duplantis looked after his daughter, Sierra, who turned 12 this month. His marriage ended quickly, and at one point Duplantis was a single parent trying to keep his job as a caddie.

"He always lit up when talking about Sierra," Beem said. "He always had current pictures of her in his wallet. For a lot of years, he was the only parent in her life. Yes, he liked to party. But that part of his life gets lost."

TIGER AND PHIL -- Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson headline the field at the Buick Invitational which starts today.

They have combined to win this tournament six of the last eight years, and Woods is the three-time defending champion. A victory this week would allow him to tie Arnold Palmer in career tour victories with 62.

And while the majors don't start until April at Augusta, consider this week a sneak preview of the U.S. Open, which will be held at Torrey Pines in June.

Woods caused a stir earlier this month by saying the Grand Slam was "easily within reason," and he hasn't backed off.

"For most of my career, I've won more than four tournaments per year, and all I have to do is win the right four," Woods said.

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