Two Georgia Bulldog pros working together in Phoenix

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When Harris English needed a club or a quick read on a green during Wednesday's pro-am at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, he didn't turn to his caddie Brian Smith.

Smith was nearby, often walking behind English measuring distances of approach shots or off to the side calculating putts and figuring out the firmness of a green -- without lugging English's golf bag around TPC Scottsdale the day before the tournament begins.

Instead, English asked longtime college friend and Arizona Cardinals punter Drew Butler for advice.

Make that Drew Butler the caddie.

Having Butler on his bag here has started to become an annual rite for English. The two met in the dorms their freshman year at the University of Georgia and have stayed close friends as their careers have skyrocketed to the top of their respective professions.

And once a year, Butler trades his Cardinals jersey for a caddie bib, and English gets a break from the monotony of a pro-am.

"It's awesome," English said. "It kind of mixes it up a little bit because you do play a lot and it's good to have a buddy on the bag just to talk about other stuff than golf. I'm sure he feels the same way with football. We talk about everything. It's good to kind of get in his mind and what he works on. It's the same mental stuff that I work on."

But Butler's job Wednesday didn't get into the nitty-gritty of preparing English. That was still Smith's role. He measured wind, pin placements, distances, how hard or soft greens were and how fast the putting surfaces played, while Butler did the dirty work.

As Butler and English focused on a handful of shots every hole, their conversations were like English said -- about almost everything but golf. At one point, they discussed the intricacies of punting and the differences between college and pro rules. Butler held court as English looked on intrigued.

A couple holes later, they began discussing how Georgia fared during Wednesday's national signing day. English was well versed in the Bulldogs' recruits under new coach Kirby Smart. But talking about it with Butler was like discussing space with an astrophysicist. Butler hosts a radio show every week during the football season for the Rivals.com site that covers the Bulldogs. Yet, English held his own.

At another hole, they talked about the Cardinals' season, with English raving about the Cards' rookie running back David Johnson.

Through it all, Butler performed his duties as a caddie.

He helped select clubs for English, usually without any input from the five-year pro.

"He pretty much knows my game and how far I hit it and he'll pull out a couple clubs for me and they're usually spot on," English said.

When English needed his golf balls cleaned, Butler would make sure the towel was wet and took care of it for English. When English hit out of the bunker, Butler was right behind him raking it.

He'd even offer advice at times. On the 13th tee, a bee landed on English's leg and Butler advised him on how to get it off without getting stung. Later on that hole, Butler read a putt perfectly for English, telling him the break came two cups to the right.

"He trusted it and banged it right in the back of cup. Others, not so much. I might have over read them. It's tough out here with the Valley and this isn't my home course. So, I don't have too much confidence reading the greens," Butler said with his tongue planted in his cheek.

While he eventually turned to football, which earned him a scholarship to Georgia and a career in the NFL, Butler's first love was golf.

He began playing competitively when he was 9 years old and soon after started playing in junior tournaments around Atlanta. But his caddying chops were cut when he'd carry the bag for his father, former NFL kicker Kevin Butler, during celebrity tournaments and at member-guest tournaments for former NFL kicker Mick Luckhurst.

Carrying English's bag, however, has given Butler a unique perspective to golf.

"It's definitely a team effort," Butler said. "So much goes into it preparation wise: knowing the course, knowing the tendencies, expecting where the pins to be. And then just what's expected of you hole in and hole out.

"These guys are a true team and it takes a lot of effort to repeat success week in and week out."

The two college friends stay in touch during the season mostly by text. English will text Butler after games, and Butler will text English after tournaments.

They've known each other for almost 10 years, but their bond goes deeper than a friendship. They can relate to each other in a professional way, as well.

"The kicking motion and the golf swing are almost uncanny with how comparable they are," Butler said. "When it comes to technique and when you're trying to compare kicks between anything else, the golf swing is exactly what relates to it best.

"If you're trying to tweak something with your kicking motion, you can put it into golf terms and sometimes be able to apply it better when you're kicking."

Throughout the day, as Butler kept the flow of the round steady with his club choice and caddie duties, Smith enjoyed the break.

For at least one day, his back and shoulders weren't burdened with a heavy golf bag -- which he lightened for Butler.

"I actually look forward to this one every year," Smith said with a smile.

His advice to Butler this week was simple: Have fun. Oh, and thanks for being here.

"There is no advice," Smith joked. "[I told him] if I can do anything ... if you want me to rake a bunker for you I'm glad to do it, as long as you keep carrying that sack."