Clad in the traditional bright white jumpsuit and green cap, two newbies to the Masters Tournament caddie ranks are experiencing the epitome of their profession this week at the Augusta National Golf Club. And their feet haven’t touched the ground.
“Wow,” said Barry Williams, a 12-year caddying veteran making his first loop here. “I didn’t feel like I was working today.”
“He was walking on a cloud,” Boo Weekley, his player, shot back. “He was saying, ‘This is awesome, dude. Look at that, dude.’ He made me take his picture on Hogan Bridge. That was fun.”
Williams, 40, is a 12-year PGA Tour veteran from Durham, N.C., who has worked for eight players in his career. He earned a Masters visit when Weekley won the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial last May. Michael Greller, 35, is a Grand Haven, Mich., native and former sixth-grade teacher who totes for 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, one of the game’s new stars. They are among a cast of approximately 20 first-time Masters caddies this week.
“I went out this morning early to walk the course and was on No. 16 when they opened the gates,” Greller said Tuesday. “Two years ago, I came here for the first time as a fan. I was teaching school and flew across the country from Washington. I went to the 16th hole that day. I saw those people coming in today and thought, ‘That was me.’”
Among the iconic features at Augusta National, the caddie tradition was started by Stovepipe (Gene Sarazen’s caddie), Pappy Stokes (Ben Hogan), Iron Man (Arnold Palmer) and Willie Peterson (Jack Nicklaus) and lives on in today’s caddies. The clothing and the necessity to have a right-hand man to navigate the scary-fast greens and second-nine jitters have made this the No. 1 place to caddie.
The caddies have extensive quarters in the building adjacent to the Tournament Practice Facility. There is a dining area and multiple televisions for players and caddies as they prepare to tackle the hills and angles and subtle greens of Augusta National. Approximately 500 caddie jumpsuits are stored here, in sizes 42 to 60, all woven with a 65 percent polyester/35 percent cotton blend. The Velcro strips with players’ names, numbers and caddie number are all nearby.
“I came to the Masters as a kid, starting in 1993 – about six or seven times,” Williams said. “But I was inside the ropes for the first time today, and it was hard to believe. Just standing on those greens was very revealing. When I got my uniform they just looked at me and said this should fit. It did.”
Williams leaned on his friend Don Cooper, an Augusta-area resident who caddies for Lucas Glover, to better understand the roll of the greens. He said that last week Weekley visited Cartersville (Ga.) Country Club, where they cut the greens down as low as possible to resemble Augusta National’s slick putting surfaces.
Greller took his tutelage even further. As Spieth and two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw are both University of Texas alums, Crenshaw offered to have his veteran caddie, Carl Jackson, an Augusta native, provide some Augusta National insight.
“I sat with Carl and Ben on the picnic tables behind the caddie locker room on Monday night, and we went hole by hole with his yardage book,” Greller said. “I sat there again with Carl on Tuesday morning. It was unbelievable the wisdom he has about this place.
“The things he emphasized were to tell Jordan to trust his instincts and for me to always find out where Rae’s Creek is from every hole. That’s a real key.”
No matter their result this week, it will be evident that life is good.
“I told the guys I’m staying with this week just look at me,” Williams said. “I’ll be the one who’s always smiling – no matter what.”