Editor's Note: This is one of two Undercover Caddie Masters collapse stories, if you can believe it. Check out the other one here.
I remember every shot from those first two rounds. The Masters is golf’s biggest party, and when you and your guy are going well, you’re the center of attention. Plus, you know, it’s Augusta National; if you can’t enjoy yourself playing that venue, get a new profession. What really sticks with me is what happened Friday night. I returned to the house I was renting with three other caddies, and when I walked into the backyard where everyone was shooting the breeze, it fell silent. I wondered if I had done or said something wrong the night before, but it suddenly dawned on me what was up. The unwritten rule in baseball is that you’re not supposed to talk to a pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter. That’s how the other caddies were treating me because my player and I would be playing in the final group on Saturday.
My guy wasn’t the type of guy you would expect to be in that position. He had a win and had played in a Team USA event, but he was also someone most casual fans didn’t know. We were 36 holes away from winning the green jacket, and people didn’t know how to act. They didn’t know how to act when it went wrong, either.
Saturday was bad, like, taken-off-the-telecast bad. We started OK. Then there were bogeys and doubles and a triple, and suddenly I was wondering if we were going to break 80. I really don’t think it was nerves but more just one of those days when your game misses the alarm clock. On a short wait at the ninth I told my guy we just needed a few holes, and we would be back in it. Without looking at me, he said, deadpan, “You’re giving CPR to someone who’s already dead.” The entire group broke into laughter.
I tried to keep that sense of humor when I went back to the rental house that night, but all the caddies were acting like it was my wake. I let them know I was doing OK, but I couldn’t break the somber mood. I think they were living vicariously through me that day, and when we went down, they felt a part of themselves went down, too.
Because my player and I were both young, I think we took the whoopin’ in stride, initially at least. He was just getting good, and we would have plenty of opportunities. Little did we know that was the only chance we would have. His career went sideways after an injury. His short game went to hell, and he fooled around with too many swing changes to the point where he lost his card. We broke up shortly before that.
For a few years I was a little bitter about that Masters experience. I blame it on a phone call; my sister innocently asked how much I would have earned if we won, and that answer—not just the winner’s cut but the worth of a win, be it speaking engagements, entries into no-cut events, and job security—I couldn’t let go. I was still working on tour, but I hadn’t come close to the highs I had with that player and began to realize those other chances I thought I would get might not come. I got so resentful that for two years I didn’t watch the Masters at all.
Things changed in 2018. I grabbed dinner with my old player and afterward we went to a bar to watch college basketball. We saw a TV spot for the Masters, and we started reminiscing about our run. To him, it’s nothing but good memories. It was interesting to hear him say what, deep down, I had come to understand: He was an average player who for six months caught fire, and that heater just happened to overlap the Masters. He doesn’t look back at that week with regret. Instead, he recognizes how lucky he was to be in that position. For a lot of us, just getting to compete in the Masters is an honor, and what we did through two days was a kick.
That’s where I’m at now. I’ve worked three Masters since then, even had a nice backdoor finish at one. But I told myself then, and will continue to tell myself if I return: Whether I’m the hunt or DFL, enjoy being there, because you might not come back. —With Joel Beall