In '84, when Ben won his first Masters, we started the final round two strokes behind Tom Kite. We played a pretty average first seven holes. Ben was in the trap on the 9th hole, and he had short-sided himself to a front-left pin. Ben holed out for birdie, and I flew to the 10th tee. The pin there was back-left, and Ben's approach ended up on the front of the green (60 feet below the hole). It looked like a sure three-putt. Ben had to play the ball so far to the right that Nick Faldo and his caddie had to almost lift their feet to let the ball go by. As the ball started rolling, I backed up and prayed that it would find the hole, but by that time I was down in the woods. That's how long it took that ball to get to the hole.
After Ben finished in '95, I said, "Don't cry, Ben—we won the Masters. It's going to be all right." But he was sobbing like a baby. He was taking Harvey Penick's death the prior Sunday really hard. It was time to exhale. Except for the year I missed in 2000 with colon cancer, I've worked every Masters since '76 with Ben. There have been lots of special moments, but nothing matched that Sunday in '95.
In December 1972 I moved to Little Rock to work for Jack Stephens, and for the next 18 years I was his caddie and personal assistant. I started caddying for him in '61 at Augusta National. I left him in '90 to go on Tour, but I came back to the Stephens family in 2003 to start the caddie program at the Alotian Club, which was founded by Mr. Stephens's son Warren. After I got colon cancer, Warren helped me financially when I couldn't work.
Clifford Roberts' suicide
I don't believe Mr. Roberts killed himself. I was there with Jack Stephens many times during that '77 season. Every Thursday we flew on Mr. Stephens's Falcon 20 from Little Rock to Augusta. Mr. Roberts asked Mr. Stephens to meet with him several times. I know that Mr. Roberts was planning to build another nine holes southwest of the par-3 course. I think his body was found at the par-3 course because he was looking over the property.
Mr. Roberts and General Eisenhower were concerned I was too young to work at the club. I had quit school in the ninth grade to support my family. On the par-3 course when Mr. Stephens was hitting, General Ike would nestle up to me and ask, "Son, why aren't you in school?" Then he'd catch me in another place and reiterate his point. Mr. Roberts asked the caddie master, Freddie Bennett, why a kid was here on a school day. Freddie explained that I needed to support my family.
A day to remember
In May 1978 Jack Stephens told me to call the golf shop and tell the club pros that he and I wanted to play them in a match. Instead I went over to the shop and asked the co--head pros, Bob Kletcke and Dave Spencer, if they wanted to play. Spencer said, "Hell, no, I'm not going out there!" So now people in the office were already on the phone trying to get in touch with Hord Hardin, the chairman of the club, to let him know that Mr. Stephens was about to let me play as his guest. I went back over to Mr. Stephens's cottage and told him that Kletcke and Mike Shannon, the assistant pro, were going to play with us. I said to Mr. Stephens that the office was trying to call Hord Hardin, and Mr. Stephens said, "F--- 'em." We went to the 1st tee, and every employee of the club and caddie came over to watch us tee off. It was such a proud day for the caddies. I was the last to tee off. I hit my drive over the bunker on the right, and the caddies roared like crazy.