- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
For my first Masters, in '61, I got Billy Burke's bag. Burke was best known for winning the 1931 U.S. Open in a 72-hole playoff over George Von Elm at Inverness Club. Burke also had a couple of top three finishes at the Masters in the '30s, but by then he was well past his prime, and he knew that it was going to be two rounds and out for him. He told me on the first day that he was going to show me how to caddie in the Masters. He showed me how a caddie should get around the course during a tournament—where to stand and how to get the pin. We played the practice rounds, and he would not use the driving range. He did all of his work on the course. I think he stayed off the range to protect me. It was tough out there. You had three or four players hitting wedges. Some are hitting drivers. The drivers are coming out low. And the caddies are out there shagging balls. It was dangerous, really. Guys would get hit on the leg and the back. I can remember one serious incident where a caddie got hit in the head. But you learned how to watch your player, and while his ball was coming, you would search the sky for anything else that was coming in at you.
Brothers of the bag
In February we buried my brother Melvin. He was one of my six brothers to work at Augusta National. He was 50 years old and the seventh of nine children. Like many other kids in the Sand Hill neighborhood, he worked at Augusta Country Club and Augusta National. They were bait. A lot of kids dropped out of school and worked over there. Melvin worked in the bag room, but his back simply gave out on him. His back problem forced him to retire, and he was just getting his life straight when he died in his sleep. I let my brother Justin, who we call Bud, help me with the carts at the club when he was nine or 10 years old. He's been a caddie at Augusta National for 34 years. My older brother, Austin, who they called Tweety, caddied for Arnold Palmer some in the '70s. My brother Bill was on Ed Sneed's bag in 1979 when he blew the tournament [won in a playoff by Fuzzy Zoeller]. Sneed had a three-shot lead with three holes to play and missed par putts on 16, 17 and 18. All he had to do was say to my brother, "Do you see this putt the way I do?" Sneed could have been the Masters champion if he had put his caddie in the game a little bit.
The Sheriff of Augusta National
On the afternoon of Oct. 19, 1976, my brothers Melvin and Bud were fishing at Rae's Creek with four of their friends. All the boys in the Sand Hills neighborhood grew up fishing and swimming in the creek, which was full of bream. There is a fence dividing Augusta National from Augusta Country Club. We would walk about a mile from our neighborhood, crawl under the fence at the 13th tee at Rae's Creek from the 10th tee of Augusta Country Club. That day the boys had caught 30 or 40 fish and were keeping them fresh on a line, even though earlier, Rogers Bennett, Augusta National's nurseryman, had spotted the boys—and Bud's .410 shotgun, which he brought along in case of snakes—and told them to get off the course. One of the boys did leave, taking the shotgun with him.
Shortly after 3 p.m. the boys saw Charlie Young, the club's white security guard, standing on the Nelson Bridge, near the 13th tee. Young, who had a gun shop at his house, was carrying a homemade 12-gauge sawed-off shotgun with a barrel that was less than 17 inches long. When the boys started running toward the 11th at Augusta Country Club, Young fired one shot and hit three of the five boys, including Bud, who was struck in the right knee. Young later told the club's general manager, Philip Wahl, that his gun accidentally discharged as he was trying to load it, but he never told the boys to get off the course until after he had fired.
I wasn't surprised that it happened. Charlie Young had a bad attitude. He thought he was John Wayne. He had it in for Bud. The two of them had a little run-in during the '75 Masters, when Young scolded Bud for driving a cart too fast near a group of patrons. But that was not the way to handle this situation. Young could have held the boys in the water, called the police and have them put in jail for trespassing. That's one issue I had with the club—they continued to let Young work there. He would put on a different air if members were coming through the front gate. But he treated a lot of the caddies rough after the shooting. I never had any problems with him because every time I came through the gate, I was in one of the member's cars. But you could see that hate in his eyes.
Bud and the two others who were shot filed an $11 million lawsuit against the club and Charlie Young, but ultimately ended up settling for $69,000. Bud, who got $3,000, did not work at the club for the next 11 years, but today, at 54, he is one of the most popular caddies at Augusta National. Charlie Young died on Oct. 16, 1994, almost 18 years to the day of the shooting. He was 65.
Laddie at the '70 Masters
In 1970 the NAACP picketed outside the gates of the club over apartheid in South Africa. They thought Gary Player shouldn't be allowed to play in the tournament. Player and his caddie, Ernest Nipper, who was on his bag in '61 when he won his first green jacket, received death threats. Nipper was so scared that he quit. So I ended up getting Player's bag.