How the yardage book made the wise old Augusta caddies redundant

Everybody knows that Fuzzy Zoeller is the only rookie to win the Masters in the last 87 years. He owns the green jacket. Much of the credit for it, however, belongs to a now 81-year-old Augusta native, Jeriah “Bubba” Beard.

“He told me what to do and I did it,” Zoeller said 40 years after his historic win of the caddy who steered him to victory.

Beard certainly contests. “I’m not just patting myself on the back but there’s no way Fuzzy could have won without me,” Beard said last month.

“Because I totally depended on myself. I pulled all the clubs and read every putt.”

There were no yardage books or green-reading books in 1979, and everyone who played in the Masters back then was required to use an approved club caddy. Beard had already caddied in three handfuls of Masters – 12 of them with Don January – when he earned Zoeller’s bag in 1979. By the end of their first nine holes together the Sunday before the Masters started, Fuzzy had already gained faith in Beard’s ability to pull his clubs and read the greens.

Twice more Zoeller and Beard were in the hunt at Masters, but that successful relationship came to an abrupt halt 40 years ago. In November 1982, Augusta National chairman Hord Hardin sent a letter stating that Masters participants would no longer be required to use Augusta National caddies and could bring their own. The last vestige of an eleven common tradition was dead, and Beard’s partnership with Zoeller died with it.

Despite Zoeller’s published promise that he was sticking with the man from the neighboring Sand Hills neighborhood who led him to a green jacket, when he arrived to Augusta on Masters week he backed down from that promise and brought his regular tour caddy.

“I was very surprised because he had put in the paper and everything that he was gonna keep me as his caddy and when he got here changed his mind,” said Beard.

Zoeller never finished top-10 in any of the subsequent 27 Masters he played in. Beard never caddyed in the tournament again and gave up caddying altogether when the club closed in the spring of 1983.

It was a widespread practice at tour events and major championships that host golf clubs provided the caddies. That tradition started dying out in the 1970s as the PGA Tour started growing and players began hiring full-time caddies to take with them everywhere they went.

The US Open stopped requiring the use of host club caddies in 1975. By the 1980s, only the Masters and Western Open at Butler National still required players to use club caddies. The Western Golf Association, which still administers the Evans Scholarship Foundation for caddies, was the last holdout until 1986.

What seemed like an inevitable concession to the modern tour didn’t seem that way to Augusta caddies as long as club co-founder Clifford Roberts was alive. The club famously employed only Black caddies at the time, and their jobs were secure until Roberts killed himself in 1977.

Prominent tour pros like Tom Watson – who won two green jackets with aptly named local caddy Leon McCladdie – were clamoring to bring their regular tour caddies with them to work the Masters. With Roberts no longer around to protect his caddies, the pros seized upon an opportunity to get their way in 1982.

Rain washed out a sizable portion of the first round in 1982, and it led to some confusion about the restart Friday morning. When players had to be back in place at 7.30 am, a number of caddies hadn’t gotten the word and didn’t show up on time.

Tommy “Burnt Biscuits” Bennett – who caddied for amateur Tiger Woods in his first Masters – calls it ‘that awful Friday’.

“Friday morning it was just terrible,” Bennett said. “Everybody’s shouting at the caddies and guys showing up and looking for a caddy and had spectators carry the bag and stuff like that. I think a lot of the players just had enough. I lot of guys should have got fired when they showed up, but they let it go. The next year it was all over with.

“That’s what changed the whole system. Then that awful Friday morning when guys didn’t show up. It’s 40 years now.”

Watson, who wanted to bring his regular caddy Bruce Edwards, and his peers used the opportunity to sway Hardin, and in November came the press release that the 1983 would allow outside caddies.

“I was genuinely surprised, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen as long as Clifford Roberts was the chairman,” said Beard. “Because he told them that, hey this is an invitational tournament and you don’t have to play if you don’t want to. But as long as I’m the chairman, the caddies here will be the caddies in the tournament. He didn’t say Black caddies, he said ‘the caddies here’. He could have had anybody to come in train and learn the golf course and then they can get a bag in the Masters. That’s the way it was.”

Golf: The Masters: Fuzzy Zoeller lining up a putt with Jeriah ‘Bubba’ Beard on No 14 green during the 1979 Masters.

BEARD, who started caddying at neighboring Augusta Country Club when he was 15 and earned his way to the National and his first Masters with Bob Toski in 1957, recalls three out-of-town caddies in his time carrying winning bags at the Masters – George “Fireball” Franklin (Doug Ford), Frank “Marble Eye” Stokes (Bob Goalby) and Walter “Cricket” Pritchett (Charles Coody).

“Those three were from Atlanta, but see now what those guys would do is come from Atlanta for about three weeks up until a month and start caddying in order to get a bag for the Masters,” Beard said. “They couldn’t just walk up and get a bag. That’s how it was done.”

That all changed with the stroke of Hardin’s press release. Only 18 of the 82 Masters starters in 1983 used local club caddies, according to the Ward Clayton, who wrote the book “Men On The Bag” in 2004. Defending champion Craig Stadler used Ben Bussey again. Jack Nicklaus used Willie Peterson, who won five green jackets with, for one last round before withdrawing with a bad back. Gary Player still used Eddie “EB” McCoy who he’d won two of his three green jackets with. Biller Casper used Matthew “Shorty Mac” Palmer. Tom Weiskopf used LeRoy Schultz. Watson brought his man Bruce Edwards, so McCladdie the caddy picked up the sticks for amateur Robert Lewis Jr.

Since 1983, club caddies are lucky to get the back of one of the amateurs. The lone and most famous exception is Carl Jackson, who continued carrying Ben Crenshaw’s bag in 38 Masters including their wins in 1984 and 1995. Jackson caddied in a record 54 Masters before he and Crenshaw stepped away together in 2015. Jackson still works at the Alotian Club in Arkansas.

“I got the message that Ben called and said, ‘I’ll see you in Augusta,’” Jackson said of Crenshaw’s commitment in 1983 that paid off handsomely the next year and again 11 years later. “Ben made his decision and he stood by it. He said, ‘Carl has too much experience around here. I can’t let him go.’”

The rest just faded away into the history books. As Beard said: “We just got erased, like we never existed.”

The caddies were such a prominent part of the Masters lore in the era before yardage books. Men like Nathaniel “Iron Man” Avery (four wins with Arnold Palmer) and Ernest “Snipes” Nipper (who steered Gary Player to his first win from him in 1961) were a big part of the mystique. Willie Peterson’s flamboyance was as memorable as his five wins with Nicklaus, as he’s the featured focus on the 1972 Sports Illustrated cover with his arm raised, foot kicked behind him and a cigarette hanging from his mouth while jack lurks in the background.

But the greatest of them all was Willie “Pappy” Stokes, who was literally born into the life at Augusta National on the grounds of the Fruitlands Nursery where his father worked. Stokes helped clear trees during construction of the course and studied the way all the water moved across the property towards Rae’s Creek to learn every little intricacy of the golf course. He started as a caddy when the club opened in 1933 and was Clifford Roberts’ favorite man.

Stokes shared in five Masters titles by four men – Henry Picard (1938), Claude Harmon (1948), Ben Hogan (1951 & ’53) and Jack Burke Jr. (1956). Beyond that, Pappy was the man who shared his knowledge of him with generations of club caddies because it was important for them to be good at the job in order to earn more money. He taught them what to do and how to act and how to read the greens from 100 yards away.

“Pappy Stokes was the best who ever did it,” said Beard.

The local knowledge, and the skill that went into pulling clubs and reading greens, is lost on the tour caddies who show up to Augusta for the first time.

“The caddy used to get a lot of credit back then,” Beard said. “Caddies now, in my opinion, all they got to be able to do is count. That’s all they gotta do. And they did one thing it was so distasteful it was unreal, it was when they had those green-reading books. That was awful, the most awful thing they’ve ever done because it took the talent away from the player and his caddy from him. And I’m glad they got rid of that. That was just so distasteful.

“When they have a GPS where they can look at the yardages. I don’t like that. That’s fine for an amateur player just out having fun. But in a tournament, they shouldn’t have them.”

The old Augusta caddies sported nicknames like Stovepipe, Eight-ball, Marble Eye, Cricket, Cigarette, Cemetery and Burnt Biscuits. They were such a rich part of the Masters tapestry.

Willie “Cemetery” Perteet was given his nickname by President Eisenhower after Perteet survived a knife attack from a forlorn lover and woke up in the hospital morgue, much to the surprise of the morgue attendant.

Tommy “Burnt Biscuits” Bennett – who Tiger’s father, Earl, sought out for his son to pick up local knowledge in his first Masters experience – was just a child trying to steal a biscuit his grandma was cooking on the woodfire stove. He slipped and knocked over a boiling tea kettle, which burned him nearly to the bone and left scars on his legs and a permanent nickname.

When Arnold Palmer angrily threw a club late on Sunday in 1960, Iron Man Avery famously asked “Are we chokin’ Mr. Palmer?” The question sparked a birdie-birdie finish.

Pappy Stokes had a way of twirling the club when they walked that Burke said helped soothe him during the trying final round in 1956 when many competitors shot in the 80s. When Burke finally asked for confirmation on his decisive putt on the last hole, Pappy simply said “Just go on and cruise her on in there,” and Burke did.

Like the Greatest Generation who fought in World War II, the local caddies who can recall the glory days of working the Masters are dwindling, with most of them in their 70s and 80s.

“It’s not many left I can tell you that,” said Beard, 81. “Ain’t many left at all.”

Bringing in outside caddies has brought new stories and different history to the tournament. The first female caddy at the Masters in 1983 was 19-year-old Stanford sophomore Elizabeth Archer, the daughter of 1969 champ George Archer. She carried him to T12, his final top-20 finish in a major. Fanny Sunesson won twice with Nick Faldo.

Nicklaus had his oldest son, Jackie Jr., carrying his bag in his historic 1986 victory. Jim “Bones” Mackay and Phil Mickelson provided memorable conversations and moments en route to three green jackets. Joe LaCava won with Fred Couples in 1992 and Tiger Woods in 2019.

And of course, there’s Steve Williams, the only modern-era caddy to get close to the two Willies’ record of five caddy wins. Williams tied Avery with four wins with Tiger Woods (2001, ’02 & ’05) and Adam Scott (2013).

“Time changes everything,” said Bennett, who caddied on the tour as well as at Augusta National and is pictured on a mural in the Sand Hills neighborhood where they all grew up. “Time changes money. The golf game changed with the yardage books and stuff.

“Young guys should use a few (local caddies) but they’re going with their guys and don’t want to break that tradition anymore. They won’t do it, man. It’s a done deal. It’s basically a new chapter with the young guys.”

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