Last week when the PGA Tour rolled into Charlotte, N.C., for the annual Wells Fargo Championship, big news broke. Joe LaCava had a new bag, joining Patrick Cantlay, who is ranked fourth in the world.
Following the way some reports had it, LaCava opened the tournament at Quail Hollow Club by shooting 4-under 67 for a share of seventh, just two back. But Cantlay followed with 71-71-69 to fade into T-21, 12 behind the winner.
Silly, the attention such a story attracted. Goodness, that story pales in comparison to the yarn that came out of the Quail Hollow caddie barn in 1974. They were sticklers for rules at Quail, so that year when Hubert Green’s caddie was reminded he had to wear the white jumpsuit, he put up a stink before “he dropped his jeans and put it on,” said Shayne Grier.
Bad move, of course.
“The club official told the caddie he was gone,” laughed Grier, “and next thing I knew, Andy Martinez (a legend of a PGA Tour caddie) told me that Green needed a caddie in the afternoon and I should go.”
Grier, mind you, had already done 18 holes with his man, Steve Melnyk, in the morning but as fate would have it, that double loop opened doors that the Worcester, Mass., native still feels blessed to have walked through. Green shot 12-under 276 to finish T-8 at the Kemper then had Grier on the bag the next week when he posted 17-under to win the IVB-Philadelphia Classic.
A tandem was born, one that was together from summer of ’74 till fall of ‘78 and in a truly adventurous nine-year career as a PGA Tour caddie, Grier cherishes that run with Green.
Then again, what’s not to love about riding alongside a polished competitor who knew how to close and feared no one. “That’s why they called him ‘The Doberman,’ ” said Grier. “Hubert was tenacious and he held off the best of that era.”
Of course, no reminiscing with Grier goes too deep until the 1977 U.S. Open at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., dominates the conversation. Understandable, too, given that it involved a death threat phoned in Saturday night against Green, who was the leader after each of the first three rounds.
By now the story has been told and re-told. How Green was told by police early in Round 4 that the woman caller claimed the golfer would be gunned down on the 15th green. How Green said he’d play on but keep his distance from not only his playing competitor, Andy Bean, but his own caddie. How Grier sensed his man was acting differently as he pulled several shots left and never engaged in talk. How the veteran caddie was let in on the situation by a police officer. And how that led Grier to saddle up to Green left of the fairway at No. 15.
“Stood right by his side,” said Grier. “I told him, ‘Let’s give them two targets to shoot at.’ ”
Maintaining composure and riding his caddie’s support, Green won the first of his two majors (the ’85 PGA would be his second and the last of his 19 career wins) and had it been the centerpiece of Grier’s PGA Tour life, it would be enough.
But there was more, so much more.
“Looking back at it, it was a total blessing (to find life as a PGA Tour caddie),” said Grier. “It got me off the streets of Worcester.”
Grier fit in perfectly to a caddie landscape that was changing in ‘70s. “We were the hippie crowd – Andy Martinez, (Mike) ‘Fluff’ Cowan, Pete Bender, Mike Carrick, ‘Gypso’ (Joe) Grillo, Greg Rita,” laughed Grier. “But we loved the game and we were professional.”
What appealed to Grier was seeing the world and his 1974 journey included the Open Championship at Royal Lytham in England, the Scandinavian Open the following week with Peter Oosterhuis, then in October there was a journey to caddie for both Green and Eddie Pearce in Australia and New Zealand.
An American caddie Down Under? In 1974? Sydney Morning Herald golf writer Terry Smith was fascinated.
“The image of the old-style touring caddie in America was that of a rum-soaked vagabond who would put up his firsts at the slightest provocation,” he wrote. “But this went out the window when Shayne Grier (arrived) this week.”
Most intriguing to Smith was Grier spending after hours writing a series of articles called “The Other Side” for a magazine and the fact that this caddie was a college graduate.
“I attended Marist College (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) and that was different back then, I guess.” But Grier pokes fun at himself for majoring in economics, because he took a unique avenue.
“I chose Soviet economics. I was talked into it and told that Soviet economics never change. Well, they changed big time. I should’ve studied dirt.”
OK, so that didn’t quite work out as envisioned, but the caddie business is a different story. How blessed was Grier? In ’68 he won the luck of the draw and got to tote Arnold Palmer’s bag in a Kemper Open win at Pleasant Valley in Sutton, Mass.
The bug stayed with him and after college he chased the PGA Tour. He figured a year would be enough, but the adventures captivated him. “Maybe I was one of those restless ones from the ‘60s that you hear about,” he once told a golf writer for the Pensacola News Journal. “But I was going to make my memories while I was young.”
The photo that accompanied that story showed Grier wearing a baseball glove on his left hand, catching golf balls. Range life in a more primitive PGA Tour world.
At a time when PGA Tour caddies rarely traveled to international tournaments, Grier gladly went and takes pride in working at all the courses that were in the Open Championship rota during that era.
He cherished the days Phil Rodgers would work the range, dishing short game advice to everyone. Dave Marr could dissect the golf swing like no one else. Lee Trevino was a national treasure, Jerry Heard could talk with the best of them. And forever he’ll remember that Hilton Head Island day in 1976, the third straight win for Green, when Jack Nicklaus tapped him on the butt with his putter.
“You can’t win three in a row out here without any help,” Nicklaus told Grier.
Priceless, that memory. Like so many others.
That’s why, when he walked away in September of 1978, Grier did so with zero regrets.
“I was 30. I had done well, but I was tired of the Tour and the travel.”
He wanted to settle down. He had a job waiting on Cape Cod (with the Steamship Authority, where he worked for the next 40 years) and never has the golf bug left him. He plays out of Cummaquid GC. In 2000 he started working as a rules official for Mass Golf and now that a 14-year-old grandson has passion for the game, there is a new way to soak in the joys of golf.
For Shayne Grier, the adventure continues.