When the U.S. Open begins play on Thursday at Pebble Beach, many of us will drift back in time to the dramatic shot heard around the world of golf in 1982. Tom Watson, faced with a difficult situation to stay in contention on the 71st hole of the Open, hit the perfect wedge shot that went into the hole and gave him the boost he needed to beat Jack Nicklaus for the title.
Watson ran across the green and pointed at this caddy, Bruce Edwards. Edwards moments earlier had urged Tom to get it close. Watson confidently retored: "I'll make it."
He did. When the U.S. Open begins, I will think of that moment and I'll think about Bruce.
My mind will go back to a time 29 years ago. We were standing on the practice tee on a steamy Thursday May morning in 1981 at the ritzy Preston Trail Golf Club in Dallas. First round play at the Byron Nelson was in progress.
It was the first time I'd seen Bruce Edwards up close and personal. First time I'd seen him from a caddy's perspective.
As golf writers, we all knew Bruce, but this was the first time I was doing what he did. Fate had turned me from a sports writer to the PGA Tour caddy ranks. He stood two spots down, leaning against that red and white RAM golf bag, waiting for his man. His man was young Tom Watson, the stud of the PGA Tour. He was the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year and was on a roll, having won that title in 1977, '78, '79 and '80.
Edwards was 25, Watson and I were only six years his senior. We were all young.
Edwards and I were a universe apart with the bags we carried. He had Watson, I had Beau Baugh. No one knew Beau. They knew his sister, LPGA star Laura, but Beau was just another PGA Tour "rabbit." Just another guy struggling to make it.
Edwards and I stood out from most of the caddies. We dressed like players. Our clothes were neat and pressed. We wore expensive golf shirts and slacks, no jeans. Bruce was the "standard." He was a new-age caddy. He looked the part. His hair was razor-cut, parted down the middle. He looked younger than 25.
He looked over at me and nodded. Bruce wasn't a big talker. He was prepping for action, ready to get Watson around Preston Trail one more time. It was a course Watson dominated. Played like he owned the place. He won the event in 1978, 1979 and was the defending champion that week.
As I watched Edwards check through the pockets of Watson's bag, I couldn't help thinking to myself, "This guy has it MADE."
Fate smiled on Edwards the day he met Watson back in 1973. From that point on, his life was charmed. He was THE caddy.
I glanced again and saw a huge smiled light up Bruce's face. Watson's behind me. I sensed it. He was. "Gentlemen," Watson said to us as he walked past. He wore a huge grin. The gallery buzzed with excitement. Watson had that effect on crowds.
Baugh missed the cut that week. Watson contended but it was Bruce Lietzke's turn to win.
Would see Bruce again a month later at the U.S. Open at Merion. Watson was a favorite. My job was to help Hal Sutton, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, survive his first and second round pairing with Jack Nicklaus and Hale Irwin.
Once again I got a friendly nod from Edwards. This time he spoke to me. "You got Hal," he said and pointed at me. "Yeah," I responded. "Take care of him," Bruce said with a smile. "Thanks, good luck to you and Tom," I told him.
I couldn't help thinking again that Bruce really had it made. Caddies were envious of Bruce but at the same time, they all had enormous respect for him. He was changing the caddy environment, changing the perception of what were previously regarded as mere bag-toters.
Bruce was making a great living and having a world of fun in the process.
He was frustrated only by the fact he couldn't caddy for Tom at the Masters. Outside caddies weren't allowed at Augusta National, but that changed in 1983. Bruce never carried Tom's bag for those five British Open wins either. That honor went to Alfie Files.
Still, Bruce was Tom's guy and Tom was his guy. There were an incredible fit. Tom was more than Bruce's boss, he was Bruce's close friend, a first on the tour in those days.
A year later came Bruce and Tom's magic moment at Pebble Beach. I was overjoyed for both.
I followed their careers as player and caddy. There was no partnership like it.
The Thursday of the 2004 Masters brought the devastating news that the world lost Bruce Edwards. The young man I knew who lived a charm life as a young man, had been dealt a cruel hand by fate in his late 40s. He was a victim of ALS, a death sentence.
Bruce left Tom forever that day, April 8. He was only 49.
When I heard the news, my mind took me back to those idyllic days on the tour. The young Bruce, the young Watson, standing 10 feet from me. I caught myself remembering how I envied Bruce at the time.
Those were exciting days for Edwards and Watson and all of us were excited by them.
The Golf Channel will air a special documentary about Bruce Edwards tonight based on John Feinstein's book Caddy For Life . Some will watch Bruce up close and personal for the first time. I'll simply remember him exactly the way he was in 1981.
Forever young, forever the best caddy.
This story is re-printed from its version appearing at AllHeadlineNews.com
Tom Edrington is the National Golf Correspondent for AllHeadlineNews.com
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