Mike Hicks was there every step of the way – including Payne Stewart’s final one, when as the ball dropped into the cup on the 18th green at Pinehurst No. 2 in the 1999 U.S. Open, Stewart lifted onto one leg, his fist punching through the misty air.
Hicks caddied for Stewart for 12 years, picking up the job after toting the bag for two-time North & South Amateur and U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange (Video). Until Stewart’s untimely passing in a plane crash in October 1999, Hicks didn’t know how good he had it, saying, “I had a deal that you just don’t get.”
Hicks, 52, who has caddied for several big names since Stewart’s passing, told David Droschak this week he is retiring after 33 years as a caddie. After opening a golf-teaching school near his home in Mebane, Hicks told Droschak he’ll only return to the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in 2014 if his son Jacob, a sophomore on East Carolina’s golf team, qualifies.
Hicks spoke at length about his time with Stewart, professionally and personally, and of the magical week in Pinehurst.
“I never read a putt that whole week, not one,” Hicks said. “I did nothing that week other than carry the golf bag and offer words of encouragement. I think I pulled one club and that was with a lay-up shot on the 10th hole, a par-5. That was unusual. It was weird that week; Payne was just in his own little world. In 1998 when he lost the U.S. Open everybody was saying that’s too bad, but that guy took nothing but positive out of that. He wanted to prove to himself that he could still do it.”
Please read the full feature here. It’s well worth your time, especially if you, like us, continue to hold a soft spot in your heart for Payne.