Willie McRae isn’t a know-it-all.
But, the longtime caddie pretty much knows it all when it comes to Pinehurst No. 2.
How can it be? Time is the ultimate teacher and McRae has had plenty of time to learn. He’s been working at Pinehurst for more than 70 years.
McRae, a charter member of the Pinehurst Caddie Hall of Fame, has been a caddie since he turned 10 in 1943.
At 81, McRae imagines he’s the “oldest caddie in the world,” yet he shows no signs of slowing down.
Writer Tommy Tomlinson recently visited Pinehurst to glean some words of wisdom from the well-known greens reader. His story appears in the January issue of Our State.
Over the years, McRae has caddied for everybody from Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford to U.S. Open champion Justin Rose. He even carried bags for Donald Ross, the famous architect of Pinehurst No. 2, and Richard Tufts, the grandson of Pinehurst founder James Walker Tufts.
“Everybody’s famous. Everybody’s somebody,” McRae told Tomlinson. “I don’t try to classify one person over another.”
“The first thing that you gotta do, you gotta be nice to people. If they say something you don’t like, let it go in this ear and out that ear.”
“Ain’t no use in throwing a club. The club ain’t done nothing to you. You’re the one who hit the ball.”
“I’m not too worried about the swing, as long as they get it back in the right channel. You got a lot of crazy-looking swings, but that ain’t got nothing to do with it, as long as you keep that arm stretched out.”
“I had some ladies on the 1st tee one time. One of them looked at me and said, ‘Willie?’ I said, ‘Ma’am?’ ‘What’s wrong with my game?’ I said, ‘Miss, I’m going to tell you. You’re too close to the ball after you hit it.’”
“As long as you feel good and in your right mind, you might as well go ahead and work. You’ll die when your time comes.”
I had [pro golfers] Justin Rose and [Hunter] Mahan just before the U.S. Open, and I taught them how to read the green. They asked me, “Willie, which way does the grain go?” I said, “The grain goes from east to west. The grass has got to be going toward the sun when it comes up. If it don’t, it’ll burn the root out. And if you notice, when they cut the cup in the morning, the east [edge] is rough. And the rest of the cup around there is sort of smooth. Most of it’s common sense.”
One of them said, “There ain’t no other caddies out here on the [PGA] tour that told me nothing like that.” I said, “Well, they don’t know. They can’t tell you what they don’t know.”
If you can’t be a drawing card — if people don’t want you the next day — you’re in bad shape.
Sometimes when I’m down and out, I like to sing.
Your grace and mercy
Brought me through
I’m living this moment
Because of You
That sounds pretty good, huh?
Want more? Check out this video of McRae and pal Eddie Mac discussing Pinehurst No. 2.