The next time you see LPGA Tour golfer Shanshan Feng on TV – and you probably will a lot of the Chinese star this season – take a look at her caddie.
It’s Augusta native Mercer Leftwich III, a 1988 Butler High graduate who is seeing the world as the caddie to the fifth-ranked Feng.
Leftwich, who now lives in Lafayette, La., was a top junior golfer who played one year at Augusta State, then finished up at Georgia Southern.
He did a three-year stint on the professional mini-tours before turning full time to caddying. Leftwich learned the trade at Augusta National Golf Club, working there from 1987 through 1999.
He caddied in one Masters Tournament – for future champion Trevor Immelman in 1999.
Before he went to the LPGA Tour, Leftwich had two stints on both the PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour totaling nearly eight years.
Leftwich is in his second season with Feng, who is best known for being the first Chinese golfer to win an LPGA Tour event.
And it wasn’t just any event – it was last July’s LPGA Championship, one of the tour’s major championships.
Feng, who is 23, is the No. 5-ranked female golfer in the world entering the 2013 season.
But she did something no other woman did in 2012 – win six times worldwide.
In addition to the LPGA Championship, Feng won twice on the Ladies European Tour and three times on the Japan LPGA Tour.
“She’s an amazing talent,” the 42-year-old Leftwich said. “I’ve been around golf all my life and it’s hard for me to see how mature and focused on the game she is at her age.”
“It seems like she’s been a veteran for 20 years,” he said. “When she’s in contention, her demeanor never changes. There are no highs and lows, she’s all business. You don’t always see that with a young player.”
Leftwich started on the LPGA Tour in 2000, working for such players as Vicki Hurst, Grace Park and Jimin Kang.
In September 2011, he got a call from Feng’s agent about caddying for her. They finished ninth in Malaysia and have been together ever since.
“It was almost like we had been working together for a while; the communication was really good,” Leftwich said. “We wanted to win and we wanted to win a major. We were on the same page.”
As for communication, there is no language barrier. Feng speaks “very good English,” Leftwich said.
In fact, because Feng plays so much on the Japanese Tour and is a superstar in that country, she is learning Japanese. Leftwich said he’s been studying the language too, during the holiday break.
Leftwich said Feng is almost as popular in Japan as she is in China.
“It’s unbelievable how well-known she is (in both countries),” Leftwich said. “There aren’t many times when we’re on a plane, train or checking into a hotel that someone doesn’t ask for her autograph.”
One of Feng’s Ladies European Tour wins came on Dec. 8 where she won the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.
Feng and Leftwich will start the LPGA Tour year on Feb. 16 at the LPGA Thailand, the second event of the season.
SENIOR STAR DIES: Aiken’s Gerard Maxfield, a stalwart senior golfer who shot below his age hundreds of times, died in late 2012 at age 77.
Maxfield, who was known as Jerry to most of his friends, won numerous South Carolina state events, including the 1998 South Carolina Golf Association Senior Championship.
The Rochester, N.H., native won 17 club championship in his career, including titles at Pine Ridge Country Club and Midland Valley Country Club.
He also had 15 hole-in-ones.
Perhaps his most impressive round in an area event came in the 2009 Augusta City Amateur.
Playing in the first round at Forest Hills Golf Club, Maxfield, then 74 years old, beat his age by seven shots, shooting 67 to tie for the lead.
He ended up tied for seventh after putting problems led to rounds of 74-76.
The putter held Maxfield back and was the reason he won only three times on the Regions Bank Amateur Series, of which he was a regular through 2010.
REPEAT WINNER: Augusta’s Jimmy Rigsby is making it worth his while to play in the Bulgarian Amateur Open.
He remained unbeaten as a senior in the event, successfully defending his title in the Bulgarian Golf Association event.
Rigsby kept his lead from the first day, shooting 78-78-85–241 to win by two over Anastasov Roumen.