ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — Other than Steve Williams and Joe LaCava, there aren’t any caddies on the PGA Tour who are household names.
Williams, of course, caddied for 13 of Tiger Woods’ 14 major championship victories and is now with current Masters Tournament champ Adam Scott.
LaCava, who was Fred Couples’ right-hand man for more than 20 years before a short stint with Dustin Johnson, took Williams’ place on Woods’ bag in October 2011.
Locally, Augusta native Carl Jackson, who is Ben Crenshaw’s longtime Masters caddie, is a well-known name. Other than those three, caddies tend to live in the shadows.
So it was interesting to discover how many area caddies worked in last week’s McGladrey Classic.
There were five at the PGA Tour event: North Augusta’s Trey Keepers (on Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey’s bag), Augusta’s William Lanier (David Toms), Edgefield’s Donnie Cooper (Lucas Glover), Augusta’s Derrick Redd (Ben Martin) and Jody Keepers (Josh Broadaway).
Two of those players – Toms and Glover – are major championship winners.
Trey Keepers looked to have the best bag for the Seaside course in the McGladrey since Gainey won it in 2012. That didn’t work out, though. Gainey shot 70-74 to miss the cut.
Toms was the top finisher with a tie for 27th, Glover tied for 40th, Broadaway tied for 48th and Martin missed the cut (71-71) by one.
“It is unusual (to have so many local caddies on the PGA Tour),” said Lanier, a longtime NGA/Hooters Tour player who stopped playing competitively after the 2011 season.
“It just lends itself back to the city being so rich in golf and golf tradition. For me, it was a logical transition after I decided not to play anymore. I still love the game and I want to be around the game at a high level.”
This is Lanier’s third year caddying on the PGA Tour in the past four.
He worked the first half of the 2011 season with Martin, worked all of 2013 with former Augusta State golfer Henrik Norlander and hooked up with Toms in Las Vegas on Oct. 17, the second event of the 2013-14 season.
Lanier and Toms have some shared history. They both played golf at Louisiana State, and Lanier caddied for Toms for a month in 2008, including the Masters.
That happened when Toms was coming off a back injury and his longtime caddie, Scott Gneisser, was committed to another player because he didn’t know when his boss would be coming back. Toms and Gneisser soon joined forces again. Then, at the end of the 2012 season, Gneisser went to work for John Peterson, another former LSU golfer, full-time.
That opened with door for Lanier, who was available because Norlander didn’t retain his PGA Tour card for the 2013-14 season.
Trey Keepers, who had been Evans resident Vaughn Taylor’s off-and-on caddie from 2003 through June 2013, might have found a permanent bag with Gainey, who has already won once on the PGA Tour.
They’ve been together since mid-June of last year.
“You never can tell. It’s all on performance,” Keepers said when asked how long he and Gainey might stay together. “Our jobs are never safe. When he called me he’s like, ‘You know how I am, I like to get a guy and stick with him.’ I told him I’d like to stick with him as long as he’ll have me. I’d like to think I could work with him for a couple of years. If you get some success and start winning tournaments, obviously the contract would extend out.
“It could always change,” Keepers added. “It not like we have a contract we sign through the year. You’re on a weekly deal. It’s a verbal contract with a guy. He told me a couple weeks ago, ‘Your job is safe, don’t worry about that. Do your life.’ I’m just the pit crew and he’s the driver. I just keep the brakes good and the wheels on. He’s the one driving the ship.”
Keepers likes the fact Gainey “is aggressive and gives me 100 percent every day,” no matter how he played the day or week before. And then there is the belief between the two that makes them a strong team.
“He trusts me and that’s big,” Keepers said. “If I tell him hit it here and this far, he’ll do it. And it’s 100 percent of the time. If I’m wrong two or three times a day, I’m wrong. But it’s not like he goes back and forth where he doesn’t trust me here, he does trust me there and our percentages go down. He stays with me and trusts me.”
Gainey, who came to public attention in 2006 when he won the Golf Channel’s Big Break VII: Reunion show, has never played in the Masters.
Keepers believes it won’t be long before the man best known for wearing two gloves on every shot is driving down Magnolia Lane in a courtesy car.
“You’d like to say he’s very close,” Keepers said. “He’s the type of guy who has the ability to shoot lights-out numbers. You know he can win. He won multiple times on the mini-tours. He’s won on every level. It’s just a matter of time before he wins out here to get in the Masters.”
If Gainey does win, it would be Keepers’ first victory on the PGA Tour as a caddie. He wasn’t on the bag either time Taylor won on the big tour.
For now, Keepers is happy to have helped three different players win on the Web.com Tour. He won with Fran Quinn (in Keepers’ fifth start on the tour in 1999), Taylor (in 2003) and Patrick Cantlay (in early 2013).
“Three wins, three different players. I’m proud of that,” Keepers said. “Being able to do it with three different players kind of makes me feel good, that I had the ability to help him win the golf tournament. It wasn’t like I had a really good player who won all the time and I was just carrying the bag.”