Collins praised for his work on greens at Augusta National

Tuesday, July 7, 2009 8:37 PM
Last updated Friday, Jan. 15, 2010 11:42 AM
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Augusta National Golf Club lost one of its best caddies last week when Joe Collins, who had three top-8 finishes in the Masters Tournament, died from liver cancer.

Collins, 56, started caddying at Augusta National in his teens, according to his family. He was forced to retire in 2007 because of various illnesses.

Among the players he caddied for in the Masters Tournament were former champion Tommy Aaron, former runner-up Ed Sneed, Colin Montgomerie, Ken Still and Jim Jamieson.

Collins’ best finish was a tie for third with Jamieson in 1973. He and Still tied for sixth in 1971, and Collins and Montgomerie tied for eighth in 1998.

Collins carried Sneed’s bag in 1980, the year after Sneed and Tom Watson lost a sudden-death playoff to Fuzzy Zoeller.

As a club caddie, Collins was on NBA hall-of-famer Michael Jordan’s bag for three of his visits to the course, according to his family.

“He fell in love with caddying; he was probably one of the best to ever do it,” said Joe’s younger brother, Tony Collins.

Prior to the 1983 Masters, only Augusta National caddies could work the Masters. After the ban on outside caddies was lifted, most of the pros brought their regular tour caddies, and work in the tournament dried up for the club caddies. Each year, only a few players – sometimes none – opt to go with an Augusta National caddie.

However, in 1998, Montgomerie hired Collins as his Masters caddie.

And in 2000, Aaron wanted Collins on his bag. With Collins’ help, Aaron, then age 63, became the oldest player to make the cut in tournament history (a record which still stands).

“That was a heckuva feat,” said Augusta National caddie Kenny Larry, who started at the course in 1999 and worked with Collins in foursomes many times.

Larry was out of town when he heard Collins had died June 27, and also missed the July 3 funeral.

“I was shocked by that,” said Larry, who was asked to speak at Collins’ funeral. “Joe was a super guy. He had a great demeanor about him. He was quiet and laid back. He wouldn’t volunteer any information (about caddying), but if you asked him, he’d give it to you.”

Larry said Collins was “probably the best green reader at Augusta National.”

Larry remembered a story an Augusta National member told him about Collins.

“He said he played 194 holes in six days and out of those 194 holes, Joe only misread one putt, and that was only because he gave him a little too much break,” Larry said. “As a caddie, you’re just amazed by that.”

Collins was known to read the breaks as he saw them instead of relying on memory, as some caddies do. He was such a master of reading the Augusta National greens that tour caddies would ask him for advice before the tournament.


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