"It was a changing time": Caddie conversion in 1982 sends Masters down new path
A press release from Augusta National Golf Club in 1982 changed a Masters Tournament tradition forever.
Starting with the next year’s Masters, less than five months away in 1983, participants would no longer be required to use Augusta National club caddies, who were Black. The so-called ban on the use of outside caddies, most of whom were white, was lifted, at the tournament.
It had been a tradition since the inception of the Masters in 1934 that players use the “local caddies” from the club.
The change was hailed by most tour pros, who had been pushing for it. In the release, club chairman Hord Hardin, said as much.
He said it was unfair for players to have no choice in the selection of their caddie and that, “Augusta National should never take the position which to the players or the golf public would appear to be unfair.”
Hardin was in his third year as chairman. He followed club co-founder Clifford Roberts, who died in 1977, and Bill Lane, who served from 1977-1980 before dying unexpectedly.
Roberts was always a strong booster of the club caddies, and they knew it, according to Jerry Beard, who caddied in 25 Masters, through 1982.
“If Mr. Roberts had been living, it never would have happened. Hord Hardin gave in to them,” the 79-year-old Beard, who still lives in Augusta, said this week. “They had come to Mr. Roberts before and he told them, ‘It’s an invitational tournament, you don’t have to play if you don’t want to.’ He wouldn’t have given in to them.”
Carl Jackson, another Augusta National caddie who was on the bag for both of Ben Crenshaw’s victories and worked his first Masters at age 14 in 1961, said the decision didn’t surprise him.
“There was a lot of talk over the past couple of years that the tour players wanted to bring their tour caddies out,” he said. “It was Tom Watson, Nicklaus, Trevino, Floyd, the top players, that’s what they wanted.”
Beard had helped a Masters rookie named Fuzzy Zoeller win the 1979 Masters. After Hardin’s announcement, Zoeller was quoted in The Augusta Chronicle the next day saying that he would “probably” retain Beard as his caddie for the 1983 Masters.
That’s what Beard thought, too, until Zoeller arrived for the 1983 Masters.
“I found out when he came in,” Beard said. “I thought he was going to keep me up until that day that he came to the golf course. I think it was on a Monday. He told me, ‘Jerry I said I was going to keep you but I live with these guys out here every day. I need to do what they’re doing.’ I told him, ‘It’s your bag, you do what you have to do.’”
In the 1983 Masters, 18 of the 82 players used Augusta National caddies, according to Ward Clayton’s 2004 book “Men on the Bag: the caddies of Augusta National.”
Among those retained was Jackson, by Crenshaw. They had worked together since 1976.
“I got the message that Ben called and said, ‘I’ll see you in Augusta.’ Ben made his decision and he stood by it. He said, ‘Carl has too much experience around here. I can’t let him go.’”
It worked out for what turned out to be the longest running player-caddie tandem in Masters history (38 years, through 2014). Crenshaw and Jackson won the 1984 and 1995 Masters and had shots at winning a couple others.
“Ben went against the system, the system of the tour pros,” Jackson said. “Ben just said it was a no-brainer.”
Soon, more and more players dropped their Augusta National caddie, mainly using their tour caddies. Some even used relatives, such as Ken Green, whose caddie in 1985 was his sister Shelley.
Eventually, Jackson was about the only looper who had been an Augusta National caddie in the Masters. A few players would use Augusta National caddies for their knowledge of the course, especially amateurs.
Both Jackson and Beard knew the days of the Augusta National caddie, who judged yardage for their players by landmarks or sight, was soon to end, even before Hardin’s announcement.
“The game was changing and players were doing more work out of the yardage book and they were doing that work with their tour caddies,” said Jackson, who had created his own yardage book. “They lean on those yardage books even heavier today. A couple of (Augusta National caddies) were rejecting using a yardage book. I can’t say it was justified, but it was a changing time.”
The decision to open up to outside caddies might have been sped up when the third round of the 1982 Masters was suspended by rain. That meant it would be completed Sunday morning, followed by the final round.
Jackson said some caddies thought the restart would be late in the morning. They didn’t get the word that it would be between 7 a.m. and 8 and were late in arriving, infuriating their players.
“That was the nail in the coffin,” said Jackson, who was there on time. “It was on the caddies to be there. You just can’t assume. I don’t know what they were thinking.”
The decision to allow outside caddies put a financial strain on the local caddies who lost their lucrative Masters’ jobs, Beard said.
“That was something that would hold them over through the summer and the golf course opened up back in October,” Beard said of the money made caddying in the Masters. “After that was gone, it did a real bad thing to a lot of guys. I was fortunate that I worked at night and caddied in the daytime. I had something to back up on. Lot of those guys had got up in age and whatnot and had nothing to back up on.”
Beard finished out the club year of 1982-83, but never caddied again at Augusta National.
“I stayed because I had a couple of members that wanted me to continue to caddie for them,” he said. “When the golf course closed down, that was it for me.”
When asked if he left because of the club’s decision, Beard said it played a role.
“Somewhat, because I was able to do it,” Beard said. “I wouldn’t have suggested it to those guys because they had no other means. I did. I thought, well, with my not caddying, one of those old guys could make that money that I would have made and it would help them. We were all friends. We came up from teenagers.
“We took pride in what we were doing,” Beard said. “We enjoyed it and tried to do our very best. Time changes and you have to live with it.”