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The Master’s: The Legend of Black Caddies in Golf’s Greatest Event

By Leroy Adams of Culture Travels

Our story starts in a two-bedroom apartment on the second floor with the smell of fried pork chop, steamed black-eyed peas, and neck bones-soaked collard greens beneath our nostrils, filling the room and breaking the fandom tension with smells of Sunday comfort.

My pop is locked in on the television. Tiger Woods is in a one-hole playoff against Chris DiMarco, attempting to win his fourth Masters. “Tiger got this man. He’s come up short the last two years, but he’s been on his game today,” my pops said as Tiger walked up to hole 16.

The Greatest Shot In Golf History 

Tiger Woods celebrates after his historic shot on the 16th hole in the 2005 Master’s.

Before that Sunday, I had never seen a grown man kiss a TV screen. Here was a guy with who chased my brothers and me when we took a sip of juice straight from the carton, but you kissing TV screens! The nerve, anyway, I digress.

So Tiger walks up to the tee for the 16th hole and with the graceful force his swing is known for, he lets it rip. The ball flies, but Tiger yanks it left and misses the green. “Dammit, Tiger!” my pops scream.

“Bob, lord have mercy.”, my mom shouts as she shakes her head.

For non-golf enthusiasts, this means Tiger’s ball did not land on a good field of play, which means he has to perform a miracle to get the ball in the pin on his next hit.

And a miracle ensues.

The world is quiet—my pop’s face is five inches from the television. My mom – ready to fling her shoe at him if he shouts again. Tiger approaches his ball, he swings, and he lands on the green and the slope carries the ball downward toward the yellow pole before stopping at the edge of the hole – where it would stay for three long seconds.

The whole world paused for those three seconds before the ball eventually rolled over causing Tiger, his caddie, and the world to erupt in celebratory chaos.

What pushed it over? It had to be my pops breathing on the screen.

I looked over to find my pops passed out on the floor because he had just witnessed the greatest shot in golf history. He always watched Tiger’s matches. If he were with us today, he’d be gearing up to watch him play in The Master’s this weekend.

Black History in Golf

A group of Black caddies working the greens with golfers.

Although we would take summer trips to Georgia, he never visited Augusta, and with limited financial resources, he could only dream of actually going to the masters. He would always talk about it, even saying one day he wouldn’t mind being a caddie just to be there.

I never understood why my pops loved golf so much. In our community, football, basketball, and track were not only the sports that Black people thrived in but also avenues to a life out of impoverished conditions. In short, until Tiger came along, the sport of golf wasn’t a “Black” thing, much like the now incomprehensible idea that “Black people don’t travel like that.”

National Geographic traveler and founder of the ABC Travel Greenbook App, Martinique “Marty” Lewis, with her recently produced “Black Caddies of Augusta National,” not only reminded me of those special Sundays with my pops but also of the long and untold history that Black caddies have on the sport.

Walter “Roundhead” Newton shares the history of Black caddies with Marty.

The short video tells the significant yet often overlooked history of black caddies in the prestigious Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Since its inception in 1934, the tournament has been a symbol of golfing achievement. However, behind the scenes, black caddies like Iron Man, Cemetery, Roundhead, Cigarette, and Burnt Biscuit played a crucial role in the sport’s legacy, showcasing resilience, talent, and dedication despite being viewed as holding a low-skilled job.

To read the full story, go here.

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