Caddie John ‘Cub’ Burke’s priceless Michael Jordan story from 1997 Ryder Cup
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was originally published in 2020. We’re revisiting it this week with the Ryder Cup taking place at Whistling Straits.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, sports – understandably – have been scarce when you’re flipping through the channels at night.
But the recent 10-part “Last Dance” documentary on ESPN and Netflix featuring Michael Jordan and his incredible Chicago Bulls teams was outstanding, giving fans an inside look at Jordan’s drive and determination like never before.
Jordan has long been a fan of golf and was even an assistant captain under buddy Fred Couples for Team USA in the 2009 Presidents Cup at Harding Park.
During TCN’s latest ‘Under the Strap’ podcast featuring veteran caddies Tony Navarro and John ‘Cub’ Burke, Burke shared a tremendous story about a moment he had with Jordan – one he laughs about to this day – at the 1997 Ryder Cup in Spain while caddying for Brad Faxon.
Burke gave a shorter version on the podcast, but here’s a more complete version he shared with us a while back…
“In 1997 at Valderrama, I’m caddying for Faxon and we’re the second match off on Day 1 with Freddie Couples,” Burke said. “It’s like 7 in the morning over there in Spain. I’m soaking in the first tee experience and I’m looking around. Suddenly, I lock eyes with Michael Jordan, about 3 feet away standing by this partition that looked like a hockey board. I’m getting ready, but I’m nervous.
“Now, remember, we’re talking 1997. This is at the height of MJ,” Burke continued. “He had just won another NBA title. I had never met him in person. But, like I said, we lock eyes and we have this moment. MJ looks at me and he gives me this awesome fist-pump, the kind you saw all the time when he was dominating on the court, like a, ‘let’s go!’ So, what do I do? I proceed to give back the weakest, lamest fist-pump. A split-second after I did it, I’m thinking to myself, ‘what the f*** was that?!’ It was that embarrassing.”
Burke, naturally, tried to make up for the corniness of his fist pump a while later and… well… it backfired.
“A few holes later, Fax wants a bottle of water from a cooler,” Burke recalls. “I walk over, and MJ is there again, this time on the back of Tom Kite’s golf cart. MJ’s legs – you know, since they’re about 20 feet long – are in my way. Without missing a beat, I take my hand and I slap him in the legs and say, ‘get your f***ing legs out of the way!’ I had to reestablish my manhood after that lame fist-pump on the first tee! He didn’t laugh!”
“Years later, I bumped into MJ and rehashed that story and asked if he remembered,” Burke said. “He said he did, and still didn’t laugh!”
You can listen to the complete podcast with Tony Navarro and John ‘Cub’ Burke in the player at the top of the page, or find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and Stitcher by searching “Caddie Network.”