AUGUSTA, Ga. — What’s it like to caddie at your first Masters?
Who do you ask for veteran Augusta National course advice?
A couple of the caddies experiencing their maiden Masters this week are Terry Walker and Andrew Gunderson.
For Walker, who’s been caddying full-time since 2012 and started on Andrew Landry’s bag in December 2016, this will be a week that he’ll cherish.
“It’s been a life-long dream honestly,” Walker said. “That’s what I’ve always wanted to do. When I used to watch The Masters on TV, I wasn’t paying attention to the golf, I watched the caddies.”
Walker figures he started watching the tournament on TV about 40 years ago.
“Going to The Masters and wearing the white jumpsuit is like the ultimate for me,” Walker said.
Walker has gotten some Augusta advice from Drew Hinesley, who looped for Bryson DeChambeau in his first Masters as an Amateur in 2016. DeChambeau played with Jordan Spieth and through 35 holes fought his way into second place before ultimately settling for a tie for 21st.
“Drew gave me a lot of notes and suggestions on the course,” Walker said.
Walker and Landry had planned to scout out the course for both of their first looks at Augusta in late March, but neither ended up making it out there.
So what part of the course is Walker most excited to see?
“All of it,” Walker laughed. “I just want to soak it all in.
“I want to drive down Magnolia Lane, I want to see Butler Cabin. I want to do it all. I want to experience the whole thing.”
Is there a certain hole he wants to see in person?
“I’m excited about one through 18,” Walker said. “I want to see the narrow chute off of 18 tee, and figure out how to play it. I’m looking forward to it for Andrew too, to see what he can do on the course.”
Walker meant to get to Augusta on Sunday to practice with Landry after they missed the cut in their Valero Texas Open defense, but he left San Antonio for a Houston connection to Atlanta and his flight got cancelled due to bad weather.
The Woodlands resident said the line at United customer service was the longest he’s ever seen at his home airport.
It was unfortunate because Landry got to see the course for the very first time Sunday.
And he practiced with a certain veteran: Tiger Woods.
Both Landry and Woods finished up their work day together on the ninth green in the early evening and the two shared a couple of deep laughs as they said goodbye.
The question is how many rounds at Augusta did the four-time champ have the Masters rookie clipped by at that moment?
A few hundred?
Either way, Walker took the missed opportunity in stride.
“It will all be part of the story at the end of the week,” Walker said. “Man, I wish I could have been there to see him play with Tiger, but Andrew is the most understanding person in the world and I sent him a text immediately after I knew I wouldn’t be able to get there on Sunday and he totally got it.”
Landry put a local caddie to work Sunday and Walker arrived in Georgia late morning Monday.
Kip Henley, who’s caddied in five Masters for players like Brian Gay, former champ Vijay Singh, and Austin Cook says that the caddie hospitality and dining area in the building right of the range is top notch.
“You can order off the menu, and they have a chef who will cook you burgers, hot dogs and whatever you want from the grill,” Henley said.
As far as the course, Henley warns fellow caddies not to over-study the greens on practice days before they really speed up on Thursday.
“Don’t waste your time hitting that many putts, walk around the green and hit a lot of chips and find out where the mistakes are, that’s the most important thing,” Henley said.
“Putting is overrated in practice there; I mean you want to hit some but it’s not the same as tournament days.
“Just don’t get caught up in the greens during practice.”
He remembers an example of this in his first Masters (2009) at the third hole. Henley and Gay found a familiar putt from 15 feet right of the left pin early in the week.
When they had that exact putt come Thursday’s first round, the speed and line missed substantially.
“We missed the hole by so much, and Brian doesn’t miss his spots with putting,” Henley said.
Indeed, Gay has always been known for his putting prowess.
“He turned around and we looked at each other and couldn’t believe it.”
Andrew Gunderson is making his first Masters start as a caddie and he couldn’t be more excited.
“All I’ve ever wanted as a caddie is to work The Masters,” Gunderson said.
The first Masters he remembers watching on TV was Tiger’s win in 1997 when he was in his late teens. Now the caddie for Michael Kim, he will gladly give his typical week off to put on the famous white jumpsuit and get to work.
“I never wanted to watch The Masters in person unless I was caddying,” Gunderson said. “I always wanted to be there as a caddie, otherwise I’d go crazy watching everybody else there.”
Gunderson figures he’s been offered tickets a handful of times, but always stood pat by his decision, and now that delayed gratification will be realized this week.
“It’s just been such a goal for both myself and my player and it’s kind of like a great present for putting all your time in, it’s amazing,” Gunderson said.
“Obviously you go there to win, but just being there is such an accomplishment on Michael’s behalf.”
Kim got in by virtue of his dominating eight-stroke win at at the John Deere Classic last July.
As far as Masters caddie advice, Gunderson has been spoiled.
He’s gotten pearls of local knowledge from Augusta native Don Cooper, who loops for Lucas Glover.
“Don talked about certain holes and you don’t really see what’s in the yardage book, and how the hole will actually play,” Gunderson said. “Things like No. 13, the par 5, always plays uphill even though it doesn’t say that.”
Jerry Higginbotham, Mark O’Meara’s caddie from his 1998 Masters win, gave Gunderson likely his most inspiring Masters anecdote.
“Mark hits the shot out of the fairway bunker on the 72nd hole onto the green and Jerry hands him the putter and says, ‘this is your putt for the win’,” Gunderson said.
“That’s such a great moment to be able to tell your player that at The Masters.”
Whether first-time Masters caddies get to do that this year or not, it figures to be a thrilling week.