AUGUSTA, Ga. — The first time a caddie gets to work the Masters is a unique moment in not just their player’s journey, but their own. How many years have you been dreaming of this chance? How much time have you committed to your craft to be ready for this week, this moment?
This week at Augusta National, Alex Higgs get his chance to put on the classic white caddie jumpsuit and loop in his first Masters and he can’t hardly wait.
“I struggle to find words to describe it,” Higgs said. “We used to have a putting contest for all four majors. The only one anyone ever cared about was the first one. If you won the first one then you tell the guys to do whatever they want. Sure in some ways, this week was always the goal. And in some ways it’s crazy to realize that we’re getting closer to it as you’re doing it, but now I’m like holy .… my brother’s about to play in the Masters. How are we going to do that?”
The more Higgs thought about the meaning of a first Masters for his older brother Harry, it all hit him at once.
“It was just a goal and we’re like, wow, we’ve achieved that goal. We obviously want to play well and play every year, but just getting their in the first place was the first goal,” Higgs said. “Then the goal of taking our dad there (in December), that was incredible. You don’t get to do that very often.”
Every weekday at 2:30 p.m., school would get out then the Higgs brothers would get home and “throw our backpacks wherever, then head to the course,” Alex said.
“Then we would spend hours at the golf course and just putt. We would get there and ask each other, ‘OK, are you guys ready for the majors?’ We wouldn’t even hit balls, we would just putt in our putting contest. We would quickly set it up.”
What a tradition for a handful of close friends 10 and under there at the Nicklaus Golf Club at Lionsgate.
In their first visit to Augusta National in December, Alex decided to go all in on his love of Masters merchandise.
“Every time I went to the pro shop at Augusta my total had a comma. I’m three for three with commas,” Higgs laughed.
Does the money spent bother him at all?
“No regrets,” Higgs laughed. “I have regrets on stuff that I didn’t get. I got tons of hats to pass out to friends. I got t-shirts, short and long-sleeve shirts. A couple quarter zips. Harry put a leather duffle bag to put all of his stuff in.”
Higgs has gotten a bit of advice about navigating Amen Corner this week and definitely sees himself utilizing it on the severely sloped greens and fairways.
“I’ve heard from a few caddies how hard it can be to try and find out what the wind is doing and we know it’s almost impossible, so I look forward to figuring that out,” Higgs said.
“I know Rae’s Creek pull on the green is very real. If you’re in between on a putt, figure out where Rae’s Creek is and that’s going to help you.”
Erik Van Rooyen’s caddie Alex Gaugert will be experiencing Augusta for the second time this year, but he’ll be the first to tell you that being there for only one round in 2020 before his player pulled out with injury left him feeling like he’s a first-timer here in 2022.
When asked how much he thought about this week in the lead up, Gaugert gave some relatable perspective.
“I like to think of it as maybe you were the person who was watching the Masters on TV a few years ago,” Gaugert said, “and someone asked you if you’d like to work the Masters three years later. That would be so awesome. I feel like that guy this week.”
Gaugert certainly appreciates the stage he gets to work on this week.
“It’s a fun spot to be, this is where you want to be. This is what you worked for, you work your tail off to be out on the PGA, then to get into the majors,” Gaugert said.
Gaugert’s a big music fan, so he understands why so many patrons are here this week and happy to spend so much time on the course to see a relatively small field this week compared to most.
“Think about the musical equivalent of this,” Gaugert said. “Thousands of people pack small venues to see the very best musicians play, and it’s worth it to them. It’s the same thing here at Augusta. These are the very best players. It’s pretty cool.”