For caddie Matt Hauser, the 2006 Ryder Cup was — literally — a honeymoon
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story originally published in 2018. We are revisiting it this week to commemorate the Ryder Cup.
For players and caddies alike, a Ryder Cup appearance can be a lot like a honeymoon.
Sure, there’s pressure and there’s stress, but it’s the reward for a culmination of a lot of hard work and planning.
But what about when the Ryder Cup is, well, your actual honeymoon?
That’s what it was for caddie Matt Hauser when his player at the time – J.J. Henry – made the 2006 U.S. Ryder Cup team that played at the K Club in Ireland.
“Yeah, believe it or not, my wife – Vanessa – and I were married the week before that Ryder Cup,” Hauser said. “You start planning your wedding about a year out, right? Initially, the week Vanessa was looking at was the week of the Valero Texas Open – which, at the time, overlapped the Ryder Cup. The Ryder Cup wasn’t even on our radar, but J.J. always played great at Valero. It was a cash cow for me. So, I had to explain to Vanessa we could get married the week before Valero, but we’d have to delay the honeymoon, so I could work for J.J. at La Cantera.”
The Hausers were in fact married the week before Valero in 2006… but instead if working Valero for Henry, Matt would instead be working for Henry on the other side of the pond.
Naturally, a working-honeymoon in Europe had a little more appeal than a working-honeymoon in San Antonio.
“I told Vanessa we wouldn’t be able to do the honeymoon because of the Ryder Cup,” Hauser said. “She knew at the time what the Ryder Cup was, but I don’t think she understood just yet the magnitude of it. Her dad is English. I said, ‘Let me talk to your dad.’ When he explained it to her, she said, ‘I get it. Let’s go!’”
The newlyweds went over and, despite the dominating 18 ½-9 ½ victory by the Europeans, they had an unforgettable trip.
“Captain Tom Lehman was so great to us,” Hauser said. “I reached out to let him know we were getting married the week before and he did so much for us, including seeing to it that we had the master suite at the hotel, which was very nice. His whole family was great.”
The honeymoon continued in London the following week when Matt and Vanessa went over for the former World Golf Championships event that was played at the Grove.
“They flew us to London and she stayed a few days, but I think 99.9 percent of the golf population would give up a Cabo trip to go to the Ryder Cup for your honeymoon,” Hauser said. “I was in Colorado for a week with friends and family for the wedding and then off to the Ryder Cup with another great group of people. I’d love to do it again.”
THE CADDIE CAMARADERIE
Being a Ryder Cup caddie is special. Only 24 players tee it up in a given Ryder Cup, which means only 24 caddies get to walk the fairways with those players.
When you’ve caddied in a Ryder Cup, you’re part of a special club – win or lose.
“That Ryder Cup in 2006, there were obviously 24 caddies between the two teams and there were 22 of us that hung out together every night,” Hauser said. “Caddying in a Ryder Cup is such a different dynamic. You’re so used to being with your player and trying to beat those guys all year long, vying for a job. But in a Ryder Cup, there’s that incredible team aspect. And as for the caddies – if you’re at a Ryder Cup, you know it’s been a special year. So, you’re spending time together and trying to savor every minute.”
THE FANS ON THE ROAD
“I can’t really compare the fans at a U.S. Ryder Cup to the fans in Ireland, since I’ve only ever caddied on the other side of the pond,” Hauser said. “But what an experience. What impressed me the most about the fans in Ireland – the European fans – is it was just like a soccer crowd. Just thousands of them singing the same song, simultaneously. It was crazy. That was an eye-opener. ‘Ole, ole, ole, ole!’ I didn’t want to hear that for a while after that Ryder Cup.”
THE DARREN CLARKE FACTOR
You may recall that the 2006 Ryder Cup was an emotional time for Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke.
Clarke played in the Ryder Cup just weeks after losing his wife, Heather, to a long battle with cancer.
Throughout the week, the support for Clarke by the fans, his teammates and the American contingent was palpable.
“That whole situation made me realize how short life can be,” Hauser said. “Most of the players and caddies had their significant others there and everyone felt for Darren. He felt the love from everyone, mustered up and played great. You’re never more scared than you are on the first tee of a Ryder Cup. It’s a place where grown men are shaking and don’t want to go the tee until the last possible second.
“For Darren, it was comforting – a happy place for him,” Hauser explained. “Everyone rallied around him, giving condolences and showing compassion. Because of that situation, the Ryder Cup there had more of a personal aspect to it. Sure, you want to win, but there’s respect and there’s more important things in life. Exhibit A: Darren’s situation that week. As someone who had just been married, it really hit close to home for me.”
CADDIE AMENITIES, POST-MATCH PARTY
“As far as how Europe set it up, we had our own locker room and a hotel a few miles away from the course with all 24 caddies and their significant others staying there,” Hauser said. “We had a great area on site, too. It was the bar/restaurant in the clubhouse. It was so convenient. Not only was the catering fantastic, but there was Guinness on tap. In case you didn’t know, the Guinness is even better when you’re that close to Dublin. Sunday night, it’s the greatest party in the world, win or lose. We had the party at our place – Europe came there at the end. It sucked that we lost, but we were happy to celebrate what it was. There was karaoke, guys wearing their college t-shirts, lots of dancing – a good time was had by all that night.”
THIS IS GOING TO BE SPECIAL
Anyone who is going to be a part of a Ryder Cup knows it will be an exceptional experience. But, there are certain things that happen along the way that make you realize just how special it truly is.
For Hauser, there were a few of those moments.
There was the private jet over to Ireland for a bonding/scouting trip before the Ryder Cup.
“That was cool to say the least,” he remembered.
Then there was the package that arrived at Hauser’s doorstep containing all his gear for Ryder Cup week.
“You know it’s real when you get the shipment of clothes,” Hauser said. “They gave you all kinds of things. Remember though – it was the mid-2000s, so the shirts were cotton and the sleeves were down to your elbows. Ha.”
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER MOST FROM CADDYING IN A RYDER CUP?
“What I remember most is that J.J. was playing great at the time,” Hauser said. “He was playing as well as he’d ever played in his life, even in the practice rounds. He only played in the fourball and the singles, obviously, and halved all three of his matches. It was the best golf on the course both days. J.J. and Stewart Cink played against Paul Casey and Robert Karlsson in fourballs both days and both teams were 8, or 9 under apiece. It was just great golf to watch. There were some miraculous shots, including one on that difficult 18th hole that Casey pulled off to steal a halve.”
MOST FAMOUS PERSON I MET AT THE RYDER CUP
“J.J. didn’t play in the alternate-shot format, so for those matches, we did quite a bit of walking with Michael Jordan. Michael was right there. That was cool. We got to chat with him for 10-12 holes. We grew up watching him play, so that was special.
“Also, and maybe it wouldn’t be classified as ‘famous,’ but J.J. and I grew up together in Connecticut. There were a lot of people from home out there that I didn’t think or know we’d be seeing in Ireland. People can make themselves known. We saw a lot of people we hadn’t seen in a long time.”
IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CADDYING IN A MAJOR VS. THE RYDER CUP?
“It’s totally different,” Hauser said. “The pressure is there, but you’re playing for yourself in a major. The Ryder Cup is all about team. Match play is the biggest difference. The style of golf. Team golf. You play three days versus four. It’s more of a sprint even though it’s five rounds instead of four, but the five rounds are condensed into three days.
“The regular Tour events are closer to majors than a Ryder Cup would be. The reason I say that is because, for some guys, a regular event could be like a major for them because it’s a home game – Zach Johnson at the John Deere Classic; J.J. at the Travelers Championship. Every week, it’s a player, a caddie and a coach figuring out what they need to do for the player. At the Ryder Cup, you’re all together for everybody. You’re sharing info between 24-30 guys.
“In team play, you want to stay as positive as possible. Adversity is going to happen,” Hauser said. “Sometimes guys win, or miss the cut depending how they bounce back at a regular Tour event. You don’t always see it on TV, but you’re right back in the next play, the next shot. You can’t be worried about what you just did. When you start living in the past on the Tour, you’re not going to be around long. That’s the difference between the good players and the great players. Look at pitchers who give up a home run and then strike three guys out. It’s mental. I tried to stay positive and give info the same I would any time. The caddie has to be consistent. You go back to basics when you’re nervous.”
WHAT’S YOUR ALL-TIME FAVORITE RYDER CUP MOMENT?
“From watching it, one of my first memories was 1991,” Hauser explained. “I remember watching some when I was a kid in the 1980s, but the War by the Shore was truly my first memory. I remember how intense 1991 was. Calcavecchia crying on the beach at Kiawah thinking he’d lost it, but then Langer misses the short putt.
“And then 1999 – the Miracle at Brookline… Then Europe went on a tear. The U.S. starting to lose is what elevated everything to the intensity that it did. The U.S. was searching for its system – the kind Europe already had. But there are so many good players now. The U.S. is stronger than they have been in years, top to bottom. And that’s not to take away from those other teams. The 1999 team was awesome. That Sunday and the comeback was crazy. I’m a huge Ben Crenshaw guy. He was my hero growing up. I was rooting for him as much as anyone. That Sunday was so exciting and Leonard making that putt. Duval with the shirt hanging out, fist-pumping — he was always so stoic, but not in that moment. I remember thinking, ‘this is pretty intense.’”