What is the path to the Hall of Fame? In major league baseball, one should probably bat .300 or blast 30 home runs for 15 consecutive seasons. A NFL quarterback better win a ring and throw for 3,000 yards, maybe 4,000 now, each year in a decade. NBA stars strive to score 20 a night 10 straight years on a title-chasing team to realize their Springfield dreams.
Regardless the endeavor, greatness demands consistent excellence. Routine tasks must be performed better than one’s peers in any circumstances. As it pertains to caddying, those aspiring for greatness must first follow the first rule: Show up. At a busy resort like Pinehurst, the pursuit means treating everyone the same whether they can’t break 120, have claimed multiple major championships, served as the 41st President of the United States — or scribble sentences for a living.
Take it from Pinehurst caddiemaster Jimmy Smith, one of seven men inducted into the resort’s Caddie Hall of Fame this year.
“They don’t just work when it’s in the 70s and partly cloudy,” he said. “They’re here on holidays, in hurricanes and spinning (going two rounds in one day) in the heat.”
So there stood Thomas Trinchitella on a 38-degree December morning, wearing a stocking cap and gloves, ready to set out on his 207th loop of the year, prepared to shepherd yet another hungry soul around Donald Ross’ masterpiece, the venerable No. 2.
Just 12 hours before, Trinchitella, Smith and five other caddies — three active and two deceased — had been inducted into Pinehurst’s second Hall of Fame class. Joined by family, friends, club members and co-workers, they were the guests of honor at a banquet held in the clubhouse.
Don Padgett II, the resort’s retired Chief Operating Officer, introduced Trinchitella.
“Thomas is one of the people who is woven into the fabric of this place and makes Pinehurst what it is.”
He could have just as easily been describing John Ross, who began caddying at No. 2 in 1954 and 64 years later is still carrying double. Or, Charlie Spain, who passed away in 2017. A favorite with members and guests, his legacy lives through the Flat Cat putting grip he invented, used by world No. 1 Justin Rose and other Tour pros. Bobby Hill started in 1984 and knows the greens on No. 2 as well as anyone. Bob Scheirer, a 20-year veteran, led Danny Lee to the 2008 U.S. Amateur title. He’s also caddied for two North & South Amateur champions but was praised for his ability to “walk with kings and not lose the common touch.”
Smith came to Pinehurst as a caddie, moved into management and earned praise for making the yard more professional. Many in the village know their most passionate Dallas Cowboys fan as Elvis.
Then there’s Jesse Jones, who passed away in 2015. He was a kind soul who didn’t need a rangefinder to give precise yardages. He also enjoyed ‘four fingers of room temperature Jack Daniels,’ on occasion.
Trinchitella, 47, first felt the grass under his feet in 2001. He had an infant daughter at home and hoped to snag a few loops on the weekends to supplement his job as the shipping and receiving coordinator for a furniture company. Soon that industry turned sour and he turned full-time to caddying.
Within two years, he was trusted to caddie for George H.W. Bush, an avid golfer who passed away Nov. 30th at age 94.
Bush spent two days on Pinehurst No. 2 in September 2003. He was in town for a function as honorary chairman of The First Tee, the nationwide program that instills character and life skills in youth. Trinchitella, vetted by the government for certain, learned about three weeks prior he’d be on the bag. Their first round together lasted only nine holes. Even though the Secret Service had cleared room around the President, blocking off two tee times preceding and following, the sluggish pace was more than the brisk playing Bush could bear.
A cart waited for the octogenarian near the ninth tee. Trinchitella offered to drive the President to his black SUV parked roughly 200 yards away on the back end of the resort’s driving range.
“I’ll drive,” the President said.
They went a full round the following day, enjoying the typical in-round chatter a player and caddie enjoy during a four-hour stroll. Trinchitella gave impeccable reads on the greens, but there wasn’t much hope for 41’s putting.
Two years later, Trinchitella was called upon to caddie for the man many consider the best to ever play the game. At roughly 7:20 a.m. on a foggy June morning, Tiger Woods strolled around the corner of the Pinehurst clubhouse, carrying his own bag toward the first tee of No. 2. After a brief introduction, Trinchitella slid the bag on his shoulder. Woods striped his tee shot into soup so thick neither saw the 300-yard drive land.
Those were the last days before a rangefinder became part of the club caddie’s equipment, no different than a bib or a towel. At the time, Trinchitella and his peers gave yardages to the pin based on their memorization of every sprinkler head and the course’s color-coded flag system (red for front, white for middle, yellow for back). But this was different. The course was closed, and the white U.S. Open flags were already hanging from the flagsticks. Besides, the density of the fog made it difficult to determine the pin’s depth on the green.
Woods asked Trinchitella for the distance.
“118 yards,” he replied.
Woods hit the shot pin high, Trinchitella exhaled and away they went. Woods scampered through 36 holes in five hours or so, shooting rounds of 69 and 70. He didn’t ask many questions or hit many extra shots but gave his looper two signed golf balls at day’s end.
When the U.S. Open returned to Pinehurst, a new favorite made a pre-tournament recon mission. Trinchitella spent three days caddying for Rory McIlroy, who had an entirely different approach. His preparation involved gleaning every nuance and tendency of the diabolical course, which requires neither a hazard or out-of-bounds stake to properly defend par.
McIlroy’s regular caddie at the time, J.P. Fitzgerald, walked along as Trinchitella carried the bag. He held four discs used as markers on the greens to represent possible hole locations during the tournament. After a few holes together, Trinchitella was placing the discs where he knew the pins were cut in the 2005 U.S. Open.
Spend four hours on the course with Trinchitella and it’s clear why he’s earned the respect of resort management, touring professionals, leaders of the free world and his peers. The reads are precise and he paints a picture on each shot, providing the appropriate amount of input on each approach shot and offering smart suggestions around the green. He’ll spin a yarn or two, as well, bringing to mind something Smith said the previous night as he praised his staff.
“Some of the stories might not be true,” he said. “But they heard them somewhere.”
The next vicious lip out elicited another of Smith’s pearls.
“This job is about taking care of the customers,” the newly enshrined caddiemaster said as he mentioned his guys had spent more than 154,000 hours with Pinehurst members and guests so far this year.
“People think it’s about reading greens, but it’s not. They’re not going to put it where you tell ‘em anyway.”