As a caddie, there’s no bigger win than at the Masters.
For Joe LaCava, Sunday’s triumph at Augusta National marked his first time since 1992, when he was on the bag for Fred Couples. LaCava helped his boss since 2011, Tiger Woods get to five green jackets Sunday, second-best in Masters history, just one behind the legendary Jack Nicklaus.
LaCava and Woods shared a moment on 18 green with Tiger’s emotional, “we did it!” yell, but the two also had a short exchange in the scoring area minutes later.
“We just kind of looked at each other and soaked it all in,” LaCava said in a phone interview on Thursday.
“It was still only seven minutes since he putted out and it’s hard to take it all in at that point, but we just took a deep breath. Nothing was really said. He basically said, ‘we did it,’ again. But we got to share the moment and smile at each other. It was such an achievement, a proud moment more than anything.
“Nothing needed to be said because we could read each other’s minds.”
Understandably, LaCava’s phone has been blowing up with messages since the epic win.
When he finally got to his phone Sunday night he had 670 text messages.
Tiger did send a message that said, ‘We did it, appreciate you hanging in there with me, I love you like a brother.’ — Joe LaCava
And between that and the ones he’s received since, some key sentiments have stood out.
Why not start with the player LaCava first won the Masters with, Couples?
“He was texting me all week,” LaCava said. “Believe it or not he told me, ‘I’m just so excited for you,’ Sunday after the fact, ‘If not more excited than when I won in ’92.’ That’s just who he is. And he’s always loved Tiger throughout the years.”
Couples plays with Tiger during most practice rounds at Augusta.
“Fred and I have had a great relationship and continue to have a great relationship and I think what he did there with me is why everybody loves Fred, because he’s thinking about (Tiger and I) versus his huge deal in 1992.”
Other big names included Chris Mara, Senior VP of Player Personnel, of LaCava’s beloved New York Giants.
“Chris and I have become pretty good friends the last few years, and he’s a huge golfer,” LaCava said. “We always kid with each other and go back and forth.
“His message was quick and easy, ‘Nice going big boy,’ and for me, I love that he checked in.”
Fellow Connecticut golfer and more famously ESPN’s longtime anchor, Chris Berman, also sent some thoughtful messages to LaCava.
“Berman said, ‘Nice going, happy for you, glad you stayed the course, it’s great to watch’.”
LaCava’s fellow caddies took notice of his accomplishment as well and the 55-year-old appreciated the various texts he got from the guys.
“It’s been terrific,” he said. “Obviously when the player does well, the caddie does too. So I got so many nice texts. Many of my fellow caddies basically said, ‘great going, it’s awesome that you stuck around through thick and thin. Some guys may not have done it.’”
LaCava is a huge hockey fan, and two of his retired New York Rangers buddies — Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards — couldn’t resist texting their friend after his unforgettable moment in the sports spotlight.
“They were stoked to watch us win,” LaCava said. “You know how these former athletes are, all they ever want to do is play golf and become even better golfers once they retire, but yeah they were so happy to see us win Sunday.”
And in the aftermath and few days since the win, what kind of messages has LaCava exchanged with his boss?
After all, this is a new feeling for Woods again after waiting to win a major since Torrey Pines, the same week the Boston Celtics’ “Big Three” won the Larry O’Brien over Kobe Bryant’s Lakers.
“Tiger did send a message that said, ‘We did it, appreciate you hanging in there with me, I love you like a brother,’” LaCava said. “And I sent one back very similar to that. Hopefully we’ll have a nice sit-down dinner and rehash everything at the next tournament and not necessarily celebrate it, but enjoy it and reminisce a little bit.”
LaCava had his chance Sunday to reminisce in the form of a couple parties starting late afternoon when Woods’ TGR VP Rob McNamara invited him to Butler Cabin with the Woods family, some of the Nike folks, and his wife Megan.
“I’m not a Butler Cabin kind of guy,” LaCava told McNamara, but he eventually did go, in his sweaty, battle-worn Saquon Barkley t-shirt and shorts.
The party then segued to a large room near the clubhouse, which LaCava estimates had about 300 people, many of whom were in green jackets and formal wear.
LaCava reminded himself that he was wearing a grungy t-shirt, but the party must go on.
Perhaps it was fitting that the humble, hard-working LaCava wore a ‘blue-collar’ to the formal gathering.
And the party did go on later that night as LaCava joined a few local Augusta National caddies at Hooters on Washington Road a few blocks from the course, the same one where John Daly parks his motorhome, entertaining crowds all week.
The next night back, April 15, at home in Connecticut, LaCava went to dinner with his tax guy and some friends to celebrate the end of tax season.
“Ninety-nine percent of the conversation was about Sunday at Augusta,” LaCava said.
Barkley t-shirt reasoning
Social media had a blast discussing LaCava’s choice of the Barkley t-shirt underneath his white Masters caddie jumpsuit.
So why was Saquon the lucky choice for the momentous occasion?
“Got to go with the new kid in town,” LaCava said. “He could be the best player in the NFL. He could really be our guy for the next eight or 10 years hopefully, and my kid loves him, my whole family loves him, so I just went with the Saquon t-shirt.”
And there may be a response on the way.
“Through the Nike people (I heard) he was pretty pumped up that I was out there sporting his t-shirt,” LaCava said. “Chris Mara was nice enough to text me and say the same thing.
“I think they said there’s a little something on the way (to me), and they were looking for my address which is completely unnecessary, but yeah I’m pretty pumped.”
On to a major venue for the PGA, where Tiger has won before
So what will the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black be like for LaCava and Woods with the loud New York fans, who saw Tiger win there in 2002 at the U.S. Open and come very close in a six-place finish in 2009’s U.S. Open?
“I can’t even imagine,” LaCava said, he knows how loud his fellow Giants fans can get, even on a golf course. “I think the atmosphere is going to be off the hook after winning the Masters. I think it would be anyways because the New York crowds are very enthusiastic, and I can’t wait because the PGA of America is probably going to come up with some awesome threesome grouping for us.
“Tiger with two other big names like Brooks, Dustin kind of thing or Tiger, Rory, and J.T… it’s just going to be an incredible grouping. That will be off the hook, too.”