Joe LaCava got inducted into the Caddie Hall of Fame on Wednesday night in the 18th hole hospitality area at Medinah Country Club.
His current boss, Tiger Woods, was fired up when he first heard about the honor last week.
“He said he wouldn’t miss it for the world,” LaCava said, “which made me feel really good. He told me that as soon as he found out, he was pumped up.”
Now this is also Joe and Tiger, and they always like a good-natured ribbing.
“A little part of (his excitement) was giving me crap, because he’s like, ‘now I get to watch you give a speech’,” LaCava said, “but 90 percent of it was he genuinely wanted to be there and see it.”
We all saw Tiger’s viral reaction to when Joe told the story of when Tiger first asked him to work for him:
So, did Joe see Tiger and his uncontrollable laughter in response to his story?
Not exactly, because the bright lights obstructed his view to the audience.
But what he did hear was Tiger’s reaction to the “Stanford story.”
In Joe’s speech, he had to bring up the memorable “Stanford story,” a time when he attended a Stanford football game with Tiger.
“Basically I was on the sidelines and I grabbed a player, helping him up after a touchdown. A cop comes over to me and says ‘you got a credential?’ and I said ‘yeah.’ He said, ‘you can get thrown out for touching a player, making contact.’
“So I turned around and Tiger was over there like 20 yards away and Tiger’s got his arms folded and shook his head like, ‘No, he’s not with me,’ and I go, ‘great, he’s doing this exactly the way I would have done it.’
“It for sure made the night Wednesday having Tiger there,” LaCava said. “He just gave me a big bear hug afterwards and I don’t even think words were spoken, it was just really cool.”
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As far as what the induction meant to him, LaCava says he felt honored.
“It’s a really neat thing for me,” he said. “It’s different because I’m certainly not playing the sport and that’s usually what it is, a guy playing the sport. But, yeah, it was a cool thing for me.”
LaCava felt the two biggest reasons he received such an honor was for the longevity and time he spent with two of the sport’s biggest stars in Fred Couples and Tiger Woods.
But the 55-year-old veteran couldn’t help but be his humble self in talking about the award on Friday after Tiger’s second round at the BMW Championship. He received congratulatory wishes from fans as he walked from the scoring area around the clubhouse to the practice green.
“(Fred and Tiger) are the guys hitting the shots, making the putts, hitting the chips, and I’m kind of just along for the ride in both spots,” LaCava said. “Of course everybody loves both guys, so I think that’s kind of why that goes for me.”
The older boss, Couples, was in close contact with LaCava the day of the induction.
“He’s a great caddie and I was so excited when I heard about it,” Couples said. “And I didn’t know how many caddies were in the Hall of Fame, but he definitely should be one of them. It means as much as when I got in the World Golf Hall of Fame and he was a big part of that.”
Couples estimates it was around 30 years ago when he first started working with LaCava.
The 59-year-old Couples said they first met when LaCava was on Ken Green’s bag, and while at an event in Japan LaCava took some initiative toward his career as he approached Couples.
“He came up to me and he said, ‘Ken’s not going to use me next year, do you have a caddie?’ And I said, ‘actually I don’t, but I’ll call you around Christmas.’ And as it happened, I called him around December 20 and was outside sweeping snow and he got down from the street and got in and we talked for about a half hour and then he started caddying for me the next year.”
Couples said he was delighted when he heard the news that LaCava would be inducted, but he also didn’t know if it was a secret, so he initially left his former looper alone.
“But then I started wearing him out the day and the night of the award, and I was working with John Wood (Matt Kuchar’s caddie, who introduced LaCava Wednesday night) a little bit and telling him a couple stories about Joe, so I didn’t want to spoil anything.”
So, did LaCava and Couples have much to say Wednesday night to each other?
“Wednesday night me and Joe went back and forth with about five or six texts talking about him, Tiger and his speech. I guess he killed it with the speech.”
And we all saw some of that in the Tiger video, but Wood (of course with Couple’s assistance on content) gave LaCava a fun introduction.
“It was awesome. I go back a long ways with Wood and he told four or five stories and he couldn’t have been any nicer and was very positive,” LaCava said. “To be honest, I didn’t even know he was doing that, I was a little floored by the whole night. But it was neat that Wood did it because I consider him one of my two best friends out here — he and Bones.”
Jim “Bones” Mackay attended along with about 12 other caddies, Tiger, his girlfriend Erica, Tiger’s right-hand man Rob McNamara and LaCava’s longtime friend and former sportswriter for the Chicago Tribune and Golf Digest, Bob Verdi.
What kind of response did LaCava get from friends and athletes after the ceremony?
“Probably 50 or 60 texts,” LaCava said, “some from some big timers. But I don’t want to be a big-name dropper here. Too many to be honest with you. It’s nice, but it’s over. It’s nice that people are being nice.”