Tony Navarro’s incredible Adam Scott prank on fellow caddie John ‘Cub’ Burke
With very few exceptions, there’s one thing about being a professional caddie that is pretty much inevitable: at some point you’re going to be fired.
That happened to Tony Navarro – Greg Norman’s longtime trusted caddie – when he was let go by Adam Scott following the 2011 Players Championship after seven years, 12 wins around the world and more than $18.8 million in PGA Tour earnings together.
For a veteran like Navarro, Scott’s decision – understandably – stung.
“I was feeling pretty bad,” Navarro explained on the latest ‘Under the Strap’ podcast. “He was one of the top players in the world at the time. I was mad and hurt and all those things.”
Navarro’s firing, however, led to one of the greatest caddie pranks you’ll ever hear.
RELATED: The story behind Tony Navarro’s decision to pass on caddying for Tiger Woods in 1999
The target for the prank? John ‘Cub’ Burke (aka ‘Cubbie’) – one of Navarro’s dearest caddie friends, who also joined the podcast.
Just like any other walk of life, it’s not uncommon to reach out when you hear a friend is let go to offer support.
“To Cubbie’s defense, he waited until I got home to give me a call… Fluff called me 30 minutes after I left Jacksonville,” Navarro said, sarcastically. “Cubbie waited for me to get home at least.”
“I waited three months,” a laughing and defensive Burke interjected.
The laughter was due to the fact that there were actually two reasons for the call. Burke, who spent years carrying for the likes of Brad Faxon and Davis Love III, was ringing Navarro to offer kind words, sure, but also…
… because he wanted to land Scott’s bag for himself.
We’ll let Navarro take it from here.
“I don’t think it was three months… but anyway,” Navarro said, “I get the phone call from Cub, oh, you know, it’s a sad thing at first, ‘Hey, Tony. So sorry about, you know, hang in there buddy.’ All this stuff. ‘Oh, thanks, Cub. I appreciate it, man. That’s nice of you.’
“Then he hits me with the zinger. ‘Is there any way, maybe, that you could give me Adam’s phone number? Would that be OK if I called him? I don’t want to hurt our friendship or anything, but would that be OK?’
“So, I said, ‘I don’t have it. But I’ll give you a call back with it. But there’s nobody I’d like to have it more than you, really, Cub.’ I see it all happening. It’s all coming together right now. My mind’s just working. I said, ‘Let me look it up and call you back.’”
Navarro promptly made a call.
But it wasn’t to Scott. Instead, it was to another caddie buddy, Joe Damiano.
“I said, ‘Hey, Joe. We got one on the line here. Cubbie’s called me up looking for Adam’s phone number. Now, I’m going to give him your phone number and tell him it’s Adam’s American phone number in New Jersey. I’m going to give him your number and I need you to play along with this. Cubbie’s going to ask you for the job,’” Navarro said.
Damiano, from New Jersey, was going to need to pull off an Aussie accent to nail the prank on Burke.
When Damiano agreed to help, Navarro gave Burke a call back.
“So, I give Cubbie the phone number,” Navarro explained. “I give Cubbie Joe’s phone number. Now Cubbie’s got to work. He’s got to think about what he’s going to say, how he’s going to approach this. I want to let Cubbie finish this story, because he tells it very well…”
“I was nervous to call Tony, too,” Burke said, tearing up with laughter at the memory, “but one thing he forgot to mention when I called is, he goes, ‘Yeah, sure. Do you want me to leave some towels in the bag for you, too? Anything else you want in there? Some pencils, or change, or anything like that?’ And I really did wait three months, almost four.”
Navarro shook his head in disapproval, suggesting there was no way Burke waited that long to try and replace him on Scott’s bag.
“I remember Nancy, my gal, was pressuring me to take a bike ride and I was trying to find a job,” Burke said. “She’s going, ‘Let’s go take the bike ride. Let’s go take the bike ride.’ Tony calls me back right when we’re going out the door and he goes, ‘You know, Cub, there’s nobody I’d rather have get this job than you, so I’m going to give you Adam’s American number.’”
Now, with phone number in hand, Burke dialed up Damiano… 100 percent convinced it was Scott he was calling.
“I say to Nancy, ‘Let me dial this real fast before the bike ride. He’s not going to answer it. He’s at the U.S. Open, he’s probably on the course, right?’” Burke explained. “So, I dial the number and I’m not prepared at all. All of the sudden, after two rings, it picks up and I hear, ‘Hey, g’day mate.’ I don’t even think it’s an Australian accent with a New Jersey accent undertone because I’m so shocked. I’m gagging really bad. I’m going, ‘Hey, uh, uh, uh, Adam, uh, uh, this is Cubbie. Uh, uh, I really want to work for you. Uh, I think we’d do really well together. Uh, I gotta go take a bike ride.’”
“He (Damiano) says, ‘Well, I’m at the U.S. Open, mate. Let me think about this for a little while. I’ve got Stevie (Williams) here, I don’t know what he’s going to do, but…
“I say, ‘OK. OK. Bye!’ Click,” Burke said. “I get off the phone and I’m buying this hook, line and sinker. I’m on this bike ride for 45 minutes and I am cussing myself out the whole time. The way I handled it with Nancy, she’s being very patient with me, but she’s kind of had it. She said, ‘Let it go. OK? Just let it go. It’s not that big a deal. He’s either going to hire you, or he’s not going to hire you.’”
With more time to think about his call to Scott (actually Damiano) — and sure it wasn’t going to lock up employment — Burke’s anger at how he handled the brief chat began to shift to a feeling that he had embarrassed Navarro after he was kind enough to pass along the number.
Burke felt terrible.
“I get home after the bike ride and Tony calls me back,” Burke said. “And he says, ‘Cub. How did it go?’ I say, ‘Oh. It didn’t go very well, Tony. I blew that phone call.’
“Then he goes, ‘Well, it gets worse, Cub.’ And I go, ‘What? How can it get worse than that?’ He says, ‘Well, for one thing, that was Joey Damiano you were talking to, not Adam Scott.’”
“It was a huge relief,” said Burke. “I never pursued the job after that.”
About 2-3 years ago, Burke said, he was in a group with Scott and shared the story.
“I don’t think he had heard it,” Burke said. “He laughed so hard. He appreciated that story so much. He now mentions it to me a lot. It was the best all-time (prank). Tony felt bad about it. He called me and I said, ‘Tony, don’t apologize – that was one of the best pranks of all time.’ No question. And I fell for it the whole time. Hook, line and sinker.
You can listen to the complete podcast with Tony Navarro and John ‘Cub’ Burke in the player at the top of the page, or find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and Stitcher by searching “Caddie Network.”
You can also watch the podcast in the video below. Scroll to the 53:47 mark of the video to hear Navarro and Burke tell the Adam Scott prank story:
being a PGA Tour Pro,s caddie has got to be the greatest job on earth. If I had to do this over in my life, I would have done what all the great caddies did back in the day. I would show up at a tour stop where there was a tournament and find a bag. Nowadays you can’t be as lucky, tour players have set caddies. Getting to travel and walk those great courses for yardages and such , would be a dream come true.
Being a tour caddie must be the greatest job in the world. If I had to do it all over again,Id go the same route as many caddies today did way back when. Go to a tour stop where there is a tournament and get a bag of a tour pro.