Troy Merritt’s caddie Wayne Birch over the moon with Barbasol Championship win
Wayne Birch is floating on cloud nine right now.
Back in April, his future as a caddie on the PGA Tour was looking rather ominous.
Birch had spent a few years caddying for his good buddy Andrew Loupe. The pair even won the Web.com Tour’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in 2015.
But in April at the Houston Open, Loupe lost his PGA Tour card and was headed back to the minor leagues.
As fate would have it, Loupe had been paired with Troy Merritt in Houston that week.
When the tournament ended, and Loupe was headed back to the Web.com Tour, Merritt reached out. He expressed that he wanted to hire Birch as his caddie for the remainder of 2018 and was hoping for Loupe’s blessing.
Loupe was OK with it and that’s when Merritt and Birch teamed up.
Starting two weeks later at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio and through the Barbasol Championship, which ended on Monday, Merritt and Birch have made the cut in eight of nine starts together, including three top 10s with the ultimate highlight being a one-stroke victory in Kentucky at the Barbasol.
It was the second career Tour win for Merritt, who also won the 2015 Quicken Loans National, and the first PGA Tour victory for Birch.
We caught up with Birch shortly after the win for a Q&A as he was driving to Louisville to return a rental car before grabbing a flight to Baltimore and driving to Ontario Monday evening to begin preparation Tuesday morning for this week’s RBC Canadian Open.
Did you get all that?!
Here’s the Caddie Network’s (TCN) conversation with Birch.
TCN: This is your first PGA Tour victory. How does it feel?
Birch: I’m overwhelmed. Can’t stop smiling. It’s a relief. We were 130-131 in the FedEx standings going into the week. You want to play good so bad, but don’t want to press. I had to calm myself down. We made a birdie on the par-5 14th and then on 15 – a par 4 – we had four paces behind the flag and couldn’t go long. I wanted to be aggressive because we needed another birdie.
I told Troy to go at it and he did. He knocked it to 10 feet. He called me in for a read. I had a blueprint and I knew what the putt was going to do. I’m old school. I don’t use a greens book. I make my own blueprints and notes from rolling a ball on the greens in practice rounds. I knew it was going right.
I showed Troy the spot and he said, “you really like that?” I said, “trust it,” and he made it. I gave him a fist-bump and said, “let’s get it done now.”
On 18, I tried to enjoy the moment, but Tom Lovelady just made birdie on 17 right behind us. We had to stay focused and grounded. It wasn’t over. Ultimately, we pulled it off.
Back in the winner’s circle.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 23, 2018
TCN: How close had you come before to a win?
Birch: With Loupe, we came in third in Palm Springs in ‘16, but the best chance we had was Quail Hollow in 2016. We finished fourth but should have won.
TCN: What does it mean to you to have a PGA Tour victory under your belt now?
Birch: I think it’s good for both of us. Troy picked me up nine weeks ago. To do this in nine weeks – the stretch we have of 8-of-9 cuts made and this win – it boosts his confidence to know he has someone on the bag that he can really trust.
It also gives me a lot of confidence that I can win. I’ve always wanted to win. I want to win so bad.
Here’s a funny story for you. When I was with Loupe and we were at the Honda Classic, they’ve got the Bear Trap at PGA National and one of the holes there is the par-3 17th with all that water. When I scouted the course, I decided that if we had say a 2-3-shot lead in the final round and they had the back-right pin, I was going to give him too much club so he’d go over the green and into the stands.
Why? Because he’d get a free drop and make bogey at worst. It would completely take the water out of play. I even asked a rules official where a drop would be if we hit it in the grandstand. He showed me and asked why. I told him, “because if we have the lead, we’re hitting it in the stands to get this drop!”
I always think outside of the box. I was a teacher before caddying. Branden Grace’s caddie Zach Resago, I’ve been in his back pocket. Same with Jimmy Johnson, who caddies for Justin Thomas. I try to learn from the guys who win. I’m not afraid to ask for a little something to get the job done.
I asked Horschel’s caddie yesterday for some advice. He took me aside this morning and you know what he said? He said, “You want to know how you win? Your guy has to shoot the lowest score.”
And guess what? We had the lowest four-round score this week and won.
TCN: Were you able to get the pin flag on 18 when the tournament was over as a little memento for the win?
Birch: I sure did. That’s what I wanted. I want the flag more than the money. The money will go away. That flag you have forever. I just wanted to win so bad and sometimes we’ve been in situations where we played well — like Quicken Loans — and I wanted to win so bad, we pressed a little and fell off. Same in Memphis. We pressed and came in 12th.
One shot at a time. Troy is a great putter. If he gives himself enough looks, they’re going to fall.
TCN: Troy gave you a lot of credit in his post-win interview. How does that make you feel?
Birch: Troy is such a great guy. He’s unreal. He’s unlike any other pro out there. He’s so genuine and laidback and just a regular person. We were in Moline for the John Deere a couple weeks ago; his whole family came down.
They invited me over for dinner. We had a great time.
He knows I want that win. People will say, “of course. You want that money.” I say “no, I want that flag.” We got that flag today.
I want my name in the books as one of the best caddies out here. I’m so grateful Troy gave me a shot. When Loupe lost his card, Troy was right there. Good guy, man, and I appreciate him with everything I’ve got. He got it done. We got it done. He’s got a two-year-exemption now. We’re a great team.
TCN: How will you celebrate the win?
Birch: I don’t know. I’m by myself right now and can’t stop smiling. I’m driving back to return my rental car in Louisville. Then I’m flying to Baltimore and driving to Canada later today, so I can’t have a couple of drinks.
I’m trying to get to Canada and get ready for this week. Keep it rolling. I’ll get there tonight and be there first thing in the morning walking course and rolling putts.
TCN: Last question for you – your nickname is “Wayne-O Draino.” Where does that come from?
Birch: I got the nickname in Moline, Illinois one time. I was playing with Steve Marino’s brother, Scott, and Willy Wilcox. We were playing Short Hills Country Club there on a Wednesday.
We played 27 holes. I had a putt from the fringe to win and it was a long putt with a lot of break and I ended up making it. They started calling me “Wayne-O Draino!”
I’m a real good putter, so it stuck. I was never a good driver but saved myself putting.