Caddy for Life

The Bruce Edwards Story


By John Feinstein

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Beyond golf’s polished surface there lies a world not often seen by the average fan. The caddy sees everything – the ambition, the strategy, the rivalries, the jealousies – that occurs behind the scenes. Award-winning John Feinstein, America’s favourite sportswriter, got one of golf’s legendary caddies to reveal the secrets behind the most popular sport of our time.

Bruce Edwards was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in January 2003, a progressive disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, but he dominated coverage of the 2003 US Open. This is a position not usually bestowed on a caddy, but Edwards was no ordinary caddy. In 1973, after forgoing college, Edwards walked on the course behind a young Tom Watson and never looked back. Watson would go on to win eight major titles with Bruce Edwards by his side. Edwards continued to do the job he had dedicated more than half his life to right up to his death in April 2004, aged 49. This is a moving, dramatic and thoughtful book about a life devoted to sports.


Copyright © 2004 by John Feinstein and Bruce Edwards

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

Little, Brown and Company

Hachette Book Group, USA

237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Visit our Web site at

First eBook Edition: October 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-05204-7



The Punch

The Last Amateurs

The Majors

A March to Madness

A Civil War

A Good Walk Spoiled

Play Ball

Hard Courts

Forever's Team

A Season Inside

A Season on the Brink

Running Mates (A Mystery)

Winter Games (A Mystery)

This is for all those who have suffered because of ALS: victims, family, friends. And for all those working through fund-raising or research to find the cure. May their prayers be answered and their hopes and dreams become reality very, very soon.


IN MAY OF 1981, when I was still the kid on the sports staff of the Washington Post, I was given a dream assignment. "Go on up to the Memorial Tournament next week," sports editor George Solomon told me. "Bring back some stories we can use Kemper week."

The Kemper Open had moved a year earlier from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Congressional Country Club, which is a few miles from downtown Washington. That made it, as far as the Post was concerned, the fifth major. Since I had been pleading with George for the chance to cover golf for most of two years, he decided this was a good time to get me off his back. No one else on staff really wanted to spend a week outside Columbus, Ohio, on a vague quest to "bring back some stories," except for me. I was single, I loved golf, I was more than happy to spend a few days at Jack Nicklaus's tournament, although I wouldn't dare tell anyone there that the Memorial (which they thought was really the fifth major) was just a warm-up for the Kemper.

I had grown up working in the pro shop at a small golf club on the eastern end of Long Island and had developed a great passion for the game even though I had serious deficiencies actually playing it. I could tell you off the top of my head who had won almost every major played in my lifetime, and I knew the bios of most of the top players on the tour. Of course I had never met any of them and none of them knew me. In that sense, the assignment was somewhat daunting. I arrived at Muirfield Village Country Club late on Tuesday afternoon, excited but nervous.

I collected my credential in the pressroom and walked outside the clubhouse, wondering if anyone was still around I could talk to. I had no idea what kind of stories I wanted to bring home. As I rounded the corner leading from the clubhouse to the putting green, I spotted a lone figure sitting on a low stone wall that divides the putting green in half. He was smoking a cigarette, clearly relaxing after a long day before he went home.

Bruce Edwards.

I recognized him instantly, just as any golf fan back then would. He was Tom Watson's caddy, and Watson was the number one player in the world. Six weeks earlier, he had won his second Masters to go with the three British Opens he had won. That gave him five majors at age thirty-one, two of those wins coming in classic duels with Nicklaus. If you followed golf, you knew who Bruce was—he was the guy who walked the fairways stride for stride with Watson, the two of them seemingly in lockstep, usually smiling and laughing, clearly enjoying each other's company. Watson had short reddish-brown hair and a quick smile. Bruce had long brown hair and an equally quick smile. They always looked to me like they belonged together.

There was a sign next to the green which said PLAYERS, CADDIES, AND OFFICIALS ONLY. There was also no one around. If anyone said something, I'd just pretend I hadn't seen the sign. I walked over to Bruce, introduced myself, and asked if he had—as we reporters like to say—a couple of minutes to talk.

"Sure," he said. "Sit down."

I quickly confessed that this was the first time I'd been sent to cover a golf tournament and that I might ask some seriously stupid questions. "Don't worry about it," Bruce said. "You must know something about golf. You recognized a caddy."

Not just any caddy, I pointed out. Bruce laughed. "I don't work for just any player, do I?" he said.

We went from there. I asked the usual questions about his background, and Bruce told me about growing up in Connecticut, the son of a dentist, and of his passionate desire as a teenager to caddy. He re-created—as he had done many times before—the day in St. Louis when he first met Watson. He talked about what made Watson special. "Watch him when things go wrong," he said. "He gets better. Never whines or makes excuses. Just keeps playing. That's what I love about working for him."

We talked about other players—good guys, bad guys, funny guys. Bruce gave me the names of other caddies I should talk to who had interesting stories to tell. At some point I noticed a chill in the air. We had been talking for close to two hours. Not once had Bruce looked at his watch or asked how much longer the "couple of minutes" was going to drag on. Finally I thanked him and we both stood up.

"Hey, anytime," Bruce said. "Good luck."

As a reporter, you rarely get as lucky as I did that day. Bruce essentially gave me a road map for the entire week, telling me stories that would lead me to other stories. He became, you could say, my first tour guide. I had stumbled smack into what we call a go-to guy in my first five minutes covering golf. It wasn't until 1993 that I began to cover golf on a regular basis, but in the years that intervened, whenever I did cover golf, I always looked for Bruce. He wasn't just a bright caddy, he was one of the brighter people I knew in any walk of life. After I began to cover the tour more regularly, Bruce became someone I depended on for a story, a quote, an anecdote, or just a few minutes of laughter.

It may not have been until 1998 that I first really felt I understood what made him special as a caddy. I had always noticed his demeanor, his upbeat approach, and his enthusiasm. But one Monday afternoon, I found out there was more to it than that. I was walking with Watson, Fred Couples, and Chris DiMarco during a practice round prior to the U.S. Open, held that year at the Olympic Club, outside San Francisco. I had bought a yardage book for the week, the orange book all the caddies now buy that shows them exact yardages from various spots on each hole and where hidden trouble may be. Walking onto one of the greens, I noticed Bruce looking at two yardage books, one bright and brand-new, the other beaten up.

"This one's from the last time we were here," he said, showing me a 1987 Olympic yardage book. "I keep all my yardage books so I can compare when we go back to places to see if anything's changed. Sometimes I'll notice that I've written down a correction in the old book and I'll check to see if the new one has it right or wrong. Of course if I have any doubt, I just walk it off myself."

He showed me where he had scribbled notes about ridges on greens or breaks he hadn't actually seen the first time Watson had putted from a particular spot. He would suggest that Watson putt from those places during the practice rounds to see if the unseen break might still be there. No detail too small. "You never know where it might make a difference," he said. "I actually liked it better when I first came out, when there were no yardage books. That way the caddies who took the time to walk the golf course and check everything out had an advantage. The yardage books are an equalizer, because they're usually right. So you look for small things that they don't have in them. Maybe in a week, you might save your guy one shot someplace. But that shot could be the difference between winning and losing."

A little more than a year after the 1998 Open, Watson turned fifty and moved over to the Senior Tour. Bruce went with him. He had left Watson once—after being encouraged by Watson to do so—to work for Greg Norman for three years. He had made a lot of money working for Norman, but it simply wasn't the same as being with Watson, who was both his boss and his friend. He had returned to Watson in 1992 and, even though he had plenty of other chances to leave, he had made it clear he would finish his caddying career—whenever that day came—carrying the same bag he had carried since his first month on tour.

He missed the regular tour. At the Masters in April of 2000, he walked up the hill on the first practice day from the bag room, stood under the famous tree outside the clubhouse, and spread his hands wide, his palms turned upward, his face turned toward the sky. "Real tour air," he said, grinning broadly. "I feel like I can breathe again!"

I was standing there at that moment, and we joked about the differences between the Senior Tour and the PGA Tour. "I miss it," he said. "I miss a lot of my guys." He smiled. "But this is where Tom and I are right now. I guess I'll just ride off into the sunset with him."

That sounded about right to me. Tom and Bruce were to golf what George and Gracie were to comedy, Woodward and Bernstein were to journalism, Fonteyn and Nureyev were to dancing. They were partners for life, linked in our minds forevermore.

It was a routine conversation with a close friend on a winter afternoon. It was snowing, as it had almost every other day in the winter of 2003, and I was asking my friend Dave Kindred if he wanted to drive with me to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, the next day to watch Holy Cross and Bucknell play basketball. This is a running joke between us. Like a lot of my friends, Kindred, who writes for Golf Digest and the Sporting News, finds my fascination with basketball in the Patriot League both amusing and confusing, especially when it involves driving through snowstorms on back roads in February. Naturally, I always offer him the chance to make the drive with me—"You might learn something" is my usual line—and he always thanks me profusely for the opportunity and then says something about having to reorganize his sock drawer that day. "Otherwise," he will say, "I'd be right there with you. You know that."

This time, though, his answer was different. He still turned me down, but the subject of his sock drawer never came up.

"I have to go to Florida tomorrow," he said.

"Have to go?" I said. "Sounds like tough duty this time of year. What are you going down there for?"

"To see Bruce Edwards."

The mention of Bruce's name put a smile on my face. "You doing a column on him?" I asked. "That's one of your rare good ideas. Be sure to tell him I said hello and ask him to tell you how he launched my career as a golf writer."

I was a little bit surprised when Kindred didn't respond with a wisecrack. There was nothing funny in his voice when he answered by saying, "You don't know, do you?"

That brought me up short.

"Don't know what?"

Kindred paused for a moment. He knew that Bruce and I were friends.

"He's got ALS," he said finally.

For once in my life I was completely speechless. Maybe I had heard wrong. Three letters. Maybe one was incorrect and it was something else, some disease I'd never heard of. When I found my voice, I said quietly, almost praying that Dave was going to assuage my fears with his answer, "You mean ALS—as in Lou Gehrig's disease?"


I know now, having talked to dozens of people in the past few months who know and love Bruce, that my reaction at that moment was virtually identical to theirs when they heard the news: I felt sick to my stomach. My heart was pounding and I could feel myself starting to shake. "When?" I asked. "When was it diagnosed?"

"Last month," Kindred said. "People didn't really know until last week. Golf Digest wants me to go down and talk to him. I talked to his father last night. It doesn't sound very good at all."

There is absolutely nothing good about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—which has been known to people as Lou Gehrig's disease since it killed the great Yankee first baseman back in 1941. Now, as then, there is no cure for ALS, which is described as a neuro-degenerative disease that attacks nerve cells and pathways to the brain and spinal cord. ALS victims die from asphyxiation when the paralysis spreads to the diaphragm. In simple terms, the disease gradually destroys the muscles throughout your body. Your brain is unaffected, which means you watch helplessly as your body collapses one step at a time.

"His father says he has the more aggressive kind," Kindred added. "That usually means one to three years."

One to three years, I thought. Bruce wasn't much older than I was, not yet fifty, I knew for sure. "He's forty-eight," Kindred said, as if reading my mind.

"Just tell him I'm thinking of him, okay?" I said, feeling guilty that I hadn't known sooner.

I hung up the phone and sat staring at the snow for a good long while.

When I came out of my trance, I went on the Internet to find out more about ALS. I knew what most people know: It had killed Gehrig, and there's no cure. I wondered what Kindred meant about the more aggressive kind. I found that out fairly quickly. Bruce apparently had what is called bulbar ALS, as opposed to peripheral ALS. The life expectancy for peripheral ALS is longer—three to five years. Bulbar ALS tends to attack the throat first, the legs later. I remember thinking, "Well, at least he should be able to keep caddying for a while."

After a few minutes, I knew more than I wanted to know about ALS. I could find nothing encouraging, no sign that anyone was close to finding a cure. There were about 30,000 people suffering with ALS in the United States, a tiny slice of the population compared with some other diseases. I would soon find out that was one of the reasons so little progress has been made in research. Pharmaceutical companies understandably focus their money and time on diseases that afflict the most people. One of the reasons there are so few people with ALS is both simple and chilling: Very few people live long once diagnosed. It is a fast and brutal killer.

Feeling even worse after my research than I had before, I started to compose a letter to Bruce. For quite a while, I stared at a blank screen. What could I possibly say? Hang in there? Sure, easy for me to say. Finally I remembered the first day we had met. I reminded Bruce about that day and told him how much I thought it said about him that he had been willing to sit there for so long and help out a complete stranger. I told him how much our friendship had meant to me through the years.

A few days later, I got an e-mail. "Thanks so much for reminding me about 1981," Bruce wrote. "I've always believed that family and friendships are the two most important things in a man's life. Reminding me that I did something good (at least once!) made my day." He went on to say that he was feeling okay—"even though I often sound like the town drunk"—and that he had a brand-new family, since he had just remarried and his new wife, Marsha, had a nine-year-old son and an eight-year-old daughter. "It's different," he wrote, "but a lot of fun." Only later would I learn that he had proposed to Marsha on New Year's Eve—fifteen days before he was diagnosed. He closed by saying he would see me in Augusta. "I just hope," he wrote, "that these tired legs can handle those hills."

The last line was frightening. Already he was feeling the disease in his legs.

If you are a golf fan, you probably watch the Masters on television each year. If you watched in 2003, you no doubt saw Dick Enberg's essay on caddies, focusing on Bruce and his relationship with Watson and his battle with ALS. The piece ended with Bruce coming off the 18th green on Saturday morning after Watson had finished his rain-delayed second round and collapsing in tears on Hilary Watson's shoulder. Tom had missed the cut, and Bruce came off the green thinking that he had very possibly worked at the Masters for the last time.

What you didn't see was Bruce hand-in-hand with Marsha, walking up the hill to the clubhouse, the tears gone, just wanting to get someplace quiet. He had been doing interviews all week, the subject of dozens of columns around the country, all of them sympathetic. I had walked a number of holes with the group of Watson, Mike Weir, and Padraig Harrington on Friday, but hadn't been around when play was called for darkness on Friday because I had to be inside the pressroom writing at that hour. I hadn't yet had a chance to see Bruce, and I knew he would be leaving soon since Watson had missed the cut.

I walked around to the front of the clubhouse, where the caddies usually hang out, figuring he would go there to see his friends before leaving. I found him standing on the porch outside the locker room with Marsha. Bruce was fighting tears again. It had been just under twenty-two years since we had first met, but I wasn't sure if this was a moment when I should leave him alone or go over to say hello. Bruce, as always, made it easy.

"John," he said, waving me over when he saw me. "I want you to meet Marsha."

He had the old smile on his face, even though his words were slurred and the tears were still on his cheeks. He hugged me, then introduced his wife to me. We joked about his speech for a moment—"You don't sound a lot different than you sounded after about nine o'clock in the old days," I said when he tried to apologize for the way he sounded. Then I turned serious for a minute.

"You okay?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said. "Tired. We should have made the cut. Four-putted the sixth. That killed us." He paused. "Next year we'll win."

That started him crying again. I couldn't think of anything clever or funny to say. Finally he looked at me and said, "You know, a number of people have suggested to me that I do a book about my life on the tour and with Tom."

I felt myself cringe inwardly. First, I was appalled that anyone would approach him about such a thing under the current circumstances. Second, I knew what was coming next. "I'd like to do it," he continued. "But only if you write it."

Oh God, this was awkward. For about sixty seconds or so, I was in full, 100 percent selfish mode. I had just finished one book, which was about to be published, and I was working on another one. I had promised Mary, my wife, that I would take the summer off to spend some serious time with her and our two children. Plus, doing a book on Bruce would inevitably mean spending time with him as his health deterioriated. I was searching for a way out almost before he finished what he was saying.

"Bruce, I'm unbelievably flattered," I said—meaning it. "But, well, this is a tough time. I've got two books working and I promised my wife I'd take a break. But if you really want to do it, I can help you find someone who would do a really good job." I was actually thinking at that moment of Kindred.

The look on his face told me he knew a blow-off when he heard it. "I understand," he said. "It's not a problem."

If he had punched me in the stomach, I think I would have felt better than I did at that moment. In that instant, one thought ran through my mind: You have to do this. In the next, the entire book suddenly crystallized in my mind. It was a love story in three parts: Bruce and Watson, Bruce and the life on tour, and Bruce and this gutsy young woman standing next to him. "You know what," I said. "I'll figure something out. We can do this. Give me a few days to talk to my publisher."

Not surprisingly, he was confused by my complete turnaround. "Listen," he said, "don't do anything that will mess up your family."

It's okay, I told him. I then explained the way I had just envisioned the book. His eyes lit up. Marsha then asked how old my children were, and we spent the next few minutes comparing notes on kids. "I'll call you in a few days," I said.

"You sure?" he said.

"I'm sure."

If I had any remaining doubts, they went away a few minutes later, when I called Mary. I expected her to remind me that the word no existed for a reason, that she understood why I would want to do the book but there were other people who could do it. Once I finished telling her the story, she said simply, "You have to do this."

And so I did. To say that there have been difficult moments these past few months would be an understatement. Bruce and Marsha and their families and friends have been through moments of hope and seen those hopes turn up empty. They have been through extraordinary moments of joy, none more remarkable than the day Watson shot 65 to lead the U.S. Open and the entire golf world stopped to cheer for him and for Bruce.

Through it all, Bruce's health has obviously worsened. All of us who care about him have had a tough time watching him get thinner and weaker, seeing him forced into a golf cart while caddying and end 2003 knowing he would not be able to caddy at all in 2004. But I can honestly say now that I would not have missed these last few months for anything. In 1981 Bruce patiently gave me lessons in golf and about life on the PGA Tour. This past year, he has given me lessons in courage, in grace under pressure, in generosity of spirit, and in how to live life even when time is short.

In my last conversation with Tom Watson at the end of the year, we talked at length about what Bruce was going through, about what the year had meant to him, and about all he had learned about ALS and the research that is ongoing. Watson talked with great passion about various drug trials being conducted, about the hope that a way to at least slow down the disease may not be that far off.

"If we can just keep Bruce in working order for another year, there may be something," he said, his voice trailing away.

A year for someone with ALS might be too long. Watson knew that. He had seen up close what the disease had done to his friend in a year.

"What I think has amazed everyone this past year, even me, someone who knows him so well, is his attitude and spirit," Watson said, the words coming slowly. A moment earlier, talking about research and drug trials and hope for the future, his voice had been strident, full of life. Now his voice was almost a whisper. "He simply won't give in mentally or emotionally, no matter what happens," he continued, beginning to choke up. "He's an extraordinary person. I can't tell you how much I admire him. He's been such an inspiration to people in the last year." Watson was crying now, the tears running down his cheeks. "And to me."

And to all of us lucky enough to know him.


The Reunion

TO BE IN NEW ENGLAND on the first Saturday in September when the Red Sox are in a pennant race, when college football is beginning again and the first hints of fall are in the air, is to be about as close to heaven as one can come while still on earth.

On just such a day in 2003, on a morning when the sky was brilliantly blue and the temperature at sunrise was in the low 60s, a far-flung family gathered at 416 Brenda Lane in Franklin, a Boston suburb about twenty-five miles southwest of Kenmore Square and Fenway Park. Jay and Natalie Edwards had driven from their retirement home in Vero Beach, Florida, stopping in Annapolis on the way to spend a little extra time with their daughter Chris, her husband, John, and their two children. Chris, the oldest of the four Edwards children, is, like her husband, a retired Navy veteran. After Jay and Natalie continued their drive north, Chris and her family flew into Boston on Friday night.

Brian, the second son, and his wife, Laurie, had the longest trip, coming from their home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. They had flown east on Wednesday and had spent time on Cape Cod riding bicycles and roller-blading. Rare was the day in their lives when they didn't bike or run or blade or look for something new and different to attempt. Gwyn and Lenny were the only ones who didn't have to travel, because they were the hosts, which meant they had the most work to do. That was how they wanted it, though, especially Gwyn, the baby in the family. She had retired from a successful career in public relations to raise their three children, who now ranged in age from five and a half to two and a half. It was Gwyn who had first come up with the idea to get everyone together and Gwyn who had pushed everyone else to make sure it happened.

Technically this was not a reunion but a chance to celebrate the wedding of Jay and Natalie's son Bruce. Bruce, the second child and the first son, had married Marsha Cummins Moore on a beach in Hawaii in February, almost thirty years after they first met and five weeks after they had become engaged.

The engagement had caught the family a little off guard; they hadn't known there was someone serious in Bruce's life. The wedding had been a complete surprise, because it had all happened in less than a week. Hilary Watson, whose husband, Tom, had been Bruce's boss for almost his entire adult life, had suggested it to Marsha on a Monday and the ceremony had taken place six days later on the beach. Friends had commented that it was typical of Bruce to find a way to get married in his bare feet.

Tom Watson was Bruce's best man. In his toast to the bride and groom he had commented that this was a marriage that was beginning under very difficult circumstances. "The groom," he said, "is a lifelong Eagles fan. The bride is a devoted Cowboys fan. That's why it took so long for them to finally get together. Clearly, they are going to have a lot of work to do."

When the rest of the family heard about the wedding, they were taken by surprise, but they also understood. Everyone talked about getting together at some point at Bruce and Marsha's home in Florida to celebrate. But there was no specific date or plan. Late in March, as was almost always the case on weekends, Gwyn and Lenny had the TV tuned to that week's golf tournament. It was the Players Championship. Gwyn was walking through the living room when she heard NBC's Jimmy Roberts mention the name Bruce Edwards. She stopped and sat down. A moment later her big brother was on the screen. She took a deep breath when she saw him and tried not to cry.

Bruce's voice was thick, his words difficult to understand, almost as if he'd been drinking. That wasn't a surprise, because she'd talked to him on the phone frequently in the weeks since the wedding and knew that was how he sounded now. "But I hadn't seen him," she said. "When I saw how thin he was, when I saw how different he looked in just a few weeks, that's when it really hit me. That was when I first thought to myself, 'We have to get everyone together—soon.'"

Months later, sitting on a couch in the living room with Lenny next to her, she still found it difficult to say exactly why the thought had crossed her mind that day. "I don't honestly remember if I thought it specifically," she said. "But obviously it was somewhere in my mind."

Somewhere in her mind was the thought that couldn't be avoided—not on that afternoon in March nor on that spectacular Saturday in September: If we don't get the family together soon, the next time might be at Bruce's funeral.


On Sale
Aug 21, 2008
Page Count
336 pages

John Feinstein

About the Author

John Feinstein is the author of forty-five books, including two #1 New York Times bestsellers, A Season on the Brink, and A Good Walk Spoiled. His mystery novel, Last Shot, won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for mystery writing in the Young Adult category. He is a member of six Halls of Fame and is a contributing columnist for The Washington Post. Additionally, he does color commentary for VCU basketball, George Mason basketball, and Longwood basketball. He is also does commentary for the Navy radio network and is a regular on The Sports Junkies in his hometown of Washington, DC.

Learn more about this author