Bruce Edwards An Extraordinary Man

By Mercer BaggsApril 8, 2004, 4:00 pm
He was tall and lanky, wore a smile as often as he shouldered a bag. He was more congenial and helpful than he was successful ' and he was awfully successful.
In the simplest of terms, he was a good man.
A terrible disease took the life of this good man Thursday.
At 6:26 Thursday morning, Bruce Edwards could no longer fight the heroic fight. Only a few hours after his father accepted on his behalf the Ben Hogan Award, given annually by the Golf Writer Association of America to someone who remained active in the game despite a physical handicap or illness, Edwards succumbed to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
He was 49.
Edwards caddied for the likes of Greg Norman, John Cook, Jeff Sluman and Lee Janzen, but spent the majority of his life employed to Tom Watson. The two were professional partners for 30 years. They teamed to win numerous PGA Tour events, including the 1982 U.S. Open.
It was at Pebble Beach, nearly 22 years ago, that Edwards became more than just a caddie bearing the name of his employer on his back. He himself became a name.
Watson told Edwards that he would make that impossible chip on the 17th hole that Sunday, and, of course, he did. He then ran out his excitement and pointed enthusiastically to his friend.
There are few professions like golf, where Boss and Worker can find equal footing in friendship.
But that was the personal level on which Watson and Edwards stood.
Thursday, prior to teeing off in the first round of the Masters -- Bruce's favorite tournament - Watson received a phone call from Bruce's wife, Marsha, informing him of the death of his friend.
He shot a somber 4-over 76.
Let me tell you something,' Watson said, his red eyes supressing tears, at a press conference that followed. 'He's not with us in body anymore, but I can tell you he's with us in spirit.
'If you ever ran across him, you knew what a genuine person he was and what a wonderful way he had with his words.
'He could make you laugh at the worst times.'
Edwards, born on Nov. 16, 1954 in Hartford, Conn., and raised in Wethersfield, was caddieing before he was a teen. He wanted to turn his enjoyment into employment, and did so immediately out of high school.
A day after graduating from high school in 1973, he used a one-way ticket to Charlotte, N.C., where he went to work for David Graham in the Kemper Open.
About a month later, he came across Watson at the St. Louis Golf Classic. Watson was lugging his own bag. Edwards asked him if he could take over the load.
'I said I'd like to caddie for him that year,' he told on several occasions. 'He said he'd see how it went for a week.'
'I was a long-haired golfer ... and he was a long-haired caddie. We fit the bill right together right there,' Watson said.
They finished sixth. And as Edwards once said: 'The rest is history.'
Less than a year ago, Watson and Edwards shared one of their greatest triumphs together. It wasnt a victory, at least not in terms of trophies. But, due to circumstances, it surpassed most all of those wins combined.
At age 53, Watson shot 65 in the opening round of the 2003 U.S. Open. It tied his career-best score in 105 rounds in the championship.
But all-the-more special was that Edwards was again on his bag.
By this time, Edwards had been six months into his ALS diagnosis. His speech was slurred ' like a town drunk, he kidded after that sensationally sentimental 65. His body was weakening. He was dying.
Watson used the media center that Thursday as his pulpit, to spread the word on ALS, to ask for resources, to challenge for a cure.
He did it again this Thursday.
'I want to say: Damn this disease! Damn it! They are going to find a cure. We don't have one right now,' he exclaimed.
Edwards was unable to caddie for Watson at the British Open, as well as at the Senior British Open, which Watson won. But he was back in business at the Champions Tours JELD-WEN Tradition ' their final professional triumph together.
He certainly did his job with aplomb and a respect for the game that made him, as was mentioned last night at the Golf Writers' dinner, the Arnold Palmer of caddies. When a young guy came out here, Bruce wouldnt hesitate to show them the ropes,' Watson said.
He will be missed. He will be missed.
Watson was Bruces friend, his boss, even financial backbone ' he helped with Edwards overwhelming medical expenses and donated a $1 million annuity to ALS research.
But Marsha was Bruce's love.
The two met some 30 years ago, through a mutual friend, at the Byron Nelson Classic. They then went about separate lives, staying in contact over the years, before fate finally cast them together in a wedding ceremony in Hawaii in February 2003.
Marsha brought with her two children, and a world of support. They got engaged on New Years Eve. Only 15 days later, doctors gave them the ominous news.
ALS attacks the spinal cord and lower brain stem. The body gradually and continually dulls, even while the mind stays sharp. Normally, the disease starts in the limbs and works its way up the body, slowly but surely disabling ones speech, swallowing and respiratory system. But thats where it started for Bruce.
There is no cure.
After the diagnosis, everybody ' Bruce, Tom, Bruces father ' told me I didnt have to marry Bruce, no one would fault me, Marsha told Golf Digest in May. The thought crossed my mind for a second, but only a second. Absolutely nothing could keep me from Bruce.
Over the final few months of his life, as ALS continued its destructive march through his body, Edwards remained courageous. He even traded e-mail barbs with friend John Feinstein, the noted author who wrote Caddy for Life: The Bruce Edwards Story.
Extraordinary man, Feinstein said Thursday of Edwards.
Courage is the most overused word in sports. But courage is getting out of bed every morning when fighting a battle you cant win.
Edwards was more than courageous. He was more than a respected professional. He was more than a good friend. He was beloved.
And while he spent only 49 years on this earth, he experienced more than most can imagine.
After that magical day at Olympia Fields last year, he expressed his life the best way he could: If someone said to me you know we can do this all over again and you're going to get ALS down the road, will you do it? I'd say, 'You bet, every time.'
Related Links:
  • Driving 4 Life Website
  • ALS Therapy Development Foundation
  • TGC Airtimes - Courage on the Fairways
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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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    Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

    “Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

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    “We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

    In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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    Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

    “That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

    So was Woods.

    DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

    “His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

    Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

    “He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

    Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

    “Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

    “Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

    Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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    With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

    SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

    The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

    It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

    “It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

    Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

    According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

    “I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

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    Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

    And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

    As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

    He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

    “I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

    Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

    “I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

    Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

    Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

    “If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

    Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.