Bruce Edwards An Extraordinary Man

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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