While searching for a permanent caddie a couple of months ago, Willie Mack III decided to call up an old friend. After all, not many people understand Mack and the pro-golf grind he’s been on for the last decade like Christian Heavens.
Heavens, like Mack, has dreams of playing on the PGA Tour, only Heavens’ aspirations were put on hold a couple of years back because of a back injury. Working now as the director of instruction at Topgolf St. Louis in Chesterfield, Missouri, Heavens had been healing up and saving up in hopes of reviving that dream when his phone buzzed. Mack wanted Heavens to carry his bag in last month’s Huntsville Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour.
“I ended up not being able to get off of work,” Heavens said, “but I told him, if you get into this South Carolina event, I’m there.”
Mack was later invited to compete in the BMW Charity Pro-Am, and Heavens kept his word, traveling to Greer, South Carolina, last week and looping for his buddy as Mack cashed his first Korn Ferry Tour check.
Mack shot 67-70 to make his first cut in three tries on the developmental tour, and he then followed with an eight-birdie, 5-under 66 in the third round before closing in 73 to finish at 9 under, tie for 62nd and collect $2,807 in prize money.
“Just having Christian on the bag, we’ve been grinding together for a while, so to be able to get through to the weekend with him, it was special,” Mack said. “It brought back old times.”
Like back in 2011, when the two shared a small apartment with another friend in Daytona Beach, Florida, while chasing it on the Florida Pro Golf Tour. They were freshly-turned pros after successful college careers – Mack captured 11 individual titles at Bethune-Cookman in Florida while Heavens won five times for Georgetown College in Kentucky – but neither had much money.
After Heavens grew tired of his living situation in St. Augustine, Florida, he left his old roommate and his flea-ridden cat and moved in with Mack, who was sleeping on a pull-out sofa in the studio of Bethune-Cookman women’s golfer Kim Wong. The only sleeping option for Heavens was sharing the couch with Mack; they did that for about a year.
“All three of us in this small studio, crowded in there with all of our stuff. It was actually good because it forced us to get out of the house,” Heavens said. “We tried to be there as little amount as possible, and it kept us on the golf course all day.”
The two logged much of their practice hours at LPGA International, and that year on the FPGT, Mack won the money title and Heavens earned enough so that they could both later move out and get their own place together.
“Sometimes being hungry and broke and in an uncomfortable situation makes you get your butt up and go out there and spend all day practicing,” Heavens added.
The struggles for Mack in the years since have recently been well-documented – and sponsors have begun to take notice of Mack’s story. But Heavens has experienced similar adversity, as well. Heavens' pro career has included just one PGA Tour Latinoamerica start, in 2015, and also time as an assistant college golf coach and cast member on both Golf Channel's "Big Break Myrtle Beach" and ABC's "Holey Moley."
Which is why this past week was so meaningful for the both of them.
Mack, who also missed the cut in his two PGA Tour starts earlier this season, now has some confidence to build off of as he prepares to play the Rocket Mortgage Classic later this month in Mack’s home state of Michigan. He’s quite familiar with Detroit Golf Club, as he plays and practices there when he’s in town.
“I’ve had some opportunities before, and I didn’t capitalize on them. … It felt good to play well the first three days and take a step in the right direction,” Mack said.
As for Heavens, he won’t be putting back on the caddie bib.
“My job was to get him that first cut made, and that was huge for him,” Heavens said. “I’m trying to get back into playing myself. This week was so motivating for me, to get up close and see him. I wish I could keep helping him, but I have to get my stuff together, too .... try and save up to risk it all again.”
And hopefully join Mack back inside the tour ropes soon, just not as a caddie but rather a playing competitor.