Watson's tribute to bagman Edwards

Even Here where sentiment is as tangible as the dogwoods brushed by the breeze and the smell of pine, something remarkable happened last Thursday night. Tom Watson, the winner of eight majors and for a little while the only man who ever scared Jack Nicklaus on a golf course after he had supplanted The King, Arnie Palmer, walked into a room filled with journalists and television cameras and proceeded to weep. It went on for the best part of an hour but there was little concern that it might be embarrassing.

Even Here where sentiment is as tangible as the dogwoods brushed by the breeze and the smell of pine, something remarkable happened last Thursday night. Tom Watson, the winner of eight majors and for a little while the only man who ever scared Jack Nicklaus on a golf course after he had supplanted The King, Arnie Palmer, walked into a room filled with journalists and television cameras and proceeded to weep. It went on for the best part of an hour but there was little concern that it might be embarrassing.

Watson talked lucidly and the level of his voice was meticulously controlled. It was just that the tears kept falling down. They had a life of their own.

He had managed to suppress them most of the day after his second wife, Hilary, visited the locker-room shortly before he went out to play the first round of the Masters for the 31st time. She told the 54-year-old Watson that Bruce Edwards had just died in a hospice.

Edwards, aged 49, was a caddie who put himself into the consciousness of America when he leaped into an embrace with Watson, who had just chipped in to win the 1982 US Open at Pebble Beach. The picture was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and if you ever wanted an image of fulfilment in sport, this one was at the very least the rival of Nicklaus's Caesar's salute when he won his last major title here in Augusta 18 years ago.

"It was the only major he won on my bag," Watson said, "but he knew it was the one I wanted most."

Watson, you could see, was going through a thousand memories, good and bad. Of how it was when his game was in crisis, and when it had broken out into the sunlight. He recalled their only row on the course. "The only time I was angry with him was at the Hawaiian Open. I hit the ball, I hit it typically to the right of the tee on the 13th hole, into this hazard. It must be a 100 yards off line. And I'm having a heat attack. I'm in this hazard and over there they have red clay, like they have here in Georgia, and I get in that thing. I get my shoes in it, they are all muddy, and I chop this thing out of there. He just takes off with the bag, and here I am with shoes full of mud. I'm hot and I want a towel. I said: 'Where the hell do you think you're going?' He turns round and says: 'What do you mean? I'm going to get the yardage.' So I chopped out into the rough."

Watson won his Masters titles in 1977 and 1981, when regular caddies stood down in favour of the local pool who, in the customs of a club which still does not entertain the idea of a women member, were summoned as casual labour, but Edwards followed Watson around the course in '77. Watson recalled the time without bothering to brush aside a tear. "I started to make my run at No 5. I hit a four-iron and when it was in the air I heard this 'Yeah', and it was Bruce because he knew it was a good shoot. I ended up making birdie and I birdied six, seven and eight. He came over that night and we celebrated. We had a great celebration.

"He always wanted to caddie at Augusta but when the time came we never really got close to winning, but he just loved being here. Hanging out, breathing it in. He cried when we had what he believed was our last round here together. It was the thing he hated to let go."

Watson spoke of the time he and Edwards first connected, in St Louis in 1973. "I played the tournament there. I was a long-haired golfer and he was a long-haired caddie. We fitted the bill but I said he should go off to college. But he insisted that being a caddie was the neatest thing in the whole world."

At one point they parted professionally, Watson telling the caddie that with the prize-money dwindling he should take any opportunity that came along. Edwards rang one day to say that Greg Norman had offered him his bag. He took it with Watson's blessing, but the new working relationship did not work out.

Fifteen months ago, he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. It attacked his lungs. He knew he was in trouble when he went into a bar and was refused a drink. He was slurring his words and the barman said that he was drunk. In recent months Watson and Edwards talked long and hard about the most basic things, including the fear of death. Edwards said that he did not fear it because he was going to meet some old buddies on the first tee of another place.

"Bruce was a gypsy and he broke a few hearts," Watson said. "A former wife burned down his house, but he didn't let things get him down - nothing. A few days before these Masters he e-mailed me with advice. I would have liked to have shot better than 76 today. For one thing I carried his yardage book in my hip pocket."

Watson said he would work to help the funding of research on the disease that had taken away his friend. He would also try to help the hospice where he died. He was grieving publicly for the loss of a friend and perhaps also, deep down, he was sad for that part of his life which had gone with the former long-haired young man who gave him that victory hug beside the Pacific at Pebble Beach.

There were those times when Watson was so brilliant on a golf course that even Nicklaus was in awe of him. It happened, among other times, one day at the course that the great man built in his native Ohio. Watson leaped to the head of the leader board of the Memorial tournament in wild wind and rain.

Nicklaus came off the course congratulating himself on an even round, "one of the best I've ever played" he said. Then he looked at the leader board and saw Watson's numbers in red: 68. He did a double-take and then said, "That's just unbelievable. Only Tom Watson could do that."

Watson won the British Open five times and his status as Nicklaus's heir apparent was never in serious question. But then something happened. He got the yips, which some attributed to a rarely discussed drink problem. He had a wrenching divorce and he no longer terrified the field with his sheer virtuosity.

This week he cried for his friend, and maybe some of the things that life can do to you, out of a clear blue sky, when it was fair to assume you had conquered the world.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape