- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 5, 2011

AUGUSTA, GA. (AP) - Everywhere he turns at Augusta National, Carl Jackson is asked to pose for a picture or sign an autograph.

No surprise there.

He’s as much a part of this place as the green jacket or Magnolia Lane.

Jackson will be caddying in his 50th Masters this week, a link to a segregated past in which all the players were white and required to use black caddies who worked for the club.

He grew up just a few miles away, “right over that tree line,” Jackson says, gazing toward the southwest from a spot beneath the famous oak tree next to the clubhouse.

Now, as he prepares to mark a half-century as a Masters caddie, he keeps remembering all those guys who came before him, the African-Americans who grew up and lived in tiny shotgun houses just like his in the Sand Hill section of Augusta.

“I tend to keep thinking back to the old days,” Jackson said Monday, adorned in those familiar white coveralls that all Masters caddies must wear. “Pappy Stokes. Iron Man. Those guys are just on my mind right now.”

He was only 14 when he carried the bag for Billy Burke in 1961. Jackson has been back every year since then except one.

Now 64, Jackson has long held the record for most Masters worked by a caddie. This one, though, is something special.

“Fifty Masters is more than a lifetime,” marveled Ben Crenshaw, Jackson’s longtime employer. “A lot of blood, sweat and tears go into those 50 years.”

Jackson knows he’s unlikely to be caddying for another Masters champion. By the weekend, players such as defending champion Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods will surely claim the spotlight.

Mickelson comes into the year’s first major as the clear favorite, having made 18 birdies over the final two rounds to win last week at Houston.

“It seems that everyone has pretty much got Mickelson in the green jacket Sunday evening and there’s not much use in turning up at this point,” U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell said, grinning. “He’s a great player around Augusta, and if you finish ahead of him, you’ve got a decent chance.”

But before all the attention turns to someone who could actually win the tournament, let’s honor someone who’s spent so much time walking these historic grounds and “knows this place like the back on his hand,” according to Crenshaw.

Jackson’s first employer was Burke, who closed out his career playing in a white dress shirt and tie.

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