PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) - His name is pinned to his cap. There are more embroidered on the back of his caddie coveralls.
Sarazen, Hagen, Palmer and Crenshaw.
Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford.
That’s just a small sampling of those who’ve been fortunate enough to have Willie McRae on their bag.
None of them got special treatment from this American treasure.
Because everybody does.
“Who’s the best guy I ever caddied for?” McRae asks. “Everybody. Everybody is somebody, regardless of what they’ve done or what they’re going to do.
“I have a saying,” he goes on. “I don’t like nobody, but I love everybody.”
Time to return some of that love at the U.S. Open.
For those who don’t know McRae and other African-American caddies, they were, quite simply, the backbone of a game that long treated them as second-class citizens but never stole their love for the sport.
McRae started caddying at Pinehurst when he was 10 years old. He’s still at it today, 71 years later, the only concession to his advancing years being that he’s allowed to take a cart onto the course to haul the bags.
He sees no reason to quit looping.
“I love the game and I love people,” he says.
McRae caddied at the last U.S. Open held at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2005, but not being able to walk 18 holes with a 40-pound bag on his back kept him from taking part this time around.
But he knows this place better than anyone. Just ask Justin Rose. The defending Open champion was able to go out with McRae for a practice round before the crowds converged on the sandhills of North Carolina.