There is no hiding place for caddies at the Masters. The 91 lads-a-loopin’ are the easiest to find at Augusta National, dressed in these pearly white jumpsuits.
While many pros benefit from being largely unrecognizable by the masses, caddies get double takes everywhere off the ropes. Having the names of their customers velcro on the back does not help the cause. So, unsurprisingly, there were endless, boomerang-eyed as two shopping carts entered the crowded Masters merchandise center on Saturday afternoon.
To everyone in the building, they were the caddies of Guido Migliozzi and Jose Maria Olazabal. To members of the media, who get all the precious details, it was Alberto Villanueva and Emilio Pereira respectively. But for friends and family back home, they were a go-to for gear sold here and only here at the Masters.
The pair had enjoyed a break in the caddy lounge near the training field, with coverage of the event airing on television in front of them. However, the most exciting golf tournament can get a bit boring when you miss the cup. They had come to the course on Saturday, despite missed cuts, as their players took advantage of the elite training facilities. And to access the caddy lounge, they have to dress like caddies.
As caddies, they have access to virtually every inch of this property – including the exclusive pro club shop – but Villanueva and Pereira have chosen to dive into the masses. They pushed their way through the lines, jumped and snuck past the spendthrift customers. A problem arose at the counter: a language barrier. Villanueva’s English isn’t great; Pereira’s is a bit better. Then a second issue: Mother Nature!
On the coldest Masters tour in a decade, customers would walk out of the building, rip off tags and immediately put their purchases on their refrigerated bodies. Many onlookers arrived at this annual spring celebration dressed in skirts, shorts or polo shirts, so hoodies were a hot ticket. So hot that Pereira grabbed the last available gray medium. Villanueva caught the last midfielder, even though he wanted off. The good thing about Masters merchandise is that you’ll always find someone who wants it.
A customer leaned in with a joke while browsing through the t-shirts: “Where did you get the outfit,” he said. Olazabal was unimpressed with the humor.
Of the 39 options on offer, tragically, only two were available in full size, Villanueva’s size. One of them was pink. Villanueva didn’t want a rose.
By now, a ring of rhythm had cleared around the men in white, as if it were a universal outfit of authority. Villanueva landed on two of the same shirts that would suit him: a navy blue t-shirt with all the history of the former champions written on the back. It wasn’t his first choice, but now was not the time to be picky. He looked at the yellow shirt with an egg salad sandwich printed on the back, but thought otherwise. Probably a smart decision. With two white jumpsuits imposing a presence, other customers gave them space. The whole ordeal would hit home for any Masters fan at home. You have a guaranteed chance of making the right purchase, with all transactions final and no equipment available online.
Most of Pereira’s work here was on behalf of Villanueva, a cheerful rookie certainly aware that he could be a single timekeeper. Pereira has been a caddy at the Masters, “many times”, he said, and will surely be back next year. Most of Villanueva’s work was on behalf of friends and family back home. He picked up a hat, a pair of socks, weighed up the options for the young ones, and even pretended to buy one of those green lawn chairs strewn all over the property.
He lifted the chair, pulled it out of its covering, and even unrolled it, scrutinizing its weight, surely imagining how it would fit in the luggage he’d be leaving Georgia with. Alas, the chair remained alone.
Number 3 was the trickiest. Payment! It quickly became clear that Villanueva, who caddies all over the world but especially in Europe, had paid for everything in US dollars this week. He arrived at the cash desk with a large money clip and an unused debit card given to him by the event organizers. Paper bills are no good in the Masters merchandise building – but apparently one can load money onto these debit cards – but there was an obvious solution here.
“Usually we ask you to find someone with a credit card and pay them cash,” said one volunteer when introduced to two confused international men in white jumpsuits. “But one of our cashiers probably knows where it is.”
I have offered the services of my honest credit, eager to improve this story and perhaps make a net positive visit to a place where people often walk by the hundreds. Villanueva was keen on making a trade, but for some reason Pereira moved on, uninterested in a deal. Did I look so untrustworthy? They didn’t wait for me to ask, they went looking for some mysterious ATM I had never heard of.