In individual sports especially, the role of the support staff can easily be a tiny footnote in the history books, regardless of their timely interventions.
Last Sunday night, a South African completed a life’s goal at Augusta as he played a decisive hand in one of golf’s most enduring pursuits.
Sergio Garcia has been chasing his place in golfing royalty for the better part of two decades, and his coronation came in the form of a Green Jacket on Sunday.
As Garcia soaked in the applause of the patrons – not fans, or spectators – on golf’s most hallowed turf, the first man to congratulate him was South African Glen Murray, in the caddies’ traditional white overall.
Murray could be forgiven for being just as emotional as his player in that moment, because he has been part of most of the deep valleys that eventually led to this dizzyingly high point.
In golf, more than most sports, the role of a caddie to a player can often be mistaken for something akin to that of slave and master.
The petulance of some of the game’s biggest names is abundantly clear, as they chuck clubs and swear at their bag-men, raging at their own loss of nerve in the crucial stages of competition.
The game’s most famous (or notorious) caddie is Steve Williams, the man who was at Tiger Woods’ side during their romp through the record books. Williams, as is his wont, eventually felt compelled to step out of his master’s considerable shadow, and become a name in his own right.
For years, he was New Zealand’s highest earning sportsman, as he raked in millions through his obligatory 10% cut.
For those cynics who still scoff at golf being considered a sport, that Kiwi label to a caddie must have been a particularly bitter pill to swallow. Williams later spilled the beans on his relationship with Tiger, describing how offish golf’s biggest star could be.
Garcia is no shrinking violet either, and that Spanish red rage has often descended over him on the back nine on any given Sunday. He has thrown and broken his fair share of clubs and fans’ hearts, as he became the longest running series of Bridesmaids in world sport.
Garcia almost had another of those meltdown moments on the 72nd hole at Augusta, when he missed a putt to win it all in regulation.
He gave Murray a sustained look, but there were no words. The next time they visited that green, Garcia didn’t make the same mistake.
In the week since that victory, Garcia has been mobbed by media requests, befitting the breakthrough victory.
Murray, meanwhile, packed away the history-making clubs, put away his Augusta overall for a year, and made his way home to Kloof, just up the road from Durban.
Yesterday, Murray went and joined the members at Kloof for some golf of his own.
After the round, he regaled those gathered around him about those tense, final hours down the stretch, and on the most remarkable weekend of his career.
Because, in truth, it is a career. Most of the world’s best caddies are very good players in their own right, and they are just as fit – if not fitter – than the superstars they tour the world with.
Murray earned more than any active South African sportsman last week, and he deserved every single penny. But, unlike Williams, he doesn’t covet the attention of the media, and is happy to stay in the background.
There is value in that fierce, silent loyalty, and you can be sure that the likes of Sergio Garcia appreciate that even more when they reflect on their glory days.
Garcia knows who put an eight-iron in his hand on the 15th hole, and he also knows who confirmed the line for his life-changing putt on the first playoff hole.
Glen Murray may be a footnote in the history books, but he is a headline in Garcia’s tale.
And, come to think of it, he is pretty big in Kloof, too.