Ben Crenshaw walked up the hill at the 18th hole on Friday with no concerns that his score would not provide him another weekend at Augusta National. Instead, the two-time Masters champion strolled up with a smile. Dressed in tan pants and an orange shirt, Crenshaw had his cap raised to the crowd. Alongside was his caddie, dressed in the traditional white coveralls with a green Masters hat and the number 32 on his chest.
The number is not significant, but the man walking with Crenshaw has been by Gentle Ben’s side for the past 35 years, including his two Masters victories in 1984 and 1995. And while Crenshaw’s record around The National is special, it pales to that of his Augusta caddie, Carl Jackson, who was celebrating his 50th year caddieing at the Masters.
With the wind blowing his pant legs, Crenshaw made what could be his last putt as a competitor in the Masters. As the relatively straight 8-foot birdie putt hit the bottom of the cup, Crenshaw smiled and the two — player and caddie — walked up the green to the scoring hut, the 5-foot-9-inch Crenshaw with his hand on the shoulder of the 6-5 Jackson.
“The people were so gracious today and so sweet to Carl,” Crenshaw said. “They’re so heartfelt. They’re seeing something that’s not going to happen again. He’s a huge part of this place.”
Jackson no longer works at Augusta National; instead, he lives in Arkansas and is in charge of a caddie program at Alotian Club in Roland.
“This is one of the toughest little guys you have ever seen,” Jackson said of Crenshaw. “You can call him a little guy, but he’s got a great big heart. And he’s proved it time and again.”
Crenshaw and Jackson clearly have a lot of respect for each other, but the end is coming if not this year, maybe the next.
On Thursday night, many of Crenshaw and Jackson’s friends got together to honor the duo, and as you would expect, Crenshaw was emotional.
“I take life a day at a time,” Jackson said when asked about if he would caddie again. “I just cannot look that far ahead. I just take it one day at a time.”
At 59, Crenshaw may return to Augusta National next April for the Champions Dinner and the Par 3 Contest, but likely will not be in the field again.
“I’m just going to think about it,” Crenshaw said of his retirement from the Masters as a competitor. “It’s coming up soon. I’ll just do some thinking and make my own decision.”