On the Monday morning after the 139th British Open, Zack Rasego was celebrating his man winning a Claret Jug. Had things been a little different, he could have been searching for a new bag.
For seven years, Rasego has worked for fellow South African Louis Oosthuizen, who had enjoyed enough success to hover around the top 50 in the world ranking. But on Monday prior to the start of this year’s Open Championship, Oosthuizen told Rasego that two would part ways after St. Andrews.
“I just did my job,” Rasego said. “I am a caddie. It’s all I’ve wanted to be.”
Six days later, Oosthuizen and Rasego walked across the Swilcan Bridge, knowing the Claret Jug would be at the end of the walk. Proud South Africans the both of them, Oosthuizen looked at Rasego and said, “You’re not going anywhere.”
As The Man Out Front scanned the crowd behind the Royal & Ancient clubhouse, he spotted a group of gentlemen who seemed to love the moment as much as anyone else. Some fought back tears, all of them smiled.
They are caddies. And on this day, they were together in arms to toast a colleague they love dearly.
“This,” said Jimmy Johnson, Steve Stricker’s longtime bagman, “is a caddie’s story.”
Johnson calls Rasego “Zero My Hero” for the number (0) Rasego wore during his days on the soccer pitch.
Rasego hadn’t made a putt, avoided a bunker with his drive, or carved a single 4-iron into the wind at the Old Course. What he had done, however, was build an allegiance of friends through that time-honored foundation of loyalty and trust.
“Besides the day I got married,” Johnson told caddie friends Tony Navarro and Brian Smith, “this is the happiest day of my life.”
That is how much these caddies think of Rasego.
In Sun City, South Africa, Rasego would return home after elementary school, drop off his books, and then run 9 miles to get a chance to caddie at the Gary Player Country Club.
“I would get 350,” Rasego said.
Leaning in, Johnson told The Man Out Front, “that’s $3.50.”
Before he became one of the game’s best caddies, Johnson played professionally in South Africa. On those occasions when exempt players would go to Europe, Johnson would upgrade by hiring Rasego. Their friendship has endured for 25 years and on those occasions when Oosthuizen plays in the United States, “it’s Jimmy who looks after Zack,” said Navarro.
The 139th Open will be remembered as a player’s win, yes.
But it was a caddie’s story, too.