Walking the Fairways with Fowler
April 21, 2011
By Laury Livsey, PGA TOUR Staff
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C.—Reminders of why Caddy For A Cure exists were everywhere Wednesday at Harbour Town Golf Links.
There was Rickie Fowler, resplendent in purple shirt and hat with white slacks, walking down the fairway with both of his caddies. His regular guy, Joe Skovron, was there, not a bib or bag in sight, while Jason Roberts was the one wearing the caddie bib and toting the bag during The Heritage’s pro-am. Roberts, a U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt., walked the fairways with the help of a prosthetic limb after he lost his left leg in a firefight in Afghanistan a little less than two years ago, and Fowler was more than glad to oblige.
Happily walking behind the golfer and the caddies were brothers Christian and Calen Collins of Macon, Ga. Both Christian, 17, and Calen, 12, are right around 3-feet tall, and both have Fanconi anemia, a recessive disorder that leads to bone marrow failure, among other serious issues.
It was a very happy fivesome, with Fowler the chief ringleader, joking and talking with Roberts, asking question after question about what he does as a soldier with the 2nd Marines Special Operations Command based at Camp LaJeune in North Carolina. Yes, despite his disability, Roberts is still active-duty.
The conversation would stop long enough for Roberts to give Fowler his yardage, the pro would pull a club and then hit his shot. With the ball safely on the green, Fowler and Roberts would pick right back up, talking about life in the Marines, including the Afghanistan battle that killed two and injured Roberts and three other soldiers.
“I had a lot of fun today. Talking to Jason about what he does now and what he did in Afghanistan was really cool,” Fowler said. “I was glad to participate.”
Roberts reciprocated those feelings. “Rickie’s been really cool. He’s easy to talk to, and Joe has been helpful telling me what to expect as a caddie,” Roberts said.
Meanwhile, Christian and Calen knew exactly what they were doing. This wasn’t their first pro-am. At other PGA TOUR events, they’ve spent time on the golf course with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus, Padraig Harrington, Jim Furyk, Trevor Immelman and Pete Dye, among others.
On a hot, humid day here, while waiting for other pro-am participants to hit their shots, Christian and Calen walked along, occasionally strolling toward the gallery ropes. Fans would ask to take their pictures, and they obliged. They would chat with the gallery members and pass out their business cards, which signified their positions as Caddy For A Cure’s “National Spokesperson” (Christian) and “National Diplomat” (Calen). They even passed out Sharpie markers with their names on the pens to a fortunate few.
It was not your ordinary pro-am round, and Fowler agreed. “I’ve always enjoyed being around kids,” he said. “I know Christian and Calen look at life in a completely different way than I do, but they’re still out here smiling and having fun.”
Wouldn’t you, especially if Rickie Fowler, the 34th-ranked player in the world, leans down on his final pro-am hole of the day and asks, “What’s your favorite color?”
The Collins’ boys both answered “blue,” and Fowler said, “I’m going to sign some autographs after I’m done playing. But meet me by the putting green, and we’ll go get some blue stuff.” He’s a little vague about what the “stuff” could be but added, “They might be a little big, but that’s OK.”
True to his word, Fowler walked to the line of people surrounding Harbour Town’s ninth green who were waiting for an autograph, and Roberts and Team Collins headed toward the practice putting green. Russ Holden, founder of Caddy For A Cure, was left to sum up the day.
Holden, a long-time PGA TOUR caddie and the organization’s founder, said a different PGA TOUR or LPGA golfer has participated in this unique caddie-pro-am program “230-something times, but I’m not really sure of the exact number.”
What he is sure of is that all the money generated by Caddy For A Cure is distributed equally among five different entities: The Fanconi Anemia Research Fund, Birdies for the Brave, the PGA TOUR Caddy Assistance Fund, the PGA TOUR’s host tournament charity and the participating player’s charity of choice.
Twenty minutes later, Roberts and the two Collins boys have reunited with Fowler. The foursome is passing through the Harbour Town parking lot. For Roberts, what’s another 50 yards after walking 18 holes while carrying a 40-pound golf bag? “I feel great. Yeah, there’s pain, but there’s always going to be a little pain,” he said, admitting that he’ll take a few aches and pains in exchange for the caddie experience.
In the players’ parking area, Fowler walked toward his courtesy car, hit the remote and watched as the hatchback of his car opened to reveal a large, black trunk. “This is my secret stash,” Fowler said while removing the lid. The contents of the trunk looked like a Jackson Pollock painting. There was a pair of green golf shoes on top, sitting among dozens and dozens of Rickie Fowler-style hats, every color imaginable.
“Blue, right?” he asked, reaching in and pulling out a royal blue hat for Calen and a light blue one for Christian. “You can’t have identical-color hats,” Fowler said matter-of-factly, and the boys didn’t disagree.
True to Fowler’s word, the hats were too big. But the boys put them on anyway, not exactly minding, and a threesome, two boys and a soldier, walked back toward the clubhouse fairly beaming.
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