Just three years ago Jordan Spieth’s caddy went to the Masters for the first time after winning a lottery ticket to the tournament while he worked as a sixth grade school teacher.
Michael Greller carried a beer and not a golf bag that day as he watched Irish golfer Rory McIlroy negotiate Augusta National. Never in his imagination did he think that one day in the not too distant future would he carry the bag of the 2015 Masters champion.
How Greller got to Augusta National last Sunday was a random set of circumstances, which took him from looping occasionally for amateur golfers at a local club to being the chief field general and confidante to perhaps the King of Golf for decades to come.
The former teacher’s journey started while watching amateur golfer Matt Savage shouldering his own clubs and struggling in the first round of the 2006 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. Greller sort him out, offered to caddy for him free of charge, and Savage agreed.
“We offered to pay him and he refused,” recounted Savage, now assistant golf coach at Florida State. “He just enjoyed being part of the event.”
From there, Savage referred Greller to another amateur golfer, Justin Thomas, who in turn referred him to a seventeen year-old kid who needed a caddie for the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur. The tournament venue happened to be the Gold Mountain Golf Club, one in which Greller was very familliar. The seventeen-year-old kid happened to be Jordan Spieth.
Spieth won the tournament and Greller still hauls his bag. The Wall Street Journal points out that Spieth treasures the chemistry with his caddy and that Greller walking by his side has “ranked as one of the bigger upsets in pro caddying.”
“It’s rare,” said Mike Kerr, caddy for 2103 Masters champion Adam Scott. “You have to be really lucky to get into that position. But the way they work together, it looks like he’s been doing it a long time.”
It appears that loyalty for Spieth is a key component for his success. The 21-year-old phenom has kept his same swing coach since he was 12. According to a Golf.com interview with Cameron McCormick, Jordan’s father Shawn Spieth approached him and asked if he could help his son.
McCormick said that he was first amazed by Jordan after setting up difficult golf shots for the preteen and watched him hole down-hill flop shots. The second time I was amazed when the 12-year-old Jordan told him he had just shot 62 in an event.
Significanly, the Journal contrasts Spieth’s decision to keep Greller with Tiger Woods’s early years, when he employed Mike “Fluff” Cowan. Fluff had over twenty years of professional caddying before becoming Tiger’s right hand man and was known for his keen knowledge of Augusta Naional.
“There were a lot of people who wanted to caddie for Jordan,” Spieth’s agent, Jay Danzi, asserted. But, Spieth was comfortable with Greller. The caddy and his wife travel with him, wherever and whenever, effectively forcing Greller to jettison his teaching career.
Greller now reportedly earns $375,000 a year, about five times what he earned as a teacher back in Seattle.
“There are thousands of guys who could probably caddie for Jordan,” Greller admits. “But if I thought about that, I’d drive myself crazy.”