Interview with Greg Rita

 

Interview with PGA TOUR Caddie Greg Rita

 

June 2009

 

 

About Greg Rita

 

Greg Rita

Greg Rita grew up in Whethersfield, Connecticut and has been a PGA TOUR caddie for almost 40 years. A few of the golfers he has caddied for include major championship winners Curtis Strange, John Daly, Mark O'Meara and David Duval, and he caddied for J.L. Lewis for about a year and a half. Greg is one of the most successful caddies on the PGA TOUR, with a wealth of knowledge and experience that is indispensable for a golfer. Greg was diagnosed with brain cancer in the fall of 2007. He has had an amazing recovery and hopes to be caddying again soon for Scott Hoch on the Champions Tour. Greg and his wife Kelley have a four year old son, Nicolas. To follow along with Greg's recovery visit the Caring Bridge website.

 

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your experience as a PGA TOUR caddie.

 

I’ve been caddying for quite a long time, since the late 1970’s.  I have really enjoyed it.  I love the game. Caddying has grown and changed so much. It started out as a traveling vacation and has turned into a very big business.

 

Q: What are some of the notable tournaments and skins games you have won as a caddie on the PGA TOUR?

 

Skins games are exciting because you only need to beat three people to win. I’ve been lucky enough to have had winning skins games with Curtis Strange in 1989 and 1990 in Palm Springs over Thanksgiving.  Curtis Strange and I also beat John Daly and Jack Nicklaus in 1991.    I also won a skins game with Mark O’meara in 1995, and I've caddied in skins games for Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam.

 

I have caddied in golf tournaments all around the world.  I’ve been to Australia eight times.  I’ve been to Japan, Korea and throughout Europe multiple times.  I’ve caddied 22 straight Masters tournaments, from 1983 to 2005, and 24 straight British Opens.  I was lucky enough to have the winner, John Daly, at the British Open at St. Andrews in 1995.  I caddied for Curtis Strange at the U.S. Open in 1978 and 1988.  It was pretty exciting winning back to back in the 50’s with Curtis.  In total I think I’ve won about 18 or 20 PGA TOUR events while caddying. 

 

Q: Why do you think you've had so much success throughout the years?

 

Well, I believe in my abilities and I am not afraid to speak up when I feel it is appropriate.  I think a good caddie is someone who speaks his mind when he feels he is right.  In other words, I think it is important for a caddie to speak up to the best of his ability even if he thinks his player might be wrong.  I think J.L. might attest to that.  I don’t think he would want a caddie who kept quiet if the caddie had valuable knowledge to share.  I think that’s why J.L. and I got along so well because whenever I felt like it, I spoke my mind.  I enjoyed working for J.L. He’s a great ball striker. If neither of us had had health problems I think we could have won some tournaments, no doubt. 

 

Q: How do you handle a situation when your player feels like he/she is under pressure?  What have you found is the most helpful thing to do or say in this situation?

 

If the player, while walking up to the last hole, says, 'Geez, I’m nervous,' maybe there is something that the caddie can say to the player to loosen him up like, 'You’ve done this before, lets finish it off,' or just a simple reminder, 'Take a drink of water.'  J.L. has won the 84 Lumber and the John Deere Classic.  In a pressure situation I would say to him, 'Believe in yourself.  You’ve done this before.'

 

You have to know what to say and when to say it.  If the player is insistent that they are right about a certain shot or club selection, then the caddie should not “rock the boat.”  In other words, the golfer is the one who is hitting the shot and I think the best thing a caddie can do is to point out some things and bring up the points the golfer is making and that’s about as far as a caddie should go.  If the caddie has a point to make about a certain shot then it is okay to bring it up, but he/she should be careful with their word choice.  It’s almost like being in a relationship.  If you really care about each other then you can be okay with bringing it up at another time.  Sleep on it.  There’s no sense in crying over spilled milk sometimes.  And it’s almost like going on a cruise ship, where the cabins are awfully small – so why rock the boat when you’re in an awful small cabin?  Take a breath.  That’s the best thing I can think of.  If the player and caddie are in disagreement, the short term solution would be to say, 'I think it’s best that we agree to disagree,' because you don’t want to lose respect for each other and you don’t want to say something that you might regret.

 

Q: For a golfer, what is the most important quality to look for when choosing a caddie?

 

I would say the most important qualities to look for when choosing a caddie is trustworthiness and reliability.  In other words, if you have $500 in your wallet at the start of a round then you know there will be $500 at the end of the round without having to count the wallet.  Or, choose someone whom you could ask to drive your prize car across the country and trust that they will only use your credit card for gas along the way.  This is all kind of common sense.  My parents raised me to be honest and trustworthy and you know I’ve never been in any trouble. You do things the right way in life.  I’ve always felt that I’ve gotten great jobs on tour caddying through having a good reputation.  I’ve gotten good caddie jobs which has led to good everything.  Good things have come my way.  I’ve been caddying all my life.  I’ve always said that you make your own breaks in life.  People say, “Why not me?” Attitude is important.  When people do nice things for you, you should appreciate and not expect things.  Never expect things, and thank people.  That’s the right way to go about things. 

 

Q: You have had many experiences as a PGA TOUR caddie.  What are some important aspects of the caddie/golfer relationship that may not be apparent to the everyday follower of golf?

 

I would say what’s important is to try and be confident in each other.  When it’s “crunch time” on the 18th hole and there is a shot over water and there’s either a five iron or a six iron and neither one of you is sure, someone has to be able to make the call.  Either the player or the caddie should be able to step up with confidence and wholeheartedly make the call.  Or if it’s reading a putt on the last whole, whether it’s straight or it’s left edge, somebody ought to have confidence in where the ball should be played.   

 

Q: You’ve had a rough go physically the last few years with your fight against brain cancer.  Are there any gifts that have come out of this journey?

 

Yes, that I am still live.  I was only supposed to live 6 to 9 months.  I could have died immediately and I’ve made it a year and a half.  It is very serious.  I am living with a very serious brain cancer – stage 4.  Although they have removed the brain tumor it will always be stage 4.  I’m fortunate that there is not a recurrence of tumors.  That is a surprise by now after a year and a half.  All I can do is hope. 

 

 

J.L. Lewis on his experience with Greg: "Greg is an outstanding individual along with being a great caddie. He is an all-around fine role model for people and it was a pleasure to work with him on the PGA TOUR. Hopefully we can work together again in the near future."