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Bruce Almighty

A review of John Feinstein's "Caddy For Life: The Bruce Edwards Story."

12:00 AM, Jul 14, 2004 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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In 1973, while looking for work at a country club in St. Louis, Edwards first met Tom Watson, a recent Stanford graduate and an up-and-coming golfer. "Okay, we'll try it for a week and see what happens," was Watson's response, thus beginning a long journey lasting some three decades and including five British Opens and a win at the Masters. But most memorable was his 1982 victory at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Feinstein gives a thrilling account of how it unfolded on that final Sunday: Watson was locked in a head-to-head battle with Jack Nicklaus, when, on the ominous 17th hole, Watson put his ball into the weeds, left of the green. The problem was the distance: 18 feet from the flagstick. Writes Feinstein, "The ball would come out of the high grass hot (moving fast), and getting it to stop quickly once it hit the green would be almost impossible." Trying to be the optimist, Edwards said, "Come on, Tom, get it close," to which Watson responded, "Close? Hell, I'm gonna knock it in." He did.

The moment was captured on television, Watson pointing at Edwards and yelling, "I told you! I told you I was gonna make it!" (Nicklaus, having watched the shot inside the scorer's tent, calmly remarked, "Just another tap-in for Tom.") Watson then went on to birdie the 18th and win, in Feinstein's words, "one of the most extraordinary finishes in the history of the U.S. Open."

BUT CADDY FOR LIFE is also a deeply personal reflection of Bruce Edwards's life, including its share of tragedies, such as his first marriage, which ended in 2000 when his then-wife suffered a breakdown and burned down the house, making especially sure his golf memorabilia would be the first to be immolated. As for his souvenir 18th hole flag from the 1982 U.S. Open, says Edwards, "[my wife] had smashed the frame, pulled it out, and set it on fire in the kitchen sink. All that was left was the three ringholders that held the flag in place." Edwards took pity on her, thought of her family, and simply asked for probation and a restraining order.

In 2002, another woman returned to his life, Marsha Cummins Moore. She and Edwards had dated 20 years earlier but went their separate ways. Moore was also divorced, but determined to set things right with the man she had been in love with all along, and on New Year's Eve, they got engaged.

Two weeks later, at the Mayo clinic in Minnesota, Edwards was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He was given between one and three years to live.

FOR SOME TIME, Edwards had been slurring his speech (so much so he was refused service by a bartender who thought he was plastered). He also found himself unable to grasp a golf ball, noticing a growing cleft between his thumb and index finger. He was losing weight during the off-season. It was Watson who urged Edwards to go to the Mayo clinic to see his doctor, and when he learned his caddy had no medical insurance, arranged to pay for the care himself.

Knowing that Edwards's days were numbered, both he and Watson entered the 2003 tour on emotional overload. Both were aware that each passing tournament could be their last together. Crowds surrounded them, cheering them on, hoping for just one more win, especially after a glorious first round at the U.S. Open. Feinstein recounts those final months in unflinching and powerful detail.

But in this tragedy there is courage and inspiration. Both Edwards and Watson became crusaders for ALS research. Scholarships and fundraisers were established in Edwards's honor. And rather than waiting for the disease to get the best of him, Edwards defied it every step of the way, caddying for Watson through most of the year, walking when he could, driving a cart when necessary.

It is fitting that Edwards's fellow ALS sufferer was Lou Gehrig, a man who also fought courageously and shared a similar view on life. In 1939, before 62,000 fans at Yankee Stadium, Gehrig called himself "the luckiest man on the face of this earth. . . . I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for."

Bruce Edwards would agree.

Victorino Matus is an assistant managing editor at The Weekly Standard.