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April 20, 1998
Local KnowledgeSubstitute caddie Joe Collins proved his mastery of the craft at Augusta
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April 20, 1998

News & Notes

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Local Knowledge
Substitute caddie Joe Collins proved his mastery of the craft at Augusta

Joe Collins is the dean of Augusta caddies, but his colleagues use a more exalted tide. "Joe is the Man," says another caddie. "When Michael Jordan plays here, he asks for Joe."

At the Masters, Colin Montgomerie summoned Collins. The Scotsman arrived looperless—his regular caddie was injured—and asked club officials for the best man in the yard. That's Collins, 45, who has worked the tournament for Jay Haas and Ed Sneed and carried Jim Jamieson to a third-place finish in 1973. He was at the caddie shack when a friend told him to stay put: He might get Montgomerie's bag. "I didn't dare move," Collins says. "To get his bag, somebody who can win, that pumps you up."

Montgomerie's usual caddie, Alistair McLean, had an ailing back. "I think he got it from carrying his wallet," joked Monty, whose �3,899,774 in European tour earnings since 1993 meant pounds aplenty for McLean. Collins proved himself during a practice round, then got the good news that he'd won a week's work with "Colin," whose name he pronounced with a long o.

One of eight brothers and sisters, Collins got his start in golf by picking up range balls at Augusta Country Club. "I learned to caddie there," he says of Augusta National's neighbor, "then graduated to here." Like other caddies, he gets to play the course once a year—"shot 77 one day," he says—but his vocation is lending a strong back and a sharp eye to members and visitors including Mario Andretti and presidential adviser Vernon Jordan as well as Michael Jordan, who carded "80 or 81 from the back tees" with his help, Collins says.

Last week he added 27 years' worth of local knowledge to Montgomerie's cause. Monty first asked for advice at the par-3 4th hole during Thursday's first round. " 'Straight up the hill,' I said," Collins recalls, "and he made it." At the 16th, studying a sweeping 40-footer with more than a yard of break, the caddie urged his man to play "even more break than it looks." Monty obeyed, and when the ball crept into the cup, he laughed out loud.

Montgomerie stayed in the hunt all week. He tied for eighth and won $89,500, of which Collins can expect 10%, quite a boost from his usual fee of $45 a round. "Joe did O.K.," the Troonsman said of his caddie-for-a-week. "He's a good lad, isn't he?"

Federal Case
Not Kissing Cousins

After Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club fell into ruin, developer Tom Cousins bought the place in 1994 and vowed to make it "a model" of urban renewal. Cousins spent $23 million of his own money to refurbish Bobby Jones's old home club. He led a public-private partnership that spent millions more rebuilding the East Lake Meadows housing project, an eyesore beside which the club resembled a misplaced emerald. The PGA Tour awarded this year's Tour Championship to East Lake, which will also host the 2001 U.S. Amateur.

On March 27 two caddies sued the club for job discrimination. Andy Portilla, who is Hispanic, and Richard Trent, who is black, say they were singled out for drug tests and unjustly fired. Trent calls his treatment at East Lake "total injustice. They didn't drug-test any white people." Portilla, who left a job as an assistant pro at Bent Pine Golf Club in Vero Beach, Fla., to work at East Lake, says minority caddies were paid less than whites, excluded from all-white staff meetings and kept from advancing in the club's training and scholarship programs. Fired in 1996 for what East Lake official Greg Giornelli calls "serious and repeated" offenses, Portilla filed a grievance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After rejecting what he calls an "insulting" $15,000 offer from East Lake to drop his complaint, he joined Trent in suing the club.

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