By TODD MILLES
Tiger Woods’ incredible victory at the Masters Tournament on Sunday will surely go down as one of golf’s most historic moments.
And right in the middle of the final-hole craziness at famed Augusta National Golf Club stood a former Washington high school golfer from Life Christian Academy.
Gregory Bodine is PGA Tour golfer Tony Finau’s caddie. The two have been a team for 12 major championships since 2014-15, including Sunday when they were in the same final group as Woods and Italy’s Francesco Molinari, the overnight leader.
They started the day as serious contenders for the Masters title. But when the round ended, all they could do was stand back and watch Woods collect his 15th career major title after an 11-year drought.
What made the victory all the more remarkable was during that dry spell, Woods had endured – and overcome – a string of turbulent personal issues, including a marriage-ending cheating scandal and drug-related scandal, as well as a career-threatening back injury.
“One of the most historic rounds ever in golf,” Bodine said.
Bodine has a vast knowledge of the sport: He played two seasons at Life Christian Academy, and was a teammate of cousin Andrew Putnam, who is now on the PGA Tour.
He went on to Biola University, a small private school in California, in 2007, and helped start up a men’s golf program there.
After he graduated, Bodine caddied briefly for Putnam before joining Finau during the Utah native’s rookie season on the PGA Tour in 2014-15.
Finau has made a steady climb to stardom, and made the U.S. squad for last year’s Ryder Cup in France.
And on Sunday, Finau found himself two strokes off Molinari’s lead heading into the final round of the Masters.
Weather concerns forced tournament officials to move up tee times for the final round, which meant a quick turnaround for Bodine and Finau from their early-evening finish Saturday.
“(My parents and I) had a quick dinner and were back by 9 p.m. I fell asleep around 11 – and the alarm was set for 6 a.m.,” Bodine said.
By the final 9:30 a.m. tee time Sunday, it seemed as if the whole town of Augusta, Georgia had gathered around the first hole to watch Woods.
“The Ryder Cup atmosphere, especially at the first tee, is tough to beat, and my inner being was probably more shocked there,” Bodine said. “At the same time, (Masters Sunday with Woods) was very overwhelming.”
True to the nature of being a caddie, Bodine said he watched very little of Woods’ shotmaking. He had his own guy to bring home.
“It’s a weird dynamic because I am a huge Tiger man, but in that situation, I cannot be engaged in what he is doing,” Bodine said. “We had a great chance to win a major.”
Bodine called what unfolded at the 12th tee a “really weird 3-4 minutes.”
Molinari lost his lead when he dumped his tee shot to the par 3 into Rae’s Creek in front of the green.
“We (Woods and Finau) both had the gates thrust wide open, and had a chance to win the event,” Bodine said.
Woods played safely by playing away from the pin, and hit his golf ball on the green. Finau was not so lucky – his high-arcing tee shot aimed right at the hole also found a watery grave.
That sequence gave Woods the opportunity to grab a share of the lead – something he eventually built to two shots coming up the final hole.
“On the green, I think Tony and I let ourselves think about the moment, and observe what was going on,” Bodine said.
After Woods tapped in a short bogey putt to win the Masters, he gave a subtle fist pump before raising his arms in jubilation.
Eventually, Woods made his way over to Finau for post-round congratulations on the green – then briefly to Bodine.
“I told him I was proud of him,” Bodine said. “You could see relief from all the years of struggle – things that would have taken so many others out of the game. He was so fired up. It was pretty cool. It was perfect.
“It’s the biggest moment I will ever be involved with in golf.”