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Caddie Joe LaCava A Significant Part Of Tiger Woods’ Success



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Whether or not you follow golf, chances are you’ve heard at least a bit about the success, failures, and return to the spotlight Tiger Woods has experienced.

From his ultra-successful professional golfing start to his career, through the years in which he went through a series of well-documented health setbacks and personal relationship problems — derailing his once seemingly picture-perfect life — to the return to glory with a win in this spring’s Masters, Woods has experienced a career and lifestyle with a lot of very high highs and low lows.

One man with a fair amount of insight on the life of Woods, mostly on the course but a bit off the greens and fairways as well, has strong ties to Newtown.

Joe LaCava, Woods’ caddie since 2012, graduated from Newtown High School, where he was a four-year golfer, back in 1982.

Through thick and thin, LaCava — now of Southbury — has stayed on board as Woods’ right-hand man.

“I never thought about abandoning ship,” LaCava said. “You can’t give up on somebody who’s struggling and down in the dumps.

“He came from a pretty bleak and dark spot where he wasn’t able to get out of bed for a while,” said LaCava, referring specifically to Woods’ back issues, which resulted in multiple surgeries.

The tandem missed most of the 2014-17 seasons with while everything was going on.

“It certainly was tough for those associated with him, and especially for him,” LaCava said of the overall downspin in Woods’ world during that time period.

“The first four years were great,” LaCava recalled.

Many thought Woods would not win a major tournament again. His relevance on the course went from front and center to nonexistent to apparently washed up… back to the top again.

The return to prominence in the golf world took many by surprise given how bad things were looking for Woods. LaCava saw Woods gradually yet quickly rounding back into form.

“You could see it building and building,” LaCava said of Woods’ improvement on the course in the months leading up to his win this April.

Yet he didn’t know if Woods had it in him to win the Masters.

“I didn’t think he had quite enough rounds in,” LaCava admitted.

LaCava said Woods was in good condition to do well from having spent less time competing in the months leading up to the Masters, and it paid off.

“He was very fresh all four days,” his caddie said.

“It’s hard to put into words and hard to explain. It didn’t really sink in until a few days later,” LaCava said of Woods winning the Masters. “We won a Major together, which is special. You can’t take that away from us.”

The years between competition were tough not only on Woods, but LaCava, too.

“Those days were kind of long,” said LaCava, adding that he felt guilty about not working.

“Tiger took good care of me while he was out. I’m fortunate to be in a spot where I am,” LaCava said.

A caddie is there to give tips and advice to a golfer, and LaCava did a little of this for the life problems Woods went through during the hiatus from golf. During Woods’ time away from the course, LaCava said he sent him text messages and let Woods know he was there to talk. They met a few times to discuss things during this stage of Woods’ life.

“You’ve got to do what you can for friends. Everybody has people with situations going on in their lives where you want to help out,” LaCava said.

“I consider him more of a friend now than a boss, even though he’s more of a boss,” LaCava added.

LaCava said he and Woods have some things in common that helped them bond. Both of their fathers served in the Army and died of cancer around the same age.

“We do talk about that a little bit because we both loved our dads tremendously,” LaCava said.

LaCava is 55, and Woods is 43. They both had children at about the same age in their lives.

The former Newtown golfer broke into the world of golf caddying in 1987 when he worked with his cousin and professional golfer, Ken Green. LaCava’s caddying career includes 20 years, beginning in 1990, with Fred Couples. During the early stages of his career as a caddie, LaCava met Woods multiple times. Woods asked him to be his caddie at the end of 2011.

Woods won 15 majors. For LaCava, this was his first with Woods, but his second overall, having also won a major with Couples.

Jack Nicklaus has won the most majors with 18. Woods may seem close with three to go, but he has a lot stacked against him between his age and the injuries he has endured, LaCava said. But Woods also has more PGA tour victories than Nicklaus, LaCava points out.

Woods has 81 PGA tour triumphs, just one behind Sam Snead’s record of 82.

LaCava’s role as caddie is to get to the course ahead of the golfer to provide a report on the lay of the land and distances at the course.

“Tiger likes to have a game plan before he starts,” LaCava said.

While on the course, during competition, LaCava offers suggestions as to which club to use, taking into account not only distance to the pin, terrain, and weather conditions, but also what he views as the mentality of the golfer at that time.

“He knows most of this, but he has a lot of things going on,” said LaCava, adding that Woods might be focused on his swing, for example, and appreciate the helpful reminders of what he is encountering from on the course without having to think about it.

LaCava has to gauge how Woods is feeling to know when to offer advice or not saying anything.

“I just have confidence in what I’m doing,” LaCava said when asked about what makes him the caddy he is. “I enjoy reading greens.”

“You’ve got to read the circumstances, the situation,” he said.

LaCava has seen some good and bad circumstances in the career and life of Woods and, as a friend, read when to try to be of help and when to steer clear. Things are looking up these days, he commented.

“There’s certainly a lot more light at the end of the tunnel,” LaCava said.

Joe LaCava, left, has worked as a caddie for Fred Couples and Tiger Woods during an extensive career.
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