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Walk of a lifetime: Atlanta lawyer turns into caddie at Masters
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Walk of a lifetime: Atlanta lawyer turns into caddie at Masters

Walk of a lifetime: Atlanta lawyer turns into caddie at Masters
Photo Credit: Curtis Compton
Gunn Yang waits to hit on the #15 fairway, with his caddie, Richard Grice.Photos from the first round at the Masters Golf Tournament, Thursday, April 9, 2015. CURTIS COMPTON/CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Walk of a lifetime: Atlanta lawyer turns into caddie at Masters

On any normal Thursday morning Richard Grice would be dealing with the boring minutiae of corporate law in Atlanta.

"I'm not a litigator," said Grice, 56. "I negotiate contracts. It's a lot of I's dotted and T's crossed."

But this week Grice is on vacation. He's at the Masters. Ok it's not hard to find middle-aged lawyers around Augusta National. But Grice has a little bit better vantage point than everyone else with their $70 Masters shirt and $30 hat.

He is inside the ropes. The only people allowed to do that here are players, caddies, officials and a TV cameraman.

You can find Grice wearing the famous white coveralls of a Masters caddie.

"It's pretty amazing out there," he said. "It's a lot better than practicing law, that's for sure."

To get to this point Grice caught the break of a lifetime.

He is a member at Atlanta Athletic club. So when the Johns Creek course was selected to host last year's U.S. Amateur Championship, Grice wanted to help.

"I'm on the board here so I've helped with other tournaments in the past," said Grice. "But this time I wanted something a little more interactive."

So he asked if he could caddie. After all he did have experience, toting the bags for his young daughter and son who play competitively.  

Amateur golfers aren't like the pros. They don't always come equipped with someone to hold the bag. In college tournaments they are usually on their own. But with something as important as the U.S. Amateur -- with a trip to the Masters at stake -- a good caddy is crucial.

Gunn Yang did not have anyone to work with when arrived in Georgia from San Diego State University.

Yang was a total unknown, which isn't hard for a college golfer. But even in the small world of amateur golf, Yang was hiding back in the weeds.

He was the 792th ranked amateur in the world. There aren't many "rankings" of anything that go down that far.

But Yang made it into the field of America's oldest golf national championship. He needed a caddie and Grice needed work.

"We were paired up randomly," says Grice.

Some things evidently are meant to be.

The two clicked very quickly, but before the tournament started they had to sort out the details of a caddie fee. Even amateurs have to tip the man working for him.

"After the first practice round he felt bad because he forgot to offer to pay me," says Grice. "I said 'Gunn you don't have to pay me I'm not doing this for the money. I love golf. But I tell you what, if we win it all I get to caddie for you at the Masters."

"I was like 'yeah, why not?'" said Yang. "I'll take you to the Masters and it worked out pretty well."

That's called an understatement.

Yang and Grice caught fire that week last summer and Yang became one of the unlikeliest champions in the history of the tournament.

His invitation to the Masters was in the mail and his agreement with Grice was honored.

"We've been really good friends ever since," says Yang. "He caddied for me again at the Georgia Cup and we won again. So we are undefeated in the state of Georgia. So we will see how it goes."

But this is no Georgia Cup. This takes some effort.

"This is no fooling around," says the caddie. "This is a lot of hard work and a lot of intensity."

A caddie's job is three-fold. First, hold the bag. The only qualifications you need for that is a strong enough back a little bit of endurance.

Second is mapmaker. The caddie most crucial calculation is figuring out how far the player is from the hole.

"The minute he tees off I'm at the yardage book estimating where the ball is, what sprinkler head we are near (sprinkler heads are used as distance markers), how far the flag is from the hole," says Grice.

Then there's the role of the confidant. Golf isn't an easy game. But it would be a lot easier if you didn't have the head getting in the way.

"We share the same intensity for the game," says Grice. "But I feel like I'm a calming influence something when things aren't going well."

It doesn't hurt that Grice has actually played Augusta National a handful of times. But the golf course he players and the golf course Yang is playing are totally different, even if it's the same 18 holes.

"You've got to hit your shot to the right portion of the green," says Grice. " These players have to have the exact distance and execute on that. Us handicappers just hit to the middle and hope.  That's great to shoot 85. You can't do that and shoot 70."

And throw one more wrinkle in the mix.

As is tradition, the amateur champion is paired with the defending Masters champion the first two days of the tournament.

Bring on Bubba Watson.

"Playing with the big boys, let's go. It will be a great ride," says Grice.

So someone will notice.

"I love galleries when they are following me," says Yang. "It's better than no one watching me play golf so I love it."

Yang's hopes to win low amateur. There are seven out here, so that's reasonable. There is also a trophy that comes with it.

But for both player and caddie, nothing can ruin this week.

"It's been a blast," says Grice. "Better than the typical day job, that's for sure."

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