This was the third National Championship I’ve caddied in for big Jon. Including the 2009 US Senior Open and the 2012 Phoenix Open, we’ve teamed up in some serious golf tournaments. I’ve know Jon for over ten years now, both on and off the golf course I am proud to call him a good friend. I know a lot of people that havn’t warmed up to the big guy and assume one thing or another. I’ll be very frank, he’s not a warm and fuzzy guy but at the same time he is not fake. Rub him the wrong way and he’ll see right through you but get to know him and you realize something, he is great.
First of all, Mr. Stanley is a great ball striker. I think in his younger years he had some battles off the golf course that affected his mental self confidence (purely speculation, as we don’t speak of bad times). I’m not sure Jon ever has completely believed in his greatness but I do. At 54 years of age, he hits it better than most guys I know (a lot are half his age).
Second, Jon is a great ambassador of the game and of Arizona. This conflicts with things I’ve heard people say about him (you don’t know him). Every event I either played with or caddied for, he is gracious. He is friendly to other players, praises volunteers and never hesitates to take time with young spectators. When we were at the US Senior Open, in the final practice round his ball was wide right of a green and there was a young man standing there with his dad. Jon asked the kid (maybe 12 years old), “what club should I hit?” The kid answered,” I don’t know, maybe a 9 iron,” Jon, “show me how,” and handed the kid the club. The youngster hit a shot over the green and then Jon took out a wedge and showed him how to hit it (remember we are practicing at a Major Championship). He created a memory for this little guy. I can tell countless stories like this one that show his love of the game and graciousness for what it has done for him.
Last week was a tough one and something new happened. I saw the big guy play hurt. In the time I’ve known Jon I’ve never seen him hurt. Perplexing because he is 54 years old and a lot of the big events have been after 50. Then I realized something, he has been hurt before. He never uses it as an excuse or crutch for playing bad or even complained, I have. I’ll spare you the details of the rounds but with 9 holes to play in our second round Jon could hardly tee up the ball, his back was injured bad. After losing a ball and hitting another into the shit on the next hole, Jon made back to back double bogies and I was sure he was cashed out. Jon reached down deep and endured serious pain, birding 4 out of the last 5 holes, pure Professional pride. We ended up missing the cut by two strokes. I remember someone saying, “if you made it, you wouldn’t been able to play.” Jon gave me a look and I knew what it meant, “I would have found a way.” In that moment I relearned an old lesson. When you start something, you finish it, no matter the obsticle. Jon kept repeating a swing thought as we went and I think it’s applicable to mostly everything, “Let’s go face the next shot, no matter what it is, we’ll just face it…”