AUGUSTA, Ga. — Ben Crenshaw stood near No. 9 green following the Par 3 Contest and patted Carl Jackson on the lower back.
“We’ve experienced it all. We had great triumphs and our share of disasters, but we walked every step together,” Gentle Ben said. “This man right here isn’t just my caddie. He made me learn.”
Jackson, who caddied in a record 54 Masters Tournaments, said goodbye Wednesday to Augusta National Golf Club. Carl was first employed by the club as a 14-year-old and, now 76, says 2023 will be his last trip.
“This man is so respected here,” Crenshaw said of Jackson. “He has such a reputation.”
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Prior to winning in 2015, Jordan Spieth sought advice from Jackson. Last April, Scottie Scheffler did the same.
Crenshaw and Jackson played Wednesday’s event alongside Fred Couples and Mark O’Meara, while the trio snapped pictures at No. 4 tee box. Following a group photo, Couples and his wife, Suzanne Radcliffe, asked Carl for a photograph.
“I hope this isn’t it,” said Crenshaw, as he choked back emotions. “But if this is goodbye, I’m very thankful for the years that we had.”
Carl is leaving Augusta battered and bruised, battered from a car accident last Friday on his trek from Roland, Arkansas, to the Masters.
As Jackson neared Atlanta, his 2019 Toyota 4Runner rear-ended a pickup truck, causing Carl to crunch into the dashboard. The airbags deployed, and Jackson’s 6-foot-5-inch frame flew forward.
“God was in that car with me,” Jackson said.
The impact was braced by his right arm, which still won’t rise above his shoulder.
“I’ve made 50 trips from other states since leaving Augusta with Jack Stephens in 1973,” Jackson said. “Never had a flat tire, broken pipe, anything.”
Jackson, an Augusta native, is also leaving his hometown bruised because of the club’s decision not to grant him a tournament credential. To take part in the Par 3 Contest, Jackson had to gain entry via a ticket from Crenshaw.
“I don’t feel welcomed here,” Jackson said Monday evening. “It feels like they want me to go, so that’s what I’ll do.”
Jackson then reflected on his six decades inside the hallowed grounds.
“You know, they can’t take my memories,” he said. “It’s in my blood. The history. It’s in my blood.”
When asked about his choice accomplishment at Augusta National, Jackson shies from Crenshaw’s wins in 1984 and 1995, and focuses on the club’s annual Jamboree. Held each March, the member-member is Augusta National’s marquee event, where everybody is assigned a handicap.
The teams are grouped with one A and one B player.
“What I’m most proud of is Jack Stephens in 1961,” Jackson said. “He had just become a member, 29 handicap, and he put me on his bag. We went from a 29 to a 9 handicap. We learned golf together.”
Stephens, always the B player, won the event four times with Jackson on his bag. Stephens captured the event twice with Charles Coe, once with Bill Kerr and once with Hootie Johnson.
“His ball was low medal on all four wins,” Jackson said of Stephens. “He was the most feared 11 or 12 handicap at the club.”
But while Jackson fondly remembers the Jamboree, for most, his lasting image is 1995. The 18th green. Crenshaw sobbing in his arms.
Following the final stroke that year, Jackson and Crenshaw went their separate ways. Ben to Butler Cabin, Carl to the caddie house. Late that evening, Ben returned to the clubhouse with his wife, Julie, older brother, Charlie, and country music singers Larry and Steve Gatlin. Larry had forgotten to pack a tie and had to find a loaner from the club to gain entry. Glasses of Batard Montrachet flowed, and the meal began with beef consommé and Caesar salads. It ended with prime New York strip.
Jackson wasn’t allowed at the table but he didn’t leave Augusta National. The caddie sat on a white bench near the front of the clubhouse.
“The chef brought me a plate of what they had made for Ben,” Carl said. “I sat on the bench and ate the best steak of my life.”
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