Willie McRae became a caddie at Pinehurst in 1943 when he was 10 years old, and he didn't stop working in the Carolina sandhills until 2017.
Over the course of nearly 75 years as a looper, he carried the bag for five US presidents, celebrities and all-time great athletes. And he also caddied for thousands of less-known people, including me in April 2011 at No. 2. He made everyone feel incredible, no matter who they were.
Sadly, Pinehurst Resort announced Sunday McRae died at the age of 85, less than a year after retiring from full-time caddying on property.
Even in the near year of his retirement, McRae continued to occasionally caddie for particular special guests.
McRae was not only a legendary caddie for his three-quarter-century tenure at Pinehurst, but he was also on the bag for the greats of the sport when they visited, including Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead. He was a caddie in the 1951 Ryder Cup at Pinehurst. McRae even caddied for Donald Ross on his own No. 2 masterpiece.
McRae was an accomplished player in his own right, winning Pinehurst's caddie tournament three times. As a serviceman in the US Army in the 1950s, he was stationed at Fort Dix, where he frequently teamed with Earl Woods to win two-man tournaments.
The sum of his golf life has landed McRae in three different halls of fame.
The family has become ingrained at Pinehurst, with McRae’s son, Paul, having been a lead instructor at the Pinehurst Golf Academy for more than 20 years. His grandson Darick caddies on No. 2 and has been at the resort as a caddie since 2001.