To the best of my knowledge, Jordan Spieth’s caddie Michael Greller politely declined to speak with the media on Sunday following their disappointing loss at the Masters. Well, two days removed from the heartbreaking finish, Greller opened up on Facebook and shared some fantastic insight on the journey that he’s been on with the two-time major champion from when he first met him through Justin Thomas (aka, “Spieth’s good friend”) in 2011.
I asked Michael if I could share what he wrote with you guys, as I think it provides perspective and reaffirms the strong character that Spieth appears to demonstrate on and off the golf course, and he graciously gave me the go-ahead. We could all learn something from both Spieth and Greller.
Here you go. Enjoy.
A Friday afternoon at the 2011 U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills served as foreshadowing for a scene I’ve witnessed unfold a handful of times now. I remember it vividly and learned so much about myself and then 17-year-old, Jordan Spieth. We had just met a few weeks earlier at the U.S. Jr. Amateur, where he won the title for a second time. Our paths crossed again at Erin Hills, at the most important amateur golf tourney of the year. I was fortunate enough to caddie for Justin Thomas in three of these, including Erin Hills. Justin played incredible in the stroke play qualifying and made it into the second round, no small feat. It was there that an Englishman named Jack Senior beat Justin and thus also ended my weeklong fairytale from teaching sixth grade. I was bitter, angry and every bit not a role model for how to lose.
Jordan, with his dad Shawn on the bag, had continued to advance at that U.S. Amateur and so I decided to stick around and follow them. Lo and behold, he advanced all the way to the quarterfinals where he met none other than Jack Senior. My emotions were running high and I wanted nothing more than for Jordan to pummel Jack. Jack built a huge lead at the turn and had Jordan on the ropes. I seethed and mumbled things under my breath, acting every bit like a sore loser. But Jordan battled back and eventually squared up the match heading into the par 5, 18th. Jordan was one hole and one more match from punching his ticket to The Masters. I grew sick to my stomach as Jordan made bogey on the last hole. Jack had two putts to advance to the semifinals and continue on in the biggest stage of amateur golf. Jack lagged the putt to about two and half feet.
What happened next and later that night shocked me. Jordan took off his hat and said, “That’s good”. He walked over to Jack, looked him square in the eyes and shook his hand like a gentlemen. Rather than run to the locker room and escape the scene, he stuck around and thanked his friends who had followed him. This kid who I had just met weeks earlier then invited me to join him and his dad for dinner. We laughed and shared stories late into the night from the U.S. Jr. Amateur as well as the U.S Amateur. He never once said a bad word about Jack. There was no panic, anger or sadness. Jordan didn’t want sympathy after that U.S. Amateur loss. His self-belief and character never wavered.
A couple weeks later Jordan defeated Jack in singles at the Walker Cup. Jack went on to describe Jordan saying, “He is just such a talent. He possesses so much talent and then just doesn’t fear anything. But he is just such a nice and down to earth guy. I know for a fact if I qualify for The Open and see him there then he will come over and speak to me. That’s the kind of person he is. When we won the Walker Cup he was one of the guys out celebrating with us, he is a class act.”
I’ve been fortunate enough to ride shotgun with Jordan for every step of his PGA Tour career. What a journey he has taken me, my wife, his family and friends on. Not even five years after that Erin Hills loss, he has won nine times around the world. Two majors. One Fed Ex Cup Title. Been #1 golfer on the planet. Two President’s Cup teams. One Ryder Cup team. A future Olympian. And the experiences off the course have been absolutely priceless.
Through it all, there have been tough losses and surely will be more. After the Grand Slam chase ended on the last hole at The Open, Jordan was there to congratulate his friend Zach Johnson and even flew home with him. The next month when Jason Day won his first major, Jordan was nothing but first class and respectful to Jason throughout that final round.
The 2016 Masters stung. Hats off to Danny Willett for an incredible final round, and more importantly, becoming a father. We have received an outpouring of support and thoughtful messages. But don’t feel sorry or sad for us. We won’t get stuck in this moment, nor should you. We will work harder, fight harder and be better for it. We will bounce back as we have done many times.
At the end of the day, golf is a sport. I am especially thankful to have an unconditionally loving wife Ellie Greller, family and friends who treat us the exact same regardless of wins and losses. This isn’t life and death stuff. There are far greater struggles that exist in this world than not winning The Masters. We are beyond blessed to do what we do. We are grateful to work alongside the greatest golfers and caddies in the world. It is a challenge we relish.
A wise coach reminded me recently, winning shows your character and losing shows ALL your character. Jordan continues to model grace and humility through wins and especially losses. The student continues to teach the teacher, and now millions others, just like he did at Erin Hills.
Jordan Spieth is the same genuine, grounded and humble person he was five years ago, in victory or defeat.
Thanks for sharing, Michael — you and Jordan are both class acts, in victory or defeat.