Evans Scholar gets thrill of a lifetime as Tiger's caddie
How do you impress a once-in-a-lifetime talent like Tiger Woods and his unflappable caddie Joe LaCava?
The veteran looper repeatedly offered to help Sarahi Ortiz lug Tiger's bag around Medinah's brutally long course Wednesday, but the college student was having none of it.
"He kept asking me, 'Do you need me to carry the bag? Do you need to me carry the bag?' And I told him, 'No, I only get to caddie for Tiger once in my life, and I'm going to do it all 18 holes,'" Ortiz said.
And with that no-nonsense maturity, Ortiz earned the respect of both Woods and LaCava while Tiger played an abbreviated pro-am round on the eve of the BMW Championship. After 18 holes -- he only chipped and putted on the back nine as he recovers from an oblique strain -- Woods gave the nicest shout-out to a humbled Ortiz in front of reporters (more on that later).
"I knew that I was a decent caddie. I knew that I knew how to do my job," the 21-year-old West Los Angeles native said. "But them kind of applauding me for my work today meant everything to me."
Tournament proceeds have long supported the Evans Scholars Foundation, a Western Golf Association charity that provides college tuition and housing scholarships to young caddies in financial need. For the first time since 2006, current scholars got to caddie for their golfing idols in the BMW pro-am.
As a national leader in the WGA program, Ortiz had the privilege of caddying for Woods.
They bonded over what they have in common, but Woods also had to know about her life off the golf course. They talked about her college (University of Oregon) and her career goals (earning a master's degree in student affairs).
"Unfortunately, she's a Duck, and I don't hold that against her," Woods said. "But what she's done and earned, she's born and raised in Southern Cal like I was, and being part of the Evans Scholarship program, she wanted to go to school, and she's getting her degree and moving on to her master's. So I admire kids when they're given an opportunity like that and they make something of themselves like Sarahi."
Woods managed to learn all that about Ortiz while preparing for the BMW and dealing with the scrutiny that always follows a 15-time major champion. Ortiz tuned out reports about Woods' stiff back, reserving judgment until she could see his game for herself.
"I felt like he was playing pretty well."
LaCava didn't completely take the day off before celebrating his induction into the Caddie Hall of Fame later Wednesday. He took notes in his yard book, covered with the logo of his beloved New York Giants. He helped Woods read some of the greens and adjust to some of the tweaks to Medinah's Course No. 3.
But the rest of the surreal job fell to Ortiz.
"I don't think it's really hit me yet, but it was a lot of fun, and it was nice just chit-chatting, kind of walking the golf course," Ortiz said. "I love caddying. It's fun to me, and I love carrying a conversation with my golfer, and I was really hoping I'd get to do that here, and I did, and it was incredible. "
Ortiz, the vice president of the Evans Scholars National Committee, already is paying it forward in our neck of the woods as a mentor for high schoolers in the WGA's seven-week caddie academy.
And the rest of the summer? She'll be basking in the afterglow of that sunny morning at Medinah when Woods hugged her on the 18th green.
"He told me that he was really proud of me, which I really took to heart," she said.