(Featured photo is of Walter “Roundhead” Newton Jr. who spoke at the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History May 27.)
The rainy days were the best for studying the greens at the Augusta National.
As the droplets coursed along the grass, they uncovered its secrets; they gave insights into how a ball might act as it left the club and made its way into the hole.
“They uncover things not readily seen on a sunny day,” said Keyonice Burts as she brought Willie “Pappy” Stokes to life May 27 at the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History’s Augusta’s Black Caddies – Men on the Bag program, part of its Authentic Augusta experience.
Stokes was part of an elite group of Black men in Augusta – the Black caddies of the Augusta National. From 1932 to 1982, golfers playing the Masters used the caddies who worked at the National year-round to carry their bags and glean from their expertise.
And when it came to caddies, Stokes was known as the best. He knew the Augusta National Golf Club long before a golf course was ever even thought of. He was born on a parcel of land that would later become the course. He could look at a green from afar and know how it would break.
Inducted into the Caddie Hall of Fame in 2006, the same year he died at the age of 86, Stokes was known as the “grandfather of caddies.”
He was the personal caddy for Augusta National co-founder Clifford Roberts, the In 1956, Stokes’ knowledge of the greens helped Jack Burke Jr. come back from an eight-stroke deficit to win the Masters.
Stokes was the winning caddie in five Masters with four different golfers, who had never won before or after Stokes was their caddie.
Stokes was exactly as he was portrayed, according to someone who knew him.
“Pappy was the best I’d ever seen,” said Walter “Roundhead” Newton Jr., who spoke after the three actors gave glimpses into the lives of the caddies who’d worked at the National.
Newton started his career carrying a bag when he was 12 at the Augusta Country Club in the 1960s and later he worked at Augusta National.
“I was kind of small. People wondered if I was going to make it,” he said. “I was thinking about the $5.”
The $5 he received as a 12-year-old caddie grew to $125 by the time he caddied his first Masters. That bought him a trip to New York City.
The men who caddied had colorful nicknames. There was Cigarette, Pappy, Deadman or Cemetery as President Dwight D. Eisenhower called him, Burnt Biscuits and Ironman.
Newton’s father was known as Roundhead too, and when Newton was a child, people just called him Little Roundhead. The name stuck.
During his time at the Augusta National, he caddied for Trevor Homer, Wayne Brady and Peter Ueberroth. He also caddied for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The one time he was star struck, however, was in 1975 when football great Jim Brown played the course.
Authentic Augusta is a new tourism experience.
“Authentic Augusta is a curated collection of the best sights and experiences our city has to offer. These new immersive experiences were designed over a year-long development process to be highly engaging, offer a new V.I.P. level interaction, and create long lasting memories for visitors and locals alike,” according to a news release from Destination Augusta.
Each month, the Men on the Bag program will be presented twice in one weekend at the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History, according to executive director Corey Rogers.
There were a lot of options for their program, Rogers said, but the caddies have compelling and unique stories that need to be told and remembered.
The museum partnered with the Augusta Mini Theatre. The three actors are mini theatre alumni.
After the program, refreshments of Masters’ favorites pimento cheese and sweet tea were served.
Black Caddies – Men on the Bag will be presented June 10-11, July 22-23, Aug. 19-20; Sept. 16-17; Oct. 21-22; Nov. 11 -12 and Dec. 16-17. The program is $25. Each program will feature the actors plus a living Black caddie for a question-and-answer session.
Other organizations participating in the Authentic Augusta experience include the Augusta Museum of History, the Morris Museum of Art and the Augusta Canal.
Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for the newsletter here.
Support local journalism: Local stories on local people, organizations and events. That’s the focus of Augusta Good News. And you don’t have to go through a paywall to find these stories. An independent voice in Augusta, Ga., Augusta Good News is not funded by a billionaire or a large corporation; it doesn’t have celebrity reporters who have agents. It’s local people who are invested in the community and want to tell its stories. You can support local journalism and help us expand our coverage by becoming a supporter. Through Ko-Fi, you can give once or set up a monthly gift. Click here to learn more. Thank you!