Endicott College has become a force in NCAA Div. 3 athletics, advancing to the Sweet 16 in men’s basketball in 2017, and the school experienced significant growth under late President Dr. Richard E. Wylie. But it’s hard to beat the exposure gained this weekend as Tiger Woods completed one of the greatest comebacks in sports history by winning the Masters.
Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava — who stuck with him even when there was no guarantee the golfing legend would ever make it back from a series of physical injuries and personal crises — was proudly sporting an Endicott Gulls T-shirt under his Augusta National white overalls Thursday for the opening round of the tournament.
LaCava, a Connecticut native who frequently wears T-shirts associated with his beloved New York Rangers and New York Giants, was repping the Gulls because his daughter, Lauren, is a student at the Beverly college. She is a senior communications major and sports editor of the school paper, the Endicott Observer.
“We have known Lauren’s dad was Tiger’s caddie since she first came to Endicott, but this is the first time we’ve seen him wear something like that on the course with Tiger,” said Endicott associate athletic director Sean Quirk, a Nahant resident. “Everyone saw it on social media and has been talking about it since, especially in the athletic department.”
LaCava, who was on the bag for Fred Couples’ Masters win in 1992, started working for Woods in 2011 after the golf legend parted ways with longtime looper Steve Williams. When it looked as if Woods — who has undergone four back surgeries, including spinal fusion in 2017 — may not make it back to competitive golf, he told LaCava he was free to caddie for someone else, and even volunteered to find him a new client. LaCava, however, remained loyal to Woods and patiently waited for him to round back into form.
Even though Woods contended in the British Open and PGA Championship last year, and won the season-ending Tour Championship, adding to his total of 14 major championships was far from a given. He had not won a major since the U.S. Open in 2008 and had not won at Augusta National — where the co-head pro is Lynn native Tony Sessa — since 2005.
Yet there he was, wearing his Sunday best — black pants, patented red shirt — and outlasting a crowded leaderboard that saw 11 players finish within three shots of the top. As the final round — forced to start five hours early due to impending weather, perhaps resulting in some uncollected Palms — progressed, the estimated 40,000 in attendance and millions glued to their TVs could gradually allow themselves to wonder if this would be the day for Tiger to resume what was once a familiar role, as king of the golfing jungle.
Three birdies in four holes on the back nine, while his playing partners’ chances were sinking, figuratively and literally, put him in the enviable position of needing only a 5 on the 18th hole to win his fifth Masters and suddenly make the prospect of his matching Jack Nicklaus’ total of 18 majors again feasible.
After he tapped in for the best bogey a golfer could ever want, Woods enjoyed a triumphant hug with LaCava that preceded emotional embraces with his mother and two children. It was virtually impossible to not be touched. It was a great day for Woods and a great day for golf — and a great day to be a Gull.
Quirk will be striving for his own athletic triumph when he runs the Boston Marathon. Quirk, who completed his first marathon in miserable conditions in Boston last year, is raising money for Boston Children’s Hospital, where he had open heart surgery as a 12-year-old. His children, St. Mary’s High students Kaden and Payton, have also undergone surgery at Children’s. To support Quirk’s run, visit his Boston Children’s Hospital site.