While the famous ones were swapping birdies and throwing the lead around like a beanbag in the Wells Fargo Championship, I spent a good part of my Saturday watching what to me, a tender soul, is the best story of the week at the Quail Hollow Club.
I was walking with Patrick Reed, a 21-year-old who is treading water on the PGA Tour and doing a fine job of it, and his fiancé, Justine Karain, who is also his caddy. You see those two coming up a fairway and you say, what’s wrong with this picture?
He’s husky and maybe 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3. She’s not husky and she’s 5-foot-1. And she’s the one carrying the golf bag, which is literally almost as big as she.
She’s not normally a caddy. She’s a nurse. But Patrick was going to San Antonio to play in a PGA tournament and she wanted to go along. That was about three weeks and a long story ago.
Reed and Karain are a movie waiting to be written.
He was an All-American golfer at Augusta State, a national powerhouse. He wanted to play tournament golf, but things got complicated and, having no tour of his own, he chose to work his way onto the big stage – the hard way.
He was trying to qualify for the Valero Open in San Antonio, played a couple of holes and an official came out and told him he had received an exemption into the tournament. He used it to good advantage, led the field in driving distance and tied for 35th on Sunday.
That night, he and Karain shrugged themselves into her small car and headed to New Orleans, where he had to be by morning to try to qualify for the Zurich Open. She drove, nine and a half hours. They arrived at 2:45 a.m.
After four hours of sleep, Reed went out to try to beat a big field for one of four qualifying spots. He shot 4 under and still had to go into a playoff. On the second extra hole, he made a birdie to get in.
They decided to see if their luck would hold and they headed for Charlotte. Their agent booked them a flight from New Orleans to Chicago to Greenville, S.C. They arrived at 1 a.m., spent the night in Greenville, drove here the next morning.
In the qualifying tournament at Carolina Golf Club, Reed needed a birdie on the 18th to avoid another playoff, one that would involve 11 players trying for three spots. Karain read the 12-foot putt for him, “absolutely perfectly.” He made it and he was in the Wells Fargo Championship.
He shot 66 in the first round, 74 Friday and 69 Saturday, and he’s up there in position for some big money and, if he finishes in the top 10, a place in the Byron Nelson Classic in two weeks, instead of facing another qualifying round.
He talks about how it feels to play with the big names around him, but he hasn’t flinched. He talks a lot about how confident he is and how well he’s playing. He didn’t drive the ball well Saturday but still shot 69.
“It all feels like a dream,” Reed said.
It reads like one, too.