The passing of Bob Shearer last week was felt by the entire golf fraternity. And there was a touch of serendipity at this week’s Fortinet Australian PGA at Royal Queensland.
After years away from the caddying caper, Shearer’s former bagman Lawrence Herarty mad a return to the outdoor butler life, working this week for promising young Victorian Blake Collyer.
From the days when caddies had far less profile than the Steve Williams and Michael Grellers of the world, Herarty’s record isn’t largely known, nor his list of employers that make for some fascinating stories.
A winner nine times around the world, including a World Cup with Hale Irwin, Herarty’s best loop was Shearer. The pair combining for five wins, including Shearer’s two most famous victories at home that ushered him into legendary status on the PGA Tour of Australasia.
“I had five wins with Bob altogether. NSW Open, Vic Open, ’82 Australian Open, ’83 PGA Championship same as this week right here,” Herarty told Golf Australia magazine.
The connection with the Australian PGA Championship this week is of course special, but nothing compares in the folklore of Australian golf and Shearer with the 1982 Australian Open when he stared down arguably the game’s best ever in Jack Nicklaus at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney.
RIGHT: Shearer and Herarty combined for five wins around Australasia, including the Victorian's two greatest victories. PHOTO: Warren Little /Allsport.
“They were all good, but ’82 was pretty special,” he said this week at Royal Queensland. “We were out with Nicklaus the first, second and final round. And Bob put it to him, he beat Nicklaus. People might say Nicklaus was 42 at the time, but he also won a Masters when he was 46 and he could still really, really play.
“That was pretty cool, and Nicklaus was a great guy to be around. I had never been out with him before that.”
Anyone familiar with that 1982 Open win will recall the debate about whether Shearer would lay-up or go for the green at the par-5 last on the Sunday. Herarty producing a wry smile when asked about the situation and his role in it.
“He ribbed me incessantly about that,” laughs Herarty. “He had a two or three shot lead playing 18, and yeah I wanted him to layup and make five and win by one or two, or three. Bob wouldn’t have it, he went for it, knocked it on with a beautiful 3-iron, two putted for birdie and won by four. He never stopped egging me about that one.”
Herarty isn’t certain how his longest stint with Bob came to be, with Shearer generally using a friend from Southern Golf Club in his earlier days on Tour. But the American does remember their first time out together.
“The first time I caddied for him was in 1978 in New Zealand Open at Wanganui and he won it.”
The stories of the duo are enough to make sitting down with Herarty, a former “gopher” for NBC Sports in his early days of caddying, a beyond interesting experience. But when considering some of his other tales from the caddie yard, it is one of the special stories that only golf can provide.
“I first came out on Tours in the U.S. in 1976, a long time ago. I was just working for Donald Duck and Sam Sausage chasing around Monday qualifiers in my old beat-up Chevy, trying to get a qualifier into a tournament and then make a cut. I went over and caddied in the British and the French amateur for an old San Francisco 49ers quarterback by the name of John Brody.
“Tom Watson’s caddie Bruce Edwards heard I was going and he told me Tom was playing the British PGA at Royal St. George’s, and asked me to caddie for him. He was the raining Masters champion that year (1977) and would win The Open that year as well.
“I worked for Greg Norman the first couple of weeks he came over to Europe. Rodger Davis told me there is a young kid coming over so I hooked up with Greg for a couple of weeks.”
“The clubhouse at The Australian in 1982 had burned down and we were in tents. After the final round, we were down the locker room tent and Nicklaus came back with a six-pack of beer and it was just him, Bob and I. The three of us knocked off a six-pack just before the presentation. " - Lawrence Herarty.
Mark McNulty is another well-known player to employ the services of Herarty, so too Ryder Cup player Howard Clark. And given the pedigree of his former bosses, Herarty’s words on Collyer, who missed the weekend action at Royal Queensland, ought to encourage the Metropolitan member.
“I haven’t been on a bag in some years really. But here I am with Blake and he is a great kid, super fine player, really strong game. And it is good to be of his acquaintance and his partner Shan. Really enjoying it, good to be out here again.”
Although he was clearly enjoying his time back on a bag, and even if he were to one day strap another winner, it is unlikely any memory or moment will surpass one incredibly special one with Shearer that almost perfectly summarises the man who will be so sorely missed.
“The clubhouse at The Australian in 1982 had burned down and we were in tents. After the final round, we were down the locker room tent and Nicklaus came back with a six-pack of beer and it was just him, Bob and I. The three of us knocked off a six-pack just before the presentation. That’s the kind of guy he was. Great memories.”