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Jason Gore teams up with Grayson Murray's former caddie to seek ‘normalcy’ at American Family Insurance Championship

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Jason Gore (left) makes his PGA TOUR Champions debut this week with Jay Green, the former caddie of Grayson Murray, on the bag. (Ben Gavlik/PGA TOUR Champions)

Jason Gore (left) makes his PGA TOUR Champions debut this week with Jay Green, the former caddie of Grayson Murray, on the bag. (Ben Gavlik/PGA TOUR Champions)

Gore debut is first tournament since Grayson Murray tragedy for caddie Green

    Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR

    Every golf shot asks a question, and every tournament invites a series of them.

    There will be one abiding sentiment, however, for Jason Gore and Jay Green, player and caddie, respectively, at this week’s American Family Insurance Championship:

    What was this life I led, and what will it feel like to go back to it?

    Gore, who turned 50 last month, is making his PGA TOUR Champions debut. He’s the winner of a record seven Korn Ferry Tour titles and the 2005 84 LUMBER Classic on the PGA TOUR, where he now serves in an administrative role as Chief Player Officer and no longer competes.

    Jason Gore wins 2010 Miccosukee Championship

    Green, 28, will sling a bag over his shoulder for the first time since his friend and boss, Grayson Murray, died by suicide on May 25, sending shock and sadness across the golf world and beyond.

    “I just felt like it was the right thing to do; it felt right to have Jay here,” Gore said. “We’ll both be nervous, for me just because it’s been a long time, and he’s just a young kid who had something awful happen. It’ll be good for both of us.

    “Hopefully we’ll keep it all in perspective,” he continued, “and it’ll be a good healing process for him. It’s been an emotional two days. I’m spent.”

    Added Green, fresh off of three memorial services for his friend, “It’s only been a couple days, but it feels like a month. We’ve both said this is exactly what we need, just some normalcy.”

    Murray was open about his struggles with depression and alcohol but seemed to be on a better trajectory after his victory at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January. He was sober and building a supportive community around him, and his death, after he’d withdrawn in the second round of the Charles Schwab Challenge, has devastated his family and that of the PGA TOUR itself.

    Everyone has been ground under repair since then. A rolling celebration of Murray’s life began with Green carrying his staff bag onto the first tee at the Korn Ferry Tour event at Raleigh Country Club on Sunday, when Murray was announced as the day’s honorary last tee time. His parents, Eric and Terry Murray, plus brother Cameron Murray and sister Erica Robinson, were there, as were several others, including Korn Ferry Tour President Alex Baldwin, who spoke.

    A more formal remembrance came Monday at Raleigh’s Providence Church, and then came the Tuesday ceremony at Muirfield Village and the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday, where world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler was among the speakers, as was PGA TOUR commissioner Jay Monahan. In the middle of all that, on Monday night, Gore got a phone call.

    Nate Pokrass, the tournament director of the American Family Insurance Championship, had just learned that Scott Verplank had withdrawn, leaving an open spot. Did Gore, who made 132 cuts in his PGA TOUR career, want to come to Madison, Wisconsin, as a sponsor exemption?

    “It was 4:51 p.m. Monday,” Gore said. “I said, ‘When do you need to know?’ He said, ‘In nine minutes.’ I said, ‘Hang on. Let me call my wife.’”

    A married father of two, Gore had thought he was going to be with family and friends in New Jersey. (He used to work for the USGA.) His Los Angeles Dodgers would be in town playing the New York Yankees, and he had planned to go to a game, most likely with good seats, given his friendship with Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe. (Both belonged to Hamilton Farm G.C.)

    All of those plans would have to wait, though, because when it comes to golf, Gore said, “I’m a complete sicko. I love the game. My wife asked if I wanted to go, and I said of course I do.”

    With her blessing, Gore now had to figure out logistics. He had his golf bag, fortunately, since he had planned on going from Ohio to the U.S. Open. But he did not have a caddie, nor did he have enough golf balls or gloves, and he also needed new grips. He wasn’t geared up in terms of shoes and clothing, either, but would figure it out on the fly, and in the equipment trucks.

    For a caddie, he looked to Green.

    “I kind of knew him but not really,” Gore said. “We really just met Monday, and I was like, I want this guy to loop for me. I texted him: ‘How many clothes did you bring?’ He said he’d brought a few outfits. I was like, ‘Do you want to caddie on the Champions Tour this week?’

    “He’s like, ‘For who?’ ‘For me, dude! I just got a sponsor exemption!’ Getting back to normalcy will be good for him. I’ll hit a bad shot and it’s just golf, man.”

    Green, who is married and lives in Jacksonville, Florida, was anticipating going home to his native Alma, Michigan, outside of Lansing, in order to grieve, organize his thoughts, and figure out his next move. He said yes immediately to the prospect of getting back to work.

    “I think that’s what Grayson would want, what his family would want,” Green said. “I don’t know Jason’s game. I know he’s long. He and I have talked about our motto, which is zero expectations. He’s been practicing, getting ready for the Senior Open. It’s not like he hasn’t played in five years. I saw some good things today while we were practicing.”

    Next week, Gore will be back at North Carolina’s Pinehurst No. 2, where he played in the last group Sunday with Retief Goosen at the 2005 U.S. Open but shot 84 and finished T49.

    It was still his career highlight.

    “When they announced my name on Sunday, the roar of the crowd, just took me aback,” he said. “They were basically sitting on top of you on that first tee. It was just overwhelming.

    “It was a very memorable day because I learned so much,” he continued. “I don’t think I would have won four out of the next seven or eight tournaments I played without that day.”

    Playing this week, he added, will mean getting over a 3-foot putt that means something. He does not figure to play much else other than the Senior Open presented by Rolex, July 25-28.

    As it happens, Murray asked if Green was “a watch guy” on the Tuesday of the Sony in January. Green said he was and had designed the very Rolex he coveted on the company’s website.

    “Sure enough, after we won, we were heading back to the hotel and Grayson said, ‘Jay gets a Rolex,’” Green said. “Two weeks later at Pebble Beach, he gave me that exact Rolex that I’d wanted. He was incredibly genuine, cared about me, asked questions about me, and was very adamant that my wife come to tournaments and travel.

    “He’s like, ‘I’ll buy flights, I just want her there supporting you,’” Green continued.

    All of it was a gift; most of it was unplanned. Green played golf for Division II Tiffin University in Ohio, then hoped to go to dental school but didn’t get in. Tapping his connections, he got a job working for Will Gordon on the Korn Ferry and PGA TOUR. A mutual friend connected Green to Murray in December, and they started together at the Sony, winning immediately.

    Murray’s passing, the golf world’s loss, is sure to come up this week, and that’s fine. It will be a comfort, though, for Green and Gore to be able to focus on something as normal as golf.

    Well, that and whether or not they will run out of clothes.

    “I think Jason got ahold of someone from Peter Millar,” Green said, “who is going to be sending us both a little care package because we both weren’t expecting this.”

    Gore, whose wife and son will watch him play in Wisconsin while his daughter rides horses with friends in New Jersey, will be fine with whatever happens this week. He’s almost more focused on Green being OK. They flew up together, are staying at the same hotel and will likely eat together, too, for there is strength in numbers, and Gore was always tight with his caddies.

    Life goes on. Golf connects us all. You get the sense that Murray would approve.

    Cameron Morfit is a Staff Writer for the PGA TOUR. He has covered rodeo, arm-wrestling, and snowmobile hill climb in addition to a lot of golf. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.

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