Richard Hyatt: Jim Mackay still avoiding the spotlight

July 4, 2013 

When he doesn't have a golf bag strung across his shoulder or the name of his favorite golfer decorating his back, it is hard to pick Jim Mackay out of a crowd. Put him on a beautiful golf course with Phil Mickelson at his side and he becomes the caddy known as Bones.

Lefty and Bones are a matched set. Their partnership began the year Mickelson turned pro and he has been on the bag for 40 of Mickelson's 41 PGA victories. Together they've experienced the cheers and tears of 21 years, and in 2010, Mackay was voted the top caddy on Tour.

But Mackay hasn't always been a globetrotter on a private jet. For him, it began as a member of the golf team at the former Columbus College. Coach Earl Bagley discovered Mackay in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. The Cougar coach liked his style as much as his game and offered him a scholarship.

The English-born Mackay was as skinny as a 4-wood, but as a senior, he was third-team All-American. He had dreams, but golf served a helping of reality.

Bagley once told noted sports writer Bob Verdi about a tournament at the University of Florida. "Jim was playing (Ohio State's) Gary Nicklaus and Jack was in the gallery. I caught up with Jim and he said to me, 'Coach, I can't even bring the club back. Greatest golfer in history is here watching.' I told Jim, 'He's not watching you."

Now Mackay walks with one of the best in the world, and time as an assistant pro at Green Island Country Club led to that opportunity. Larry Mize was a member and they became friends. He was working at Synovus when Mize hired him. The bank offered a two-year leave of absence, but Mackay never looked back.

After Mize, he caddied for Curtis Strange and Scott Simpson before becoming Lefty's right-hand man.

Strange, Simpson and Mickelson are past winners of the Haskins Award, which since 1971 has gone to the college golfer of the year. It honors the memory of Fred Haskins -- former pro at The Country Club of Columbus.

This week Mackay was present as the 43rd Haskins was given to Michael Kim at the Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia. Afterward the University of California sophomore seemed as impressed with meeting Mackay as he was two past trophy winners.

Mackay, who usually avoids the spotlight, came because of John Shinkle, vice president of the Fred Haskins Commission and a former colleague at Synovus. Seeing Shinkle gave Mackay a moment to marvel at all that has happened.

They whispered about Mackay sneaking into Columbus for a visit but first there was another weekend for people not to be watching Bones.

-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at

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