Pro golfer Patrick Reed and his caddie were on the first tee at Congressional Country Club before an AT&T National practice round this week when one marshal leaned to another and whispered incredulously, “That little girl carries that big bag?”
The skepticism seemed appropriate: “That little girl,” dressed in black except for a bright pink skirt, had to schlep a tour pro’s bag through a humid, 97-degree day, and as she stood on the tee, the headcover of Reed’s driver seemed just about even with her shoulders.
Not to worry, though: This golfer-caddie relationship had been vetted thoroughly. By the time Reed began playing PGA Tour events in 2012, he had been dating Justine Karain for three years and had proposed. The two married last December, and the now Justine Reed not only is carrying her husband’s golf bag, but also helping to shoulder the weight of a fledging PGA Tour career.
Justine, who played golf in high school, said Patrick still had to teach her “all the little things about the course and how it works” when she switched careers last year from full-time nurse to full-time caddie.
“If you had told me with all the work I put into my nursing degree I’d be doing this, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Justine, 25. “When I told my Dad, he was like, ‘You’re doing what?”
But one practice round with the Reeds shows that caddying and nursing overlap more than Justine’s father might think. In the midday heat she warned her husband, “You can’t drink enough out here!” When Patrick took a few extra shots from Congressional’s thick rough, she grimaced.
“If he takes too many shots out of that stuff, he could jam his wrist,” she said. “He’s got to be careful; that’s our livelihood — although we always have nursing as the backup plan.”
The Reeds use a lot of first-person plurals. When Patrick asked how far he was hitting the ball with a new club, she answered, “Longer than our old one.” When the week’s playing schedule was released, Patrick asked, “When’s our tee time?” In describing his fifth-place finish at the St. Jude Classic earlier this month, Patrick said, “We were fortunate enough to play pretty well and have our best finish so far.”
Patrick readily says his career is a team effort, and given that he tends to wear his emotions on his sleeve, he’s quick to laud his caddie’s even-keeled demeanor.
“The less reaction he gets from me the better,” said Justine, who offers little more than a subdued “good” when her husband makes a perfect shot, and even less when he makes a bad one.
Reed mixed a few bad ones into his first round at the AT&T National on Thursday as he shot a 5-over-par 76. After botching a chip shot on the 14th hole, he tossed his wedge toward his bag in frustration. Not a second later, he turned, picked it up, and handed it to his wife, who said nothing as she took it, cleaned the club head, and calmly placed it in his bag.
“Our next project is composure,” she said. “That’s going to be our constant work in progress.”
Between turning pro in 2011 and making the jump to PGA Tour events in 2012, Patrick took time off from major competition to rework the swing that earned him all-American honors twice as he led Augusta (Ga.) State to national titles in 2010 and 2011. During that time, the duo decided Patrick would be best served with Justine carrying his bag.
So one day in the weeks before the 2012 Texas Open, he loaded his bag with rain gear, water bottles and his golf umbrella to see if she could make it through “the tough days.”
After three years together, he had little doubt she would.
The couple met through Justine’s younger sister, a friend of Reed’s at LSU University Laboratory School in Baton Rouge. Justine was working on her double bachelor’s in health administration and nursing in the area. When they met, “things clicked right away,” Patrick said. He proposed on Jan. 9, 2012 — the night the couple’s beloved LSU football team was playing in the national title game.
Reed didn’t have exempt status on the tour in 2012, so he had to play his way into each week’s field with a strong showing in Monday qualifying rounds.
When Patrick made the cut, they would finish on the course Sunday afternoon, pack up the car, and head to the next tournament — often with Justine driving through the night to give her husband a chance to sleep before an early qualifier the next morning. Grueling though the process was, the couple made it work: Patrick qualified for six events via Monday qualifiers.
“I don’t know if he makes it with another caddie,” Reed’s agent Kevin Canning said. “The hours, the travel — she really helped him through.”
All those Monday qualifiers earned the Reeds a season on the PGA Tour, where they’re flying place-to-place instead of driving and know their weekly schedule ahead of time. Still, the schedule is full and the couple usually goes about six weeks at a time without returning to their home in Spring, Tex.
When they do, they head straight to the golf course — and Patrick has to carry his own bag.
“On the days we go home on weekends on weeks off, she comes out and we play. It’s fun,” said Patrick, who said he is particularly dependent on Justine’s ability to read greens.
“This run’s been great, a lot of fun, and we’re not stopping that’s for sure. I won’t have anyone else on my bag at any time — until, of course, we start a family.”