Caddy Returns to the East End with a Decade on the Job

Reynolds Robinson, left, a graduate of Pierson High School, caddied for Sung Joon Park in the U.S. Open at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club last week. Michael Heller photos

Reynolds Robinson graduated from Pierson High School in 1988, went off to college in Alabama and joined the corporate world as an internal audit consultant. It was 1998 when, at the age of 27, he realized his course had gone off track, so he picked up the game of golf.

Ten years later, Robinson, who is now 47, traded in his desk to make a living as a professional golf caddy. His journey came full circle last week when he arrived at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton for the 118th United States Open, carrying the bag for South Korean pro Sung Joon Park.

Park missed the weekend cut, mostly because of an opening-round score of 81 that included two triple bogeys, but the opportunity for Reynolds to caddy back on the East End was a dream come true.

“It was super exciting,” Robinson said in a phone conversation on Tuesday from Cromwell, Connecticut, where he was back to caddying for his regular tour professional, Brett Stegmaier, in the Travelers Championship.

As is often the case with regular tour caddies, Robinson got called in at the last minute to carry Park’s bag at Shinnecock. They walked the course during practice rounds, and quickly became familiar with each other. Following Park’s 81 on Thursday, he shot a respectable 72 on Friday, but still missed the cut.

“The Pierson golf team came out to watch, and two of the kids on the team, their grandmother used to teach me,” Robinson said, speaking about former Sag Harbor teacher Judith Lattanzio and her grandkids, Cooper and Tucker Schiavoni, whose father, Gregg, played basketball with Robinson during his playing days at Pierson. Robinson was one of the top 100 players in Suffolk County during his junior and senior years and was named All-State under head coach John Berdang. “I did not play golf growing up. I ran cross country at Pierson and played basketball.”

Robinson’s sister, Roslyn, still lives in their family home in Ninevah, where he stayed during the week of the Open. After graduating from college, Robinson worked for a series of corporate accounting firms, including PricewaterhouseCooopers, where he was working in 1998 when he picked up his first golf club.

“A buddy of mine recommended golf, and I was like, ‘Man, golf is boring,” Robinson said. “But I did start playing and I fell in love with the game. At the same time, I was starting to get really annoyed and fed up with corporate America.”

Robinson was at a conference in Orlando, Florida, when he met a golf pro named Vern Burns, who was hoping to qualify for the Nationwide Tour. They played a few holes together, and Burns asked if Reynolds would caddy for him at an upcoming tournament in California.

“That was in August of 2006,” he explained. “In October, I took a week off and went to California to caddy for him. We didn’t qualify, but when I was done I knew I wanted to pursue caddying full time. I never caddied for Vern again, but he was my segue into the golf world.”

Soon after, Robinson moved from Philadelphia with his wife, Erica, and their children, Russell and Elisha, who were just six and four at the time, to Orlando, where he enrolled in the Professional Golfers Career College (PGCC). And like that, his new career was underway.

“I knew nobody in the golf industry,” Robinson explained. “But for me it wasn’t really that nerve wracking. That’s how I’m wired. When I’m ready to do something, I go for it.”

After two years at PGCC, Robinson had an associate degree in professional golf management and could have pursued several paths into professional golf. “But I just wanted to caddy,” he said.

Reynolds Robinson and Sung Joon Park make their way toward the 7th green at Shinnecock during last week’s U.S. Open.

He was working at the Orange County National Golf Center, where the final stage of what was then known as “Q School” was being held for golfers hoping to play their way onto the PGA Tour.

“I got business cards and would give my card out to everyone,” Robinson said. “Miguel Carballo was looking for a full-time caddy for Q school, and from there, that started everything. Miguel missed his PGA Tour card by one, but he had full Nationwide status for the year and he asked me to go on tour with him. From there it was all networking. You meet new players and new caddies every single week.”

Robinson carried his first bag on the PGA Tour for Marco Dawson in 2008 at the John Deere Classic. He worked with Dawson for two years, and then with Steve Lebrun for three years, reaching the U.S. Open with him in 2012 at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. When Lebrun lost his tour status, Robinson caddied for three years on the LPGA tour for Cheyenne Woods. This past March, he made the jump back to the PGA to work for Stegmaier.

“Brett’s game is good. Right now we just need to make a few more putts,” Robinson said in advance of this week’s tournament. “This is our third tournament, and we missed two cuts by two [strokes] and then one.”

Robinson’s son, Russell, who is about to turn 17 and recently won the Florida Cass 4A State long jump championship, was with him in Connecticut this week as they prepared to tour colleges in the Northeast. That lack of corporate pressure, after all, allows Robinson more time with his family.

“When I worked with corporate, I traveled a lot anyway,” said Robinson, who estimates he is on tour about 40 percent of the year and at home in Florida the rest of the time. “At least now, when I’m home, I’m home. There’s no office to go to.”