Long Road Leads East Hampton Native to the Masters

Duane Bock walks a fairway during the 2016 Masters with Kevin Kisner, the 23rd ranked golfer in the world.

By Gavin Menu

Duane Bock at August National last week with his wife, Geraldine, and children, Alex and Albany.
Duane Bock at August National last week with his wife, Geraldine, and children, Alex and Albany.

Duane Bock’s golf journey has taken quite a few twists and turns since he graduated East Hampton High School in 1987. A decade of playing various professional tours led to his career as a caddy, the last seven of which have been spent holding the bag on the PGA Tour for Georgia-born golfer Kevin Kisner, who has gone from being a relative unknown to the 23rd ranked player in the world with over $6 million in earnings over the last two years. Bock this week reflected on Kisner’s first Masters appearance, where he made the cut last week and finished tied for 37th, and what the next chapter in their golfing journey might hold.

It’s been a long journey for you and Kevin from what I understand. How long have you been together? 

I first started working for Kevin at Tour School in 2009. Our first year together was in 2010 on the Web.com Tour. In 2011 and12 we were on the PGA Tour, but didn’t really have any success and we lost our tour card both years. In 2013 we had to go back to the Web.com Tour. And that’s when we came to a crossroads. We sat down and talked and he said ‘I know it’s a business, I know you have a family you have to support.’ The Web.com Tour pays a tenth of the PGA Tour and he told me if you want to go and work the PGA, he would totally understand. He said he would even help me find a golf bag. My whole philosophy on it was as with any business, you’re going to have highs and lows. Anyone can navigate the highs, but the most successful people are the guys who can get through the low periods in the business. My wife, Geraldine, trusted what I told her and I told Kevin I wasn’t able to jump ship. I had a friend at home, who had a floor business so I did that in the winter, I drove some trucks and I sold old golf equipment on EBay to make ends meet.

In 2014 we got back on the PGA tour, we kept our card and that got us to 2015, where we had four second-place finishes and a win last year. And now he’s ranked 23rd in the world as we sit here today.

As you say, Kevin’s game has really come together in the last year. What do you see as his potential for the next year or two? Is winning a major within the realm of possibility?

Absolutely. We’re all about the process, though. He’s not very big on setting goals. He feels if we lay out a plan, and stick to the process, the results will take care of themselves. With all that being said, the one thing with Kevin that you can’t teach is he has that inner confidence that when he is on the big stage, he doesn’t shy away from the moment. He possesses something within him that only great, elite athletes posses. I think the sky’s the limit and I don’t think one major is the limit for him. I think he can win multiple majors and contend to be the best player in the world because of that inner belief and confidence he has.

Augusta National is possibly the most sacred ground for golf in the world, certainly in the U.S. What was it like being there this week? Aside from the overall experience, what were the biggest challenges on the course itself? 

What a lot of people don’t realized is the elevation changes from tee to green. You don’t see it on TV. Also, all the greens have huge undulations. There are spots you have to hit the golf ball no matter where the pin placements are, so the biggest challenge for us was finding where those spots are and what side of the green to favor. And then there are the wind conditions. With the tall pines, the wind swirls, and up above the trees it can be going in one direction, and then below the pines, it can be going another direction. The wind is a caddy’s nightmare out there. 

Duane Bock walks a fairway during the 2016 Masters with Kevin Kisner, the 23rd ranked golfer in the world.
Duane Bock walks a fairway during the 2016 Masters with Kevin Kisner, the 23rd ranked golfer in the world.

I’m sure a lot of friends and family came out for the tournament. Does it make it extra special to compete on such a big stage in front of those closest to you and Kevin?

When you’re playing close to home like that, the first thing you have to overcome are the distractions. When you’re away from home you don’t have the distractions with ticket requests and with your time. All that said, once the tournament starts there’s no better feeling than knowing you have all that support out there no matter how it’s going. As long as you can deal with the people pulling at you and wanting some of your time, then of course it’s a major positive. 

Your children, Alex and Albany, are golfers themselves and must have gotten a kick out of being at Augusta this week. What do you try to teach them about the game that is important at the junior level right on up to what you’re talking about in preparation for the Masters?

I’m not big on sports specific so I want my kids to play whatever sport they want to play. Kicking a soccer ball, or swinging a baseball bat — it all has a relation to swinging a golf club. They love the game of golf, but I’ve never given my kids formal golf lessons. The only thing I talk to them about is their footwork. The biggest thing with beginners is proper footwork, alignment and the transition of your weight. Kevin is a top 20 player in the world and we’re on the driving range at the Masters and he’s working on his alignment. It’s the basic fundamentals of the golf swing and if I can make sure the kids understand how important that is now, it’s something they will be applying for the rest of their lives.