Notre Dame, Ind. -- Emily Tubert’s father, Marcelos, is an actor who has played more than 100 hundred parts in movies and television. But at this week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, he stepped into new and one-of-a-kind roles.
One was as a humorist. Another, a conversationalist. He was a cajoler, a motivator, a psychologist and above all, a caring father witnessing his daughter shine on the national stage in a life-shaping moment.
“It was awesome to be able to share this with my dad,” Emily said after defeating Lisa McCloskey, of Houston, Texas, 3 and 2, in the final match at the Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame. “He tried to keep me in check and calm my nerves.”
Marcelos admits that he wasn’t about to dive headlong into reading greens or choosing clubs for the lead performer in her first appearance on stage in the final. Instead, his value as a caddie came from helping to manage the jackhammer intensity of emotions that Emily was facing in a pressure-packed match.
“The thing I do best for her is I keep her chatting, laughing and smiling,” Marcelos says. “That’s when she plays her best golf. That’s what daddy caddie does – keep her chitting and chatting. She does the rest herself.”
“The rest” entailed Emily making birdies on five of seven holes during an important morning stretch to build a 5-up advantage over her 18-year-old opponent. She never held less than a 3-up advantage the rest of the match.
A prom queen and quarterback of the powder-puff football team at Burrough High School in Burbank, Calif., Emily, showed plenty of natural athletic talent in winning the WAPL just five short years after first coming to golf. The solitary nature of the game presents its own challenges and Emily says she is still finding her way against fellow golfers who started much earlier in life. After her two victories on Friday, she likened her comfort level in the game to a once-overweight youngster who gets skinny, but still feels overweight.
Less than 24 hours later, the sense of belonging is admittedly a lot less burdensome after disposing of the talented McCloskey, a former U.S. Girls' Junior medalist who owns the 54-hole NCAA scoring record of 199.
After the final was decided on the 34th hole Marcelos, outwardly calm and collected for much of the week, could hold back his emotions no longer after congratulatory handshakes were exchanged. He embraced his daughter, put his massive hands on her face and held her as though she’d been born anew. Then a kiss and the words, “I love you.”
With the father’s arm around his daughter, they rode back to the clubhouse in a scene made for Hollywood.
“It is the most exciting thing that has ever happened, to share this experience. I mean, how many times in a lifetime does this happen?,” he said. “It is a surreal and perfect moment in time. She has a feeling that she belongs – that’s amazing for a game that puts such an emphasis on the mental part. That’s not something you can get from a swing coach.”
Nope, it’s sort of the inseparable bond that only a tightly knit father and daughter know about that culminates with a climactic ending better than fiction.
“You see this and think it’s so mushy – it can’t happen like this,” Marcelos says.
Emily is one of the select golfers who can now call herself a USGA champion. She admittedly can’t decide if the role her father played deserves an Academy Award for best supporting actor, or the honor of being called “world’s greatest – and most tired – dad.”
“He’s such a trooper,” she says. “I don’t think he’s walked this many holes in such a short amount of time. He’d tell me (leading up to the championship), ‘I’m going to the gym. I’m getting ready.’ It was so great to have him standing there for support. That’s exactly what I needed: Someone to talk to and help me stay calm through pressure situations.”
Like Marcelos, South Bend resident Tyler Stricker didn’t know what to expect when he arrived at the Warren Course. In the weeks prior to the championship, he followed up a club inquiry about the need for additional caddies and he volunteered. He ended up with McCloskey’s bag on Monday and was in tow all the way to the finals.
The 18-year-old Stricker, a recent graduate of nearby Riley High School, where he was a member of the golf team, says the experience and quality of play among a youth-dominated field was eye-opening. His prep coach, Dennis Little, suggested that caddying at the WAPL would be a great learning experience. Little likely underestimated its value; for Stricker, it was undoubtedly life-enhancing.
Stricker played against talented golfers and Indiana state champions in high school matches, but now knows that there’s plenty of room for growth.
“I really thought I was a good golfer,” says Stricker, who plays at nearby South Bend Country Club. “It was a real shocker to see the focus and precision that Lisa and these players have when competing.”
In the process, Stricker, who is bound for Indiana University in the fall, was indirectly the recipient of an important life lesson: It’s important to step up when an organization and people need an extra hand. The habit was reinforced and enhanced by being a caddie.
“How many people can say they signed up for something and it turned out like this?” asks the teenager, who seems as mature as a man twice his age. “It’s something I will always remember. The little things really mean a lot.”
It’s a story with a happy ending, save one obvious flaw.
“There’s nothing I would change except to have Lisa win,” he says.
Andrew Blair is the communications director for the Virginia State Golf Association. He contributed articles at this week's WAPL for the USGA.