U.S. SENIOR OPEN
Caddie Scott Gneiser Perfect Complement to David Toms January 27, 2019 By Jordan Schwartz, USGA

Caddie Scott Gneiser helps David Toms line up a putt on the seventh hole during the third round of the 2018 U.S. Senior Open. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

Clay Merchent playing his tee shot at the 11th hole during the first round of stroke play of the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. on Monday, July 16, 2018. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)
Clay Merchent playing his tee shot at the 11th hole during the first round of stroke play of the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. on Monday, July 16, 2018. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)
Clay Merchent playing his tee shot at the 11th hole during the first round of stroke play of the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. on Monday, July 16, 2018. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)

In 1989, PGA Tour rookie Ed Humenik asked Scott Gneiser to caddy for him. Gneiser, who had just completed his collegiate golf career one year earlier at Central Michigan University, called his dad to see what he thought.

“He said, ‘If you don’t do it, I’ll do it.’”

That’s all the convincing Gneiser needed and two weeks later, he caddied his first tournament at Pebble Beach. The partnership only lasted a couple of years, but Gneiser would go on to experience a great deal of success working with David Toms, highlighted by victories at the 2001 PGA Championship and 2018 U.S. Senior Open.

Gneiser was introduced to the game by his parents when he was 9. His mom was the most decorated golfer in the family, winning more than 20 club tournaments. Gneiser learned golf at an inner-city junior program sponsored by the Detroit Free Press.

“It taught me a lot. You had all different cultures there and everybody seemed to get along,” he said. “You learn your etiquette. You grow up a little quicker.”

Gneiser equates the program to The First Tee, an organization founded in 1997 by the USGA, LPGA, the Masters Tournament, The PGA of America and the PGA Tour to bring affordable junior golf and accompanying life skills to communities without it.

Gneiser went on to become a standout at Bishop Gallagher High School in Harper Woods, Mich., earning All-State honors twice before receiving a scholarship to play at CMU. He called college golf a wake-up call.

“I got extremely nervous and shot 90 my first round,” Gneiser said. “It was really disappointing for me and I took it emotionally, but I came back and shot 76 my second day. I would’ve been too embarrassed to shoot another 90.”

Following graduation, Gneiser began his two-year stint with Humenik. After that, the caddie bounced around, carrying the bag for Andy North, Dan Pohl, Jeff Sluman and Brent Geiberger, who let Gneiser go in 1999. That was around the same time Toms fired his caddie, so Gneiser gave the golfer a call.

David Toms poses with caddie Scott Gneiser and son Carter after winning the 2018 U.S. Senior Open. (USGA/Chris Keane)

Toms was coming off four missed cuts and a withdrawal in his previous five tournaments but finished tied for fourth in his first event with Gneiser, the Kemper Open in late May.

“Right after that, he invited me to keep going. He was really coming into his own,” Gneiser said.

The partnership flourished as Toms closed out the year with victories at the Sprint International and Buick Challenge as well as a T-2 at the Reno-Tahoe Open.

The alliance hit its apex with the 2001 PGA Championship title, a one-stroke win over Phil Mickelson at the Atlanta Athletic Club, but a few years later, Toms let his caddie go.

“David started struggling with his game,” said Gneiser. “Our communication wasn’t there anymore, and I felt the ax coming.”

The caddie worked with Anthony Kim next but returned to Toms after only a year apart. Their second split was Gneiser’s idea.

“He started struggling again around 2010 and it seemed like he was losing interest,” said Gneiser, who made the difficult decision to leave and pair with up-and-comer John Peterson. “I had to make a business move.”

But once more, the separation didn’t last long and the two were back together by the end of 2011. Gneiser said the partnership works because they have a lot in common.

“We’re even-keeled guys,” he said. “We don’t get too high or too low. We keep each other going.”

That synergy was never more on display than during an early-summer weekend last year in Colorado Springs. The U.S. Senior Open at the The Broadmoor got off to an inauspicious start when Gneiser was taken to the hospital Thursday morning because he was suffering from chest pains. Toms’ son, Carter, was forced to pinch hit during the first two days.

With his full-time caddie back on Saturday, Toms shot his best round of the week (66) and followed it up with a 70 to capture the trophy.

“David’s always been a world-class player at the majors,” Gneiser said. “Patience is huge in a USGA event, and he hung in there. If he had a bad shot, it didn’t get him down. He got up and down almost every single time. We missed it in the right spot. If you start leaving yourself in a tough spot, you can make some doubles. We managed our way around the golf course.”

Gneiser played a big part in Toms’ success.

“You have to say the right thing at the right time,” the caddie said. “You have to not let his emotions get the most of him. Sometimes you have to let him vent.”

Having a strong playing background comes in handy, too.

Jordan Schwartz is the creative and content lead for the USGA Foundation. Email him at jschwartz@usga.org.