PINEHURST, N.C. — This is a long way from Narrow View Intermediate School in University Place, where Michael Greller taught sixth-graders.
But he says his teaching experience has helped in his new gig as caddie for the biggest young star on the PGA Tour, 20-year-old Jordan Spieth from Dallas. He shot a 69 in the first round of the U.S. Open on Thursday at Pinehurst No. 2 and is tied for sixth.
“Everything I have done in my life prepared me for this, specifically teaching for 10 years,” said Greller, 36. “Being able to think on your feet, being adaptable and having thick skin … you are going to mess up — and if you are not confident in yourself, your player picks up on that. You have to be willing to serve and encourage. Just like in teaching.”
While Spieth’s star has risen at light speed — he’s No. 10 in the world rankings after a second-place finish at the Masters and playing in the final group at the prestigious Players Championship — Greller has become a star in his own right, both because of his interesting journey to this job and because of the seemingly nonstop on-course banter between player and caddie.
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When the U.S. Junior Boys Amateur was played at Gold Mountain in Bremerton in 2011, Spieth needed a caddie. His friend, Justin Thomas, suggested Greller, who caddied in the summers at Chambers Bay and who had caddied for Thomas in the U.S. Amateur in 2010 at Chambers Bay.
With Greller on the bag, Spieth became the first player since Tiger Woods to win back-to-back Junior Amateurs, and when Spieth turned pro in December 2012, Greller had a new full-time job.
Greller said he is getting used to all the attention.
“I tell friends, it’s adjusting to the new normal,” Greller said. “I definitely value when I am home, my time away from it and being on the Puget Sound and looking at Mount Rainier. It is a lot less of a circus. But part of the job is adjusting to the biggest stage in golf, that is where Jordan is.”
Greller is already looking forward to the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. He got married at the course last year. Fellow caddies are asking him about places to stay and seeking his advice about the course.
“It will be great for me,” he said. “I can go home every night.”
Scott Hanson: 206-464-2943