NASSAU, Bahamas — Rick Rielly, the longtime director of golf at Wilshire Country Club, still remembers the first time Rob McNamara showed up to work for him.
“He was 13 or 14 years old and 80 pounds sopping wet,” he said. “He shows up with a towel, he might’ve had a ball retriever and I had him sit on the bench outside the golf shop until something opened up for a single because the caddie yard was a bit gruff in those days.”
Thirty-five years or so later, McNamara has a single bag for the next four days at the Hero World Challenge – the one and only Tiger Woods.
With Joe LaCava, Woods’s caddie since 2011, having moved on to Patrick Cantlay last year when Woods was sidelined following surgery to his right ankle in April, Woods was in need of a bagman this week – and likely at the PNC Championship and beyond – and turned to his right-hand man in McNamara, who has been one of his closest confidants for more than two decades.
“He’s seen me hit a few shots,” Woods said, underselling the value McNamara has brought to his game since he went without a coach beginning in 2017.
All those years ago, McNamara’s father, who had a thick Irish brogue and lived in the neighborhood, talked his way past the gate at Wilshire, a private club not far from Hollywood, and charmed Rielly into giving his son his start in the game. McNamara was shy with a goofy laugh and a thick head of curly hair, but before long members took a liking to him and he worked his way into the bag room while also developing into a decent stick. He went off to Santa Clara University in Northern California and played on the golf team, graduating as a physics major in 1997, just as Tiger was getting started as a worldbeater. But it was golf not science where McNamara eyed making his mark.
After college, Rielly’s father, Pat, moved into the picture as an important figure in McNamara’s career development. Pat was a former PGA president and director of golf at Annandale Country Club in Pasadena, and hired McNamara as an assistant pro, working in the shop. It wasn’t long before McNamara realized the club pro ranks wasn’t the path for him.
He did a stint at a start-up…