CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Joe Greiner always knew there was something special about his childhood friend Max Homa.
He knew it from the time he caddied for Homa in his first PGA Tour event in 2013, when Homa told him how nervous he was on the 72nd hole of the Frys.com Open, then stepped up to the tee box and striped a 300-yard 3-wood down the center of a tight fairway.
“I was like, ‘You didn’t even look nervous,'” Greiner told Homa at the time. “Right then, I was like, he’s just a little different than anything I have ever seen.”
Even after Homa fell on hard times and lost his PGA Tour card not once, but twice, and it became no longer “financially responsible” for Greiner to carry his bags, the caddie told anyone in the golf world who’d listen that his buddy had the resiliency to make it back and win a PGA Tour event.
Just watch, he’d tell them.
It finally happened Sunday as Homa got the breakthrough win — and the job security — he has been desperately seeking, shooting a 15-under 269 to win the Wells Fargo Championship by three shots and collect a $1.42 million prize. Now he’s 35th in the FedEx standings and will be playing in the upcoming PGA Championship.
His life has changed, just as Greiner knew it would.
“I knew he was a top-50 player in the world,” said Greiner, who rejoined Homa as caddie last fall. “I have seen a lot of good golf and see the way Max hits irons. So when he putts good, he has a chance.”
Greiner and Homa grew up together in Valencia, California, and have known each other since Homa was 6.
They regularly competed on the golf course.
Homa went on to play at Cal, where he won the Division I national championship in 2013. When he broke onto the PGA Tour, he asked Greiner to be his caddie, a business/personal relationship that lasted for three years until Homa lost his card the first time.
“Honestly, it sucked to be not around him,” Greiner said.
Homa said that was an awful time in his life, as well.
There were times he hated his golf game, his attitude was terrible and he would wallow in pity.
Emotionally, he reached what he called “low, low places.”
But he never gave up.
“I’m very proud I finally found a ladder and started climbing upward because it was getting dark down there,” Homa said.
That’s par for the course for Homa. His parents would tell him when he was a toddler that he methodically figured out how to climb the steps in their home despite repeated falls.
He wouldn’t give up.
“I’m tough,” Homa said. “I don’t know all about my golf all the time, but I’m tough. I was really happy with myself today. I told Joe on one of the holes I felt like I was going to throw up, but my hands felt unbelievable on the club.”
It’s not unusual for Homa to tell Greiner about his desire to vomit.
But the thing is, Greiner said Homa never shows it when he grabs a club. When there is a big shot to be made, “he mans up,” Greiner said.
To win his first tournament with Greiner on the bag was extra special.
They clutched hands together and embraced on the 18th green, a culmination of how hard they have worked to reach this point together.
Homa said Greiner has been “the rock” he needed.
“I’ve obviously been very lucky to have Joe with me,” Homa said. “I’ve had some great caddies in my life, he’s the best, but he also does not let me wallow at all and he is the confidence boost I need. … He kept telling me we’re around the corner from some great golf. To hear it from somebody who’s seen some fantastic golf, that was cool for me to hear.”