The man with the best hair on the LPGA Tour has called it a career. The recognizable signature blonde mop of Donnie Green, Jaye Marie Green’s dad, has retired as her looper. What was supposed to be a one-year assignment for the PGA teaching professional until Jaye Marie found a regular caddie turned into three years, but over the course of the Asian Swing, Jaye Marie decided it was time to give her dad a break.
“Since Asia I can’t keep getting my numbers, it’s just too much for me to do and hit the golf shot and reading my putts and everything,” Jaye Marie said. “I need some help so I was talking to Lexi’s caddie Benji [in Korea], ‘Do you know anyone who is like cool who I can laugh with, get my numbers?’ He said yeah, yeah, he knew this guy Phil so I said ok, and we are basically now the same person so it’s good.”
That was always part of Donnie’s plan. He wanted her to do everything on her own so she would learn it, know her stuff and know what she wanted in a caddie when the time came for him to hang up his bib.
“My dad wanted me to know what I wanted and at first I had no idea until towards the end, and I know now exactly what I want,” Jaye Marie said.
More than numbers, she wanted someone who made her laugh as much as her dad to keep her loose on the course. Insert Phillip Mollica, who played at Clemson and has played on the Web.com and Canadian Tour in recent years but recently missed Qualifying School by two shots, so he took up Green on her offer to caddie for her this week. Mollica knew Benji Thompson, Lexi’s caddie, through playing junior golf with Benji’s brother and Benji had caddied for Mollica at PGA Tour Qualifying School before and knew he’d be the perfect fit for Green. So she flew him down to Florida to practice with her during her two week break before this event, and then she flew him in for this week.
Mollica’s not ultimately sure if he will give up playing full-time but thinks caddying will ultimately help his playing if he decides to go back to the other side in 2016.
“I’ve heard that it does,” Mollica said. “I’ve had some buddies, one of my good friends Michael Maness, who used to caddie for Kevin Chappell, and he did it for a little bit and came back and played pretty good. It definitely does and you get to see a different side of it which is good for me. So we’ll see but I think it will definitely help.”
Whatever numbers Mollica was pulling Thursday were working as their trial run together started successfully with a 1-under-par 71 Thursday to get her just three shots back entering the second round on a day where she hit 15 greens, tied for second most in the field.
“First round under par? I’ll take it. It’s a good start,” Jaye Marie said.
It’s really been a good five months for Green. After a rocky first six months of the season, Jaye Marie was even considering hanging it up.
“I was telling my brother, you know, I think I want to quit golf, nothing is going my way,” Jaye Marie said. “It’s like I was concerned and wondering like ‘Could I be a great tennis player?’ Like I just didn’t know what I wanted to do, and my brother was like Jaye just hang in there, you are going to get one good break and that’s when I got the call that I was in the U.S. Women’s Open. I made the cut as well and ever since then it’s like things are going my way a little bit more and I think the confidence is just built up.”
It’s certainly been an impressive run since her T26 at the U.S. Women’s Open. After missing the cut in nine of her first 14 starts of 2015, Jaye Marie has reeled off six top-20s in the 10 events since, including her first two career top-10s, which is double the three top-20s she had in her first 39 career LPGA starts. The brilliant golf she displayed at LPGA Qualifying School, when she set a tournament record with a 29-under-par five-day total, is starting to pop out more and more.
That’s just how Donnie wanted to end his caddying career…with his daughter playing her best golf. And while his signature quick wit and brilliant flow will be missed on Tour by Jaye Marie and her competitors, she said it was just time for him to be at home.
“It just doesn’t feel right anymore,” Jaye Marie said. “I’m like I wanted him to go home and be with my mom and me do my own thing. And he is so awesome, so it’s cool.”