When Gig Harbor native Alex Milham got the call to caddy for amateur Davis Riley in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, it served as a validation to him for his years of hard work. Milham has been caddying at Chambers since its inception.
“I don’t get sick, I don’t take days off,” Milham said. “I think being here every day for seven or eight years has kind of paid off. It’s just the result of it.”
The 28-year-old soaked in the moment a bit on the opening day of the championship on the practice tee prior to Riley’s start time. After all, it has been a journey to get to where he was on Thursday morning. Milham, a graduate of Gig Harbor High School (2005), called into his boss the day after sectional qualifiers to check if he would be given a spot at the U.S. Open.
“He knows this was a goal of mine,” Milham said. “I didn’t really lobby for it, but I think I earned it.”
Riley, a Mississippi native who attends the University of Alabama, didn’t make the cut after the first two days. The odds of an 18-year-old making the cut at Chambers Bay were stacked against him. Riley shot a solid 73 on Thursday, but struggled on Friday, shooting 80.
Milham did what he could, offering his expertise on a course that he knew better than most caddies at the Open.
“I know the course probably better than almost anybody, and this kid can play some really good golf,” Riley said. “I tell him where to hit the ball and he does it just about every time.”
Milham said the two connected well quickly during the practice rounds.
“He’s just an amazing 18-year-old,” Milham said. “He’s got a really good head on his shoulders, got a really good game. It’s just nice to be a part of it. His game is solid. He doesn’t miss by much. He’s pretty balanced. He’s long off the tee, can putt real well, chip real well. He’s got a really solid game.”
Milham admitted he was a little nervous before his group teed off on Thursday, but was ready to get things rolling.
“The practice rounds build a lot of confidence for me, watching some of the pro caddies kind of struggle with some reads and it’s just second nature to me,” he said. “I’m right at home and these guys are wondering what the hell’s going on. So I feel great. The practice rounds instilled a lot of confidence in me.”
Milham didn’t try to mess with Riley’s game, opting to offer his course expertise as his primary function.
“He’s got a swing coach, so I don’t need to miss with his game and his swing,” Milham said. “It’s just keeping him on the right sides of the holes and working on the course, basically. He doesn’t need much help with his game.”
Michael Greller, a Gig Harbor resident and caddy for Jordan Spieth, the 2015 U.S. Open champion, started on a similar path as Milham. Greller got his caddying start at Chambers Bay as well. While following a similar path is a long shot, Milham hopes that perhaps the stars will align for him someday, too.
“I think that’s a dream for any caddy,” he said. “Who wouldn’t want to meet an 18-year-old kid and then travel on tour, see the world and play golf every day?”