Phil Mickelson first entered the TPC Southwind players’ locker room this week and did what he always does when arriving in Memphis. He sought out Carroll Waters, Jr.
Mickelson had brought with him several additional pairs of his iconic golf shoes with a figure of Mickelson leaping into the air after winning the Masters for the first time in 2004.
âCarroll,â he said, âI waited until I got here because my shoes are rough and I need you to take care of them. “
Waters is in his seventh year as a locker room keeper at TPC Southwind, a job he holds during the many weeks club members play on the course and during the week in which the world’s best golfers descend to Memphis for the World Golf Championships-FedEx Invitation St. Jude.
This is how, early in his tenure, Waters approached Mickelson. He told her that when he watched Mickelson play in tournaments, he strictly looked at his shoes. That’s why, when asked this week about Waters, and why he always brings more shoes than he needs to Memphis, Mickelson simply said, “He knows what he’s doing and he just knows things that the others don’t know. ”
âI’m the Doctor of Shine,â Waters explained. “I’m the only person in Memphis who can handle their shoes.”
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Waters has a behind-the-scenes view of the annual Memphis PGA Tour stop that few get, especially as COVID-19 protocols limited the number of people allowed into the TPC Southwind clubhouse.
He has become a familiar and memorable face for professional golfers, both in their experience in Memphis and the barbecue they eat when in town. He’s responsible for putting on their nameplates, keeping their shoes clean, making sure the bathroom is fully stocked, and all the other odd jobs a locker room attendant has to do.
But Waters also takes it upon himself to be in charge of the mood in the room.
âWhat you see on the outside is totally different from what I see on the inside,â he said. âI see these guys not necessarily in their natural habitat, but I see them relaxed, telling jokes, laughing. When you can take a little of that pressure off them when they come into the locker room and talk to them like you and me, they respect that.
His naturally charismatic demeanor made him an unforgettable personality for PGA Tour golfers.
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Billy Horschel, for example, brought up Waters on a February episode of GOLF’s Subpar podcast hosted by former PGA Tour golfer and current CBS analyst Colt Knost and former pro golfer Drew Stoltz.
Horschel recounted how Waters complimented Horschel’s style a few years ago and how well dressed he is always on the course. âYou’re so fresh and so clean,â Waters said, referring to the 2001 Outkast song.
âSo every time he sees me,â Horschel said on the podcast, âthe first time I walk in he always plays Outkast,â So Fresh, So Clean â.
Waters, 58, lives in Bartlett with his wife and he volunteered for a tournament before applying for the position to watch TPC Southwind locker rooms year round. His father, Carroll Waters Sr., flew planes for the military during the Vietnam War, then became the first black Federal Express pilot, hired in 1973 by founder Fred Smith.
This is how Waters ended up in Memphis. This is how he became one of the many unsung heroes who helped this tournament thrive for over 60 years.
âI love how passionate he is and how proud he is of what he does,â said Mickelson. “That’s why he’s the best.”
And Waters has a new story from inside the locker room he can tell after this week’s event.
When Xander Sc Chaudele entered the clubhouse on Tuesday, Waters showed him his locker and made a point of congratulating him on winning the gold medal in men’s golf two days earlier at the Tokyo Olympics.
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âI wish you had brought that gold with you,â Waters said. “I’ve never seen one in person.”
“Do you mean this medal?” ScHotele answered and took the gold medal out of his pocket.
He then let Waters take a photo with the gold medal around his neck. Add it to the list of things Waters saw in this tournament that none of us can.
âAt 10 years old here, I’m going to write a book. Of course, I’m going to change all the names, âWaters said with a laugh. âI tell people for 52 weeks a year, I’m just an ordinary person working here. But for a week, everyone comes to see me.