As if the pressure isn’t already ratcheted high enough at a Ryder Cup, try throwing in one of the greatest athletes of all time looking on.
That was the situation for Brad Faxon‘s caddie, John Burke, at the 1997 matches at Valderrama in Spain. As he told GOLF Subpar co-hosts Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz, it wasn’t that he cracked under the pressure to do his job — it was the sight of Michael Jordan that got him.
Burke told Knost and Stoltz it was his second Ryder Cup, and he was already feeling some nerves when he spotted the Chicago Bulls star by the tee box.
“Nobody knows he’s there,” Burke said. “This is the first time he’s ever gone and he hadn’t told anybody and everything like that.”
Jordan was in the midst of his second run of three-straight NBA Championships with the Bulls. Burke was starstruck.
“He looks at me and he gives me this manly fist pump, like only Jordan can do,” Burke said. “I’m caught off guard and I gave him the stupidest fist pump back. He looked at me like I was the biggest idiot that ever walked. And that was my take from that Ryder Cup.”
As if matters couldn’t get any worse for Burke, he tried to make up for the embarrassment of letting down His Airness.
As Jordan was sitting in U.S. captain Tom Kite’s cart — where water was stored for the players — Burke took it upon himself to show off his machismo.
“Both of his legs are kind of blocking the cooler,” Burke said of Jordan. “And [Faxon] was parched because, you know, he’s so nervous and every everybody is. So I run up to [Jordan] and I hit him as hard as I can in the knees and I said, ‘Get out of the way,’ and grab the water.”
That went about as well as the flubbed fist pump.
“He gave me that same look back,” Burke said. “It didn’t work. It backfired.”
Burke has had a couple of other Jordan run-ins since and one time he even dared ask MJ about that day at Valderrama.
“I said, ‘You remember that?'” Burke recalled. “And he goes, ‘Yeah, I remember that.’ And he never said anything to me the rest of the day.”
For more from Burke, including his failed attempt to caddie for Adam Scott and getting Wayne Gretsky’s autograph while in contention at Pebble Beach, listen to the full episode below.