NASSAU (BAS) — Rick Rielly is the long-time director of golf for Wilshire Country Club and still remembers when Rob McNamara first showed up at his office.
He said that the boy was about 13 or 14 and weighed 80 pounds. He showed up with a golf ball retriever, and a towel. I made him sit outside the shop on a bench until a single became available because the caddie yard in those days was rough.
McNamara, 35 years later or so, has only one bag in his Hero World Challenge bag for the four days ahead – Tiger Woods.
Woods, who had been using Joe LaCava as his caddie for the past two years, was now in need of another bagman. He turned to McNamara – his right-hand-man, and one of his closest confidantes, since more than 20 years.
Woods understated the importance of McNamara’s contribution to his game, since he was left without a coach in 2017.
McNamara, whose father had a thick Irish accent and lived nearby, charmed Rielly to let his son play the game. McNamara had a goofy smile and thick curly hair. But members soon took to him, and he was able to work his way up into the bagroom. He also developed into a decent player. He played golf at Santa Clara University, in Northern California, and graduated in 1997 as a physics student. This was just as Tiger began to make his mark as a world-beater. McNamara’s focus was not on science, but rather golf.
Pat Rielly, Rielly’s father, became an important person in McNamara’s career after college. Pat, a former PGA President and Director of Golf at Annandale Country Club, Pasadena hired McNamara to work in the pro shop as an assistant. McNamara quickly realized that the club pro ranks weren’t for him.
Pat helped him get his next big break after a brief stint as a golf website start-up. Pat’s other son Mike, who was working at IMG, the sports marketing giant founded Mark McCormack, set up an interview when McNamara expressed an interest in becoming a sports agent. Pat was a great judge of talent and McNamara was hired as an account manager in 2000. Soon after McNamara moved to Cleveland, he was hired by the firm that represented Arnold Palmer and Annika Sorenstam. Alastair Johnston invited McNamara into his office to have a “get to know you” meeting.
In 2022, McNamara said Golfweek that it took Alastair only a couple of minutes to explain that Mr. McCormack never had a say in a hiring at my level. But after a short conversation with Pat, everything changed. Pat convinced Mark, an attorney who is a sports marketing pioneer and a power broker, that I am the only candidate for the job. It would be a huge mistake for IMG not to hire this random former college golfer with little or no experience.
McNamara’s curly hair has long since disappeared, but he is now Woods’ right hand man with the official title of Executive Vice President of TGR Ventures.
He was a digital-native in his early years at IMG. He helped to protect Tiger’s right.
Mike Rielly stated, “None knew what it was. Rob figured out the meaning.”
Woods’ own company led him to leave IMG and join Team Tiger. McNamara has been Tiger’s longest-serving associate, aside from Mark Steinberg who is Tiger’s agent. He’s a colleague who speaks the language, and who he relies on as a second pair of eyes and ears. It’s an amazing journey from a teenage caddie, to being in Tiger’s inner circle. The relationship is one of mutual respect.
Rick Rielly commented, “It’s really cool to see Robert on television today. He was overwhelmed at first and now look where he has gotten.” “He took his chance and he seized it.”