FORT WORTH, Texas – It’s a caddie’s story, though it’s not so much about birdies and bogeys, or even golf, for that matter, except for where it played out its final scene.
A second-year medical student at Touro University in Vallejo, Calif., Zach Hauser back in February went to watch his oldest brother, Matt, ply his trade as Johnson Wagner’s caddie at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Zach stayed with his brother and on Saturday night, after Johnson missed the cut, they had dinner, knowing Sunday would take them in different directions. Matt had accepted an offer to play Cypress Point, and Zach wanted to watch the final round.
“Over the last 15 years, Zach had gotten to know a handful of caddies, so that Sunday he went out to follow some of them,” Matt said. “I told him where to go, which holes to watch at.”
The weekend was so right, even to the goodbyes.
“I said to myself, ‘We’ll do this every year. He was living out there, we’d play Pebble, it would be great,” Matt said.
How did he know it would be the last time he’d see his brother?
“In retrospect, I would have gone out and walked Pebble with him.” Matt paused, then added: “Pebble will always have an extra-special place in my heart.”
Zach Hauser died May 6 of a diabetic seizure. He was 25, “a big teddy bear,” in the words of PGA Tour veteran J.J. Henry, and for all the minutes Matt Hauser spends sorting through his emotions, he knows this: “Zach was a hero.”
Chances are, Zach Hauser had more courage, more grit, more determination than me, you, and another 1,000 people combined. He was born with a congenital malformation and when the Apgar test, which measures vital signs, was applied, “he scored a one,” Matt said. That spells horrors, and it’s why Zach Hauser spent nearly the first two years in a hospital. It’s why Matt Hauser as a young teenager was introduced to the workings of a colostomy bag.
“Being 14 years older, I was like half-brother, half-father,” Matt said. “Basically, he fought from the day he was born. He just dealt with so much as a kid.”
Beyond the congenital situation, Zach Hauser at age 9 was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. It was a free ticket for self-pity, “but he never complained a day in his life,” Matt Hauser said. Instead, Zach played on a 13-year-old Babe
Ruth team from Fairfield, Conn., that went to the national World Series. He played varsity football and baseball at Fairfield Prep. He loved. He lived. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire, but Zach Hauser wasn’t about to stop there. His heart was huge; so, too, his dreams.
“Growing up, kids were sort of mean (to Zach) and because of (his health issues) and because of his sister, I think he had a better understanding what people go through,” said Matt, 39, whose sister Molly, 32, has Down syndrome. “He just always wanted to be a doctor. He had this passion to help other people.”
Zach was studying osteopathic medicine. Apparently, he already had earned a Ph.D. in friendship. When Matt, his mother, Gretchen, and brother Rory went to Touro to gather Zach’s personal possessions, they were given a 15-minute video of tributes from classmates and friends.
“I knew about his life, but didn’t realize how well he was doing, how much (his friends) loved him,” Matt said. “It was inspiring. It reiterated everything I already knew.”
Zach was 10 when his oldest brother joined Henry on the PGA Tour circuit. Henry and Hauser have been best friends forever, kids from Fairfield, golf being the glue that always kept them together. Though he works now for Johnson, Matt Hauser and Henry remain “Pete and Repeat,” and Zach was an inspiration to both. They weren’t alone, either. Through visits to Doral and the old stop at Westchester Country Club and the annual party at TPC River Highlands in Connecticut, Zach had become well known and well liked.
Hauser feels that connection. He saw “ZH” emblazoned on so many hats during The Players Championship, which Matt missed. When he returned for Colonial, he received warm words, handshakes, hugs. “It says a lot about Zach and the support I’ve got out here, from players and caddies and how special this (PGA Tour) family is.”
What hung on a wall in Zach’s room at Touro was a poster of Gandhi with the quote “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
It fit his brother, Matt said. “Zach lived an unbelievable 25 years. He just loved knowledge.”
Seems he did a wonderful job imparting that knowledge, too.