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Pinehurst Has Its Own Version Of 'Bagger Vance'

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PINEHURST — The Legend of Bagger Vanceis the new Robert Redford film about a golfer who gets help from a mysterious caddy. As thousands of North Carolinians see the movie for the first time, one Pinehurst man could be a movie of his own.

When you look at Willie McRae, you see more than a caddy who knows his way around the golf course. You see a friend with a warm smile -- a man who likes to crack a joke every now and then.

"When you find them on the tee start joking, you can have a lot of fun," he says. "That makes them play better too."

McRae, a popular favorite on the links, is known to golfers across the world. He knows the courses at Pinehurst like the back of his hand. He has been there since he was ten years old. He is now 67.

"I haven't had one person yet that didn't want to have me caddy for them anymore," he says. "It's a nice job. You meet a lot of nice people. You really enjoy it."

Willie McRae may be Pinehurst's version of Bagger Vance, but the research of the Hollywood movie started in the Tufts archives. It all began when three men visited Khristine Januzik on the last day of the U.S. Open last year.

"They were scouting for Robert Redford who wanted to do a film on golf, and they immediately thought of us," she says.

Januzik showed them her extensive collection of caddy photographs -- some dating all the way back to the 1940s. The pictures became the models for the costumes worn by Will Smith and Matt Damon in the movie.

"It makes you feel good. It makes you feel they really pay attention to details and wanting to do something right," she says.

It also shows Willie McRae that he played a small part in Pinehurst's caddy history -- a legend in his own time.

The Legend of Bagger Vance opens on Friday.


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