For caddie Todd Montoya, the text he received in 2020 from PGA Tour golfer Brian Stuard was liberating.
As Montoya recounted to the Golf Channel: “I went out for dinner that evening and a text came through from Brian that said: ‘I just wanted to say thanks for another successful year and I just wanted to say that I really appreciate that you told me and that I feel very grateful that you consider me close enough for you to open up. Don’t think for one second that it makes me think any differently of you and the person you are.’”
Stuard was referring to Montoya coming out to him as gay after being his Tour caddie for four years. He is the first openly gay caddie on the PGA Tour and Montoya’s public coming out was a way for him to try and inspire others. (In 2018, Tadd Fujikawa became the first male pro golfer to come out.)
“My hope is that they can see someone who has taken that step and found in their life that it is OK to be yourself and be out,” Montoya said in the six-minute segment with reporter Kira K Dixon.
Montoya has been a lifelong golfer and began caddying professionally in his 20s, finally breaking into the PGA Tour in 2006, working with Doug LaBelle II. He came out to LaBelle and his response changed Montoya’s attitude of how people in the golf world would respond.
”I called him up and said, ‘Hey, Dougie, there’s something really important I want to tell you,’ and I said, ‘I’m gay’. He paused and he said, ‘It doesn’t make any difference whatsoever’. When someone that is important to you accepts you for who you are, it’s a big deal.”
Since coming out to Stuard, Montoya says, “I feel 100% different. I feel like I’m walking on air. Brian has given me the greatest gift that I could ever get. I feel like he’s given me my freedom.”
Montoya and Stuard won’t be in Augusta for the Masters this week (Stuard made the tournament once, in 2017, where he finished tied for 36). But Montoya’s public coming out has made golf a bit more inclusive and that’s an accomplishment in and of itself.