It’s been a big year Ellie and Michael Greller. After getting married in 2013, the Gig Harbor couple is in the midst of a remarkable run of success. Michael is the caddy for 20-year-old phenom golfer Jordan Spieth, who recently made a huge statement on golf’s biggest stage, tying for second place at the 2014 Masters in Augusta, Georgia, with a 5-under par performance for the tournament. Everything was working in the major for Spieth — and for Michael as well.
“That was the greatest work week of my life,” Greller said. “They say when you get in the zone, everything slows down. If there’s such thing as a caddying zone, we just got into a zone that week.”
Greller, 37, originally linked up with Spieth through Justin Thomas, a mutual friend and golfer. Greller was teaching at Narrows View Intermediate School in University Place at the time, and caddying in various spots, such as Chambers Bay Golf Course.
He got a call from Spieth and an opportunity to caddy for him in the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur at Gold Mountain Golf Course in Bremerton. A year later, he caddied again for Spieth at the 2012 U.S. Open, where Spieth finished 21st as an amateur. Spieth’s recent second place finish at the Masters cast him into the national spotlight. Ellie, who wasn’t a huge golf fan before she met her husband, didn’t understand how exciting the sport could be until she attended the Masters.
“Just walking to greens, I was nervous and excited,” she said. “You’re supposed to follow golf etiquette, but on the fourth hole on the last day of the Masters, Jordan hit an amazing bunker shot and I just screamed at the top of my lungs. It’s such an emotional game; I had no idea what an emotional roller coaster it is.”
While the success has brought the couple financial security and wonderful opportunities to see different parts of the world and experience different cultures, the traveling demands were strenuous on their marriage. Ellie, 33, said their relationship is strong and they can deal with the distance, but it’s been tough.
“It’s been a little challenging to spend so much time apart,” she said.
One of Michael’s main responsibilities is to be a source of encouragement for Spieth. Encouragement, ironically enough, is what Michael was missing when he was on the road.
“There’s long days of travel,” Michael said. “Or if you miss a cut, have a bad round and need encouragement, (Ellie) does that very well and naturally.”
As a result, Ellie is resigning from her post as a kindergarten teacher at Artondale Elementary to follow her husband on the tour. The decision wasn’t easy for the admired teacher, who has been at Artondale for nine years.
“I love my job,” Ellie said. “I think it’s the best job in the world. But I want to be able to support Michael. I’m going to miss teaching — that’ll be hard. But we’re just really happy to be together. It was a hard decision but I know it’s the right one.”
The decision to leave teaching was difficult for Michael as well. He had a house, a job, a wedding to pay for. But he was able to take a one-year leave of absence to pursue his caddying dreams, and could return to teaching if it didn’t work out.
“I really had nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Michael said.
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
Michael and Ellie were set up on a blind date by a mutual friend. Ellie agreed to go on the date to satisfy the friend, but in her mind dismissed any possibility of a serious connection.
“I was like, ‘Ok, sure, whatever,’” Ellie said.
She didn’t expect to fall in love on their first date at The Hub restaurant in Tacoma.
“I truly knew right away,” she said. “He was just so funny and real, and we just kind of knew right away.”
The couple got married in August 2013 —not surprisingly— at Chambers Bay Golf Course just two years after their first date. Spieth attended the wedding, illustrating the close bond he shares with Michael.
“They have a unique relationship; it’s a work relationship but it’s also like they’re brothers,” Ellie said. “Michael is like the big brother. I think that’s one of the reasons that they have so much success.”
For the past few years, Michael has been living his dream of caddying on the PGA Tour, which has allowed him to travel extensively. But he always looked forward to coming home to Ellie.
“When I would get off the plane, the first thing I’d do was go to her kindergarten classroom,” Michael said. “It’s such a joy to see her teach.”
The future is brimming with potential — of major wins, adventure, world travel and more. Michael is overjoyed to have Ellie to accompany him on his journey.
“For her to get to experience some of those things, culturally, in addition to the golf, it’s such a rare opportunity to see the world,” Michael said.
Michael said Spieth loves having Ellie around, making for a happy work family.
“They have a great relationship,” Michael said. “Ellie brings a different perspective to the road. It’s nice to have her perspective on things.”
Ellie will remain on with the Peninsula School District in a smaller capacity, serving as the teacher liason for the new kindergarten Facebook page. Her role will be to communicate with parents and promote kindergarten readiness.
While students and the PSD will certainly miss Ellie, her husband is happy she’s joining him.
“She’s my rock,” Michael said. “It’s going to be great.”Jon Manley: 253-358-4151 email@example.com Twitter: @gateway_jon