Weekend With The President

Sue Siens

Lebanon Native, Matt Gallant’s Experience of a Lifetime

By SUE SIENSSue Siens

Weekend with the PresidentThis Wilson Living story began with a phone call I received from my close friend, Pauline Satterfield. It was Saturday, February 16th, President’s Day holiday  She called about her eldest son, Matthew Gallant, who works as a professional golf caddie. It went something like this.

(Pauline) “I am dying to tell you something, but I can’t.”
(Me) “You know you’re going to tell me, so go ahead.”
(Pauline) “Matt is caddying for someone this weekend. Someone BIG. REALLY BIG. But I’m not allowed to say anything yet.”
(Me, laughing) “I’m dying to know. You can tell me, I won’t tell. Who is it? The President?”
(Pauline – pause) “Well, yes, but don’t tell anyone!”
(Me) “Are you kidding? It’s REALLY the PRESIDENT?”

The story would be almost unbelievable if it weren’t true. But it is. Wilson County native Matt Gallant spent three unforgettable, amazing days as one of the golf caddies for President Barack Obama, and a few of his friends. Oh yeah. One of those friends just happened to be TIGER WOODS!

So how did Matt get from Lebanon, Tennessee, to working at the Floridian National Golf & Yacht Club, one of the premiere ultra-luxury private golf clubs in America, and caddying for the President of the United States, and Tiger?

Here’s his story, that even Matt still can’t believe himself.

WLM: Matt, when did you start playing golf?

Matt: I’ve played as long as I can remember. My parents were members of Lebanon Golf & Country Club. My brothers and I, and our friends, would hang out there all summer. We’d play golf all day, and some of the guys would stop and jump into the swimming pool when we’d come to hole number three, but I’d usually keep playing. I played baseball too, but I was more serious about golf. By the time I was 13, I started playing in junior tournaments.

WLM: How did you become a professional caddie?

Matt: I attended Father Ryan High School, and we had a great golf team. In order to get recognized for college teams, I played in AJGA state and nationalPreidentMatthew Gallant is the son of Lebanon physician, Gary Gallant, M.D., and Pauline Satterfield (step-son of Dr. Robert Satterfield) of Old Hickory. Matt’s two younger brothers, Michael and Stephen, are also avid golfers. Michael works in sales and also caddies at the Floridian and other courses. Stephen lives in Nashville,and caddies at Belle Meade Country Club. The Floridian National Golf & Yacht Club is located in Palm City, FL near the St. Lucie River. It is owned by Jim Crane, owner of the Houston Astros. tournaments. I was ranked about 26th among the top junior golfers in the country. I golfed with the UT-Knoxville golf team and later at Austin Peay. After that I played professionally for a few years, on the Nationwide and Hooters tours. Through college and on the pro tours, I made a lot of friends and contacts in golf. One of my college buddies got me my first caddie job at Diamond Creek, an exclusive private golf club in North Carolina. That led to the opportunity to also caddie at the Floridian and other courses. I’ve been working as a caddie off and on now for about
7 years.

WLM: What is it like to caddie at these elite courses, and what do you do as a caddie?

Matt: My job is to give the golfers the best possible golf experience they can have. We advise on club selection, how the course is laid out and how to play it, how to putt the greens. We help them relax, and play the best game they can. It’s like working in fantasyland, that’s the only way I know how to describe it. There are helicopters flying in and out with some of the most famous, successful people in the world. We have to respect their privacy so I can’t name names, but I’ve caddied for four billionaires in a foursome, actors, politicians, you name it. I meet a lot of interesting people, and get to work and play on some beautiful courses.

WLM: So tell us about your weekend with the President. How did you find out you were going to caddy, and what was he like?

Matt: I had been caddying for a client in Mexico for 9 days, and had just gotten back on Monday, and on Tuesday I was told that the President was coming. We had to pass background checks, we were searched, there were a lot of security procedures, but it was expected. There was a lot going on and a lot to coordinate. We didn’t know anything specific about his plans or his arrival until just before the President got there. At the last minute, I was told I would be caddying with the President. It was kind of surreal, I was thinking, “I can’t believe I’m really out here with the President!” He was friendly and nice to everyone, had a quick wit, and joked a lot with his golf partners. The President and I had some small conversations, mostly about the course, golf. We talked about how hard it is. The President was very athletic. He played 27 holes each day for three days. He was good off the tee and had a good short game, and I think he has a lot of potential overall if he had more time to play. The third day just happened to be my 32nd birthday. President Obama gave me a hug and wished me “Happy Birthday,” and gave me a few momentoes to keep. It was a lifetime experience, something I will never forget.

Weekend with the PresidentThe President gave Matt cufflinks and golf balls for his birthday.WLM: Were you nervous?

Matt: Yes, I was very nervous, we were all nervous, but I tried to focus on doing my job. After playing the first two or three holes, everyone relaxed and it was more like a normal round of golf. As normal as it can be when it’s the President.

WLM: I’m picturing guys in black suits and dark sunglasses hiding behind bushes, and a Navy seal snorkeling in the water hazard. What about the Secret Service?

Matt: It was kind of like being in a movie. The Secret Service agents were pretty much, everywhere. They were all nice, very professional. They were serious about doing their job to take care of security and protect the President. The ones around the course dressed casual, in golf shirts, and one had to be within a certain number of feet of the President at all times. There were others dressed like Swat teams, and in suits. I guess the President is used to it, he was very relaxed. We weren’t allowed to touch the President’s golf cart, so I was careful about that. I thought, “If I give the President a high-five when he hits a good shot, are they going to take me out?” A small plane flew near the course by accident, and two F-16 fighter jets darted down and made him land. That was pretty scary.

WLM: Tell us about the second day, when Tiger Woods played with the President as his golf partner.

Matt: I kept thinking, “This is the coolest day of my career! How does it get any better?” The President made sure that Tiger was his partner in the
foursome. I think they were both a little in awe of each other, and definitely respected each other. For me, it was so cool watching Tiger play. He has
been the icon in golf for my generation. Seeing Tiger hit the ball is amazing. It was a great atmosphere. The President and Tiger joked around with everyone, gave each other a hard time. It was just four guys having a golf match. I think everyone enjoyed the game and had a good time.

Matt summed up his life-changing weekend this way, “I still can’t believe it. I was just lucky to be there. It was the experience of a lifetime.”

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