Ryuji Imada took off running down the first fairway at the Byron Nelson Championship.
“C’mon Nick!” he yelled back to his new caddie, acquired moments before. “Let’s go!”
Off they went, Imada and recent Bishop Gorman graduate Nick Meads, racing through the course at TPC Four Seasons Resort & Club.
A mere 2 hours, 8 minutes later, Imada and Meads reached the club house, setting the course record for fastest round in Byron Nelson history.
“It was fun,” Meads said Sunday evening after he returned to Tyler with enough time to play a full 18 at Willow Brook. “It was really neat. It was a true experience.”
Meads met Imada 12 years ago when his father, Timothy, played with Imada at the Bryon Nelson pro-am. The two began talking and texting — first on Timothy’s phone then on Nick’s when he became old enough to own his own phone.
“We really hit it off the last 10 years and really became close the last 4-5 years,” Nick Meads said.
Meads left Tyler at 4:30 a.m. to make it to Imada’s scheduled tee time of 7:10 a.m. In years past Meads has watched all four rounds of the Byron Nelson, but with his graduation on Friday, he was only able to make it to Sunday’s round.
Imada knew Meads was coming, and when he saw him prior to teeing off, it was soon decided that Meads would don the caddy’s bib and haul the pro’s clubs around the course.
“I was surprised,” Meads said. “We’ve actually talked about throughout this year getting the opportunity to caddy for him and give his caddy a week off.
“We’ve talked about it, but I wasn’t expecting it today. I was ready to go out and watch.”
Meads has caddy experience at the Texas State open and pro-ams, but never in a PGA Tour event.
“The guys are a total notch above amateurs and collegiate golfers,” said Meads, who had to be extra careful with the little things like raking a bunker. “It’s just a totally different atmosphere.”
Imada shot 5-under and was tied for eighth after the first two rounds, but a 79 on Saturday took him out of contention and meant he teed off first in a group by himself.
With no one in front of him and no one in his group, Imada asked the rules official what the quickest round was and soon Imada and Meads were off. Imada also set the course record at Hilton Head in South Carolina with a time of 1 hour, 47 minutes.
“He enjoys playing fast,” Meads said. “He’s more a fast player than a slow player.”
Meads and Imada didn’t run the entire time, but played quick golf throughout to set the record. The two jabbed each other back and forth along the way, with Imada giving Meads stink anytime he hit a bad shot.
Imada finished the round strong, with two birdies on the last three holes, to finish at 1-over for the day and 5-over for the tournament, earning $13,390 in winnings. Meads said he wouldn’t accept any money from his friend for his services.
“I told him that his caddy is keeping it,” Meads said. “That’s not my thing.”
After the round, with Imada winded and chatting with some friends, an ESPN reporter came by to talk to Meads about the fast round.
“Ryuji was giving me a hard time about that, taking away from his interview time,” Meads said. “I didn’t realize it was such a big deal playing fast. I thought it was pretty cool.”
Meads may caddie again for Imada for a full tournament to give his regular caddie a week off — Imada is playing for nearly two months straight, Meads said. But Meads’ next golf goal is to walk on to the team at Baylor.
“I visit with the coaches in a couple weeks — there’s no guarantee,” Meads said. “That’s my hope is that I have a walk-on opportunity and if not then I’ll keep working on my golf game and enjoy school.”