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Carry on: Tour caddies make the right move in organizing APTC

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So this is what happens when they cancel the caddie races. Many of the most high-profile caddies in professional golf, as well as members of the rank and file, have banded together to form the Association of Professional Tour Caddies (APTC) in order to create both a unified voice and lobby.

Now, before you say, “These guys get paid hundred of thousands of dollars to carry a bag,” it’s important to remember that professional caddies do much more than merely hand a player his/her club; they are vital to the success of professional golfers.

One of the best brief summaries of the roles caddie play beyond charting courses, giving yardages, and carrying bags was written by Larry Dorman in the New York Times during the course of the Tiger Woods-Steve Williams split:

“[Caddies] are traffic cops, psychiatrists and meteorologists. They are chauffeurs, butlers, and bodyguards, buddies, sidekicks and frequent dinner companions. When things get really tough, they are guard dogs, attack dogs.”

The “dogs” are often not treated with the same level of respect by tournament hosts and venues as players.

At The Barclays, according to APTC President James Edmondson, the following occurred during a rain delay:

“A security guy came in, started berating us, asking to see everyone’s ID, and then began kicking out our families into the rain. We all thought, ‘Would they ever do this to the players in their area?’ That’s when we decided to have a meeting.”

The result of that meeting, attended by half of the caddies looping in New York that week: a unanimous vote to become an association. The group hired the law firm of Barlow, Garsek & Simon to represent them and established a board of caddies, which includes Tiger Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava.

As Christian Dennie, an attorney for the caddies said:

The caddies play an instrumental role in the success of tour players and the success of professional golf. In an effort to further their profession, caddies have united to provide more information about their role in professional golf and obtain group benefits that will allow them to have retirement accounts and health care like many Americans who watch golf each week.

Standard pay for a caddie on the PGA Tour is a $1,000 a week plus 5-to-10 percent of a player’s winnings. Sure, if you’re Joe LaCava, Steve Williams, Fluff Cowan, or Bones Mackay, maybe you’re making close to seven figures. But what if you’re carrying a bag for Ken Duke, 50th on the PGA Tour money list at $1,722,583, making 5-to-10 percent of that number plus $1000 a week? Or Casey Wittenberg, 150th on the money list at $425,395?

Carrying a bag on tour beats the proverbial burger flipping from a financial point of view to be sure, but what of benefits, health insurance, retirement accounts, etc? As caddies aren’t formally employed by the Tour, they aren’t recipients of standard benefits afforded to employees of a large, immensely profitable organization.

It’s appropriate to remember, too, that prior to Walter Hagen’s 1920 Open Championship dressing-in-his-limousine stunt (and the succeeding U.S. Open), touring pros weren’t even permitted to change in the host club’s locker room. Beyond this specific formal barrier, the men placing pegs in the ground were generally treated more like traveling circus performers than revered athletes.

The PGA Tour itself—which, among many other things, contributed to reversing the above—was only formed in the late 1960 as money from television contracts began to pour into the pockets of the PGA of America. It was at this point that those entertaining Americans on the fairways collectively stood up and said they felt they ought to rewarded appropriately for their efforts.

Professional caddies are faced with a similar situation today: needing to formally legitimize a profession that has evolved and become quite legitimate in significant ways but hasn’t in equally significant others.

Long gone are the days of a pro picking the local caddie from the pit to schlep his bag for the week. It’s time for professional tour caddies to be appropriately organized and represented, and the APTC is the right move.

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30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Albert Sewill

    Nov 20, 2013 at 9:22 am

    It was only a matter of time before this happened! The modern caddy is very under-appreciated.

  2. What a stupid I am!

    Nov 13, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    From Golf Digest’s September 2012 issue:

    A FEW PROS make the tour an all-day, everyday job. For all the money in the world I couldn’t work for Vijay Singh. It would drive me crazy to stand there and watch a guy hit 7,000 golf balls a day–I couldn’t have watched Ben Hogan hit 7,000 golf balls a day. Paul Tesori is a former tour player who worked for Vijay until Vijay called him one Christmas morning to see if he wanted to meet at the range. Paul said working 366 days a year was a bit much. He’s now working closely with Webb Simpson.

    http://www.golfdigest.com/magazine/2012-09/mark-long-stories#ixzz2kaUtNCS5

  3. jeev

    Nov 11, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Mods! I see a politically charged post that should be edited/removed!

  4. snowman0157

    Nov 10, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    ok, no offense.. it is low-skilled labor. So if they choose to caddie, travel a lot, work on commission and pay their own expenses, for 50K / yr gross, god bless ’em. They probably like the lifestyle. If not, get another skill and stay home. Nobody owes nobody a certain standard of living.

  5. Enabler

    Nov 8, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Caddy can make a huge impact on the performance of the player. The role of the touring caddy is much like coaching and staff for other sports. Anyone who travels 30 weeks a year no matter the perks sacrifices traditional life relationships with children and family. The PGA should evaluate the situation and offer up recognition to the profession and their role in the tour. Appears it is another example of squeaky wheel gets oil… This organization should help the profession. It is past time the members of the PGA recognizes the touring caddy significance to this sport.

  6. AJ

    Nov 8, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Just a fairly amusing note regarding caddies – one of the guys at my club (Scottish fella) is good mates with Alistair McLean, tour caddie to Colin Montgomerie for a number of years.

    Regarding the ‘hiring and firing’ process, Alistair recently worked for Henrik Stenson (post Monty, after Fanny retired) and effectively ‘sacked’ Stenson because he wasn’t playing well enough.

    Safe to say a couple of years after that sacking, he regrets the move!

  7. CWA

    Nov 7, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    CWA!!!!!

  8. Mike M

    Nov 7, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    I think this is great for the caddies, its going to help them a lot with their careers. i don’t think its right that ernie els has a caddie becomes friends with dan quinn and then drops his regular caddie… contracts contracts contracts !

    • rB

      Nov 11, 2013 at 6:52 pm

      AJ, I have known EE for 20 years and RR during that span..
      … there is aLOT more to their history than Ernie meeting DQ.!!
      Sometimes change is a good thing..

  9. Unbelievable!

    Nov 7, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    There are MASSIVE amounts of people who work WAY harder for a lot less. All of you guys saying 50,000 a year isn’t a lot of money… It’s about 900 a week….

    That’s 22.50 an hour for a 40 hour job.

    50,000 is probably above average pay for entry level management in most major corporations….

    That’s average pay for Electricians… Plumbers… Framers…

    It’s more than most Teachers, Fireman, Police Officers… Public Defenders and Prosecuters…

    Poor, sad, underpaid little caddie….

    It’s great they banded together to help improve their lives… Bravo… It truly is needed and deserved… However… Stop complaining about the money…. You know what that is…

    Pathetic.

    • Bobcat43

      Nov 8, 2013 at 8:44 pm

      I for one wouldn’t want to be on the road for 25-30+ weeks a year for $50k and deal with a Tour Pro’s every whim. When I was fresh out of college I was making far more than that for being on the road that much (back in the 90’s, and it wasn’t management). But obviously someone wants that job. And someone always will want that job.

      But I will say that if Bones, Fluff or (insert any tour caddy) decide to price themselves out of the market. That’s their decision. I don’t watch professional golf to see them huck a bag and pitch grass in the air. Not to belittle their job, but someone will do their job and those great players will still be great.

      And I cannot stress this point enough… the PGA TOUR is the players (not their caddies). Joe Lacava may be cool but he’s not the “Golden Goose”. Will Tiger have to cross a picket line on the first tee? No.

      When a minority share partner tries to force the majority share partner to act, it will go poorly for the minority share partner. Frankly, below average tour caddies just like below average tour players should make less less (relatively speaking). It keeps the ranks fresh and the competition strong.

  10. john flavia

    Nov 7, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    This has started me thinking in another way.

    The touring pro’s have it pretty good, I’ve read how their retirement packages are second to none, certainly the NFL, NBA, MLB doesn’t even compare (something like $10,000 gets added to their retirement accounts for every tournament they make the cut?). The PGA just announced they have raised the PGA Championship purse to $10 mill, the most of any tournament/major and has recently been boasting about $1 billion for charity raised. So you’re telling me that you have done nothing in all this time for the working man of the industry, the caddy?, to improve them?

    • Wyatt

      Nov 9, 2013 at 8:25 am

      They work more then 40hour a week. Plus has to pay all of their own expenses… You guys do not know the facts unless you are in the profession. Quit JUDGING. The PGA DOES NOTHING for the caddies at all no retirement either… The player if “vested” will retire a millionaire because they get money from the PGA… No where does the caddies get any of this…

  11. Ralph

    Nov 7, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Ah the dark side of professional golf. Good for them for trying to improve their lot in life.
    Professional golfers are independent contractors. Just as the caddies ultimately are. One can fire the other at a moments notice with no forewarning.
    They’d better be careful for what they wish.
    I foresee the day when local yokels once again come back into the caddy game. The day will come when the pro tours allow GPS and lasers during play. Might be a while.

  12. Bobcat43

    Nov 7, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Real quick… Are these guys forced into this job? Seems to me that schlepping a bag for Casey Whittenburg for $48k/yr is a crappy job. But I don’t think Casey puts a gun to anyone’s head either. But that’s my opinion there maybe someone who would do that job for free.

    So either find a better player, negotiate better or just find a better job. As for the issues with kicking family members out into the rain. I’m sure that can be fixed or maybe there is another side to the story. Not sure we need to call in Richard Trumka.

    Oh and health benefits! Really are you guys serious? Our Gov’t has already fixed that problem! Just like everything it will be free for all of us! (insert sarcastic smiley here)

    So if being a Tour Caddy is such a crappy job why the heck would anyone ever do it?

  13. GolferX

    Nov 7, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    I think its a great step forward for the caddies; there is an awful lot of money being made on the PGA Tour and its time for the caddies to get some security. However, that begs the question, who pays? If they get benefits, who pays? The Tour? That particular caddie’s player?
    What happens when your player retires or moves on? What about the other Tours? We will have to see how this shakes out.
    Fairways and Greens, my friends.

  14. Double Mocha Man

    Nov 7, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    When I was a caddie I made a whopping $10 a bag and scored a Snickers candy bar at the turn if I was lucky.

    • Jon

      Nov 7, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      Congrats, Mocha Man. That’s quite a bit for someone who wants somebody to feel sorry for them.

  15. Eric

    Nov 7, 2013 at 11:56 am

    breaking down the numbers.

    Ken Duke – 28 events, $1,722,583.73 in winnings in 2013
    Ken Duke’s caddie (if $1K per week, 5% for any winnings, 7% of top 10, and 10% for a win) – $172,377.14

    Take into account that he is on the road 28 weeks a year on his own dime which probably cost him $30K-$40. That means his takehome is about $135K before taxes. Yes, this is still a lot of money, but not for the top 50 in his profession for the year. And $135K is nowhere near a “fortune”.

    • Ken

      Nov 7, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      I think you are forgetting about one crucial item…endorsements

  16. john flavia

    Nov 7, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Also, when you make your calculations, remember most tour players probably only play 25 tournaments = 25 weeks, so if you use the Casey Whittenburg as the example: 2013 season = 27 tournaments & $425,395 in winnings, so at $1,000/week + 5% = $27,000 + $21,270 = 48,270.
    The question of ‘who pays for caddy’s expenses’? will be a big part in determining if that is a decent salary for caddy for a low ranking tour player or not.

    • Wyatt

      Nov 9, 2013 at 8:31 am

      Caddies are responsible for all their own expenses. Ie: flight, hotel, food, car, gas… Etc… They are also responsible for their own insurance.. Ie: single plan $250-$500, family $500-$2000 A MONTH! Again know your facts quite speculating.

  17. Zak Kozuchowski

    Nov 7, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Don’t forget the costs, guys. Just like tour players, caddies pay their own travel expenses.

  18. Evan

    Nov 7, 2013 at 11:41 am

    I completely agree with David here. If you are Ken Duke’s Caddy and making the lower 5%, you are still clearing $100k/year. if its 10%, go ahead and bump that to around $200k a year.

  19. David

    Nov 7, 2013 at 11:34 am

    “Standard pay for a caddie on the PGA Tour is a $1,000 a week plus 5-to-10 percent of a player’s winnings. Sure, if you’re Joe LaCava, Steve Williams, Fluff Cowan, or Bones Mackay, maybe you’re making close to seven figures. But what if you’re carrying a bag for Ken Duke, 50th on the PGA Tour money list at $1,722,583, making 5-to-10 percent of that number plus $1000 a week? ”

    I don’t understand the question… that’s an absolute FORTUNE.

    • john flavia

      Nov 7, 2013 at 11:45 am

      Do caddies pay for their own expenses out of their weekly/winnings-percentage? OR is that additionally compt’d by the player? If they have to pay for their travel/hotel/food accomodations, then that can eat up most, if not all of the $1,000, unless they are sleeping in shared rooms, etc, and eating minimal meals at fast food joints, imo.
      When I go to my annual meetings (4-day trip), even when I try to keep expenses down by staying in the not-so-hottest of hotels, try not to eat fancy dinners, I can’t seem to get away with less than ~$1,200 or so in expenses, including airfare.

      • Chris

        Nov 7, 2013 at 11:52 am

        They normally pay out of pocket. It helps if they have friends in different cities. My buddy stays with me when he comes to town. I can’t tell you how pumped he is to save that few hundred plus have a laundry machine at his disposal. I think he did about 6 loads when he came in a few months ago.

      • Wyatt

        Nov 9, 2013 at 8:32 am

        Yes they are responsible for all their own expenses… Airfare, hotel, food, car, gas, etc….

    • Chris

      Nov 7, 2013 at 11:48 am

      You’re completely neglecting the fact that they have to use that money to pay rent wherever they live plus the hotels/motels that they stay at 7 days a week when on the road. Factor in gas (keeping in mind that tourney’s tend to not be that close to the previous one), food and occasional airfare. They’re not making a fortune unless your pro is. They’re on the road all the time. My friend has been a caddie on tour for the past 3+ years. They had to go to web.com playoffs to keep their card. He talked to caddies there (the web.com loopers) and realized that he had it pretty good. Those guys make nothing. They split rooms and/or sleeping in cars some of the time.

    • Jay

      Nov 7, 2013 at 12:35 pm

      A general rule of thumb is that a private contractor bills out at about 3X what a salaried individual would make in the same role. This is due to differences in tax laws, holiday pay, sick time, ease of termination and numerous other issues. ALso, as he will work in 20+ states during the year he can look forward to a 500+ page tax return.

      SO if you take Ken Dukes caddy at the mid range of the $100-$200k and say $150k, then that is the equivalent of $50k annually. In reality not very good pay for some one who is traveling 30 weeks out of the year.

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The Gear Dive: Mike Yagley and Chad DeHart of Cobra Golf

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In this episode of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with Mike Yagley and Chad DeHart of Cobra Golf Innovation on Cobra Connect, new ways to evaluate good play, and the future of golf improvement.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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Would Woodland have won the U.S. Open if he had to hit driver on the 18th hole? Knudson doesn’t think so. Steve loved the U.S. Open, but he didn’t really love the commentator crew. Also, Steve tees it up with the new second assistant pro at the club, how did he do?

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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The Wedge Guy: What’s your short game handicap?

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Well, that was a U.S. Open for the ages, in my book. Hallowed Pebble Beach held its own against the best players in the world and proved that small greens can really give these guys fits. Kudos and congratulations to Gary Woodland for putting on quite a show and outlasting all the others. And to Brooks Koepka for giving us reason to believe a three-peat could really happen.

To me, of course, what stands out is how Woodland elevated his short game for this event. Coming in he was ranked something like 165th on tour in greenside saves but went 16-for-20 last week. Of course, that also means he hit 52 of those small greens in regulation, which certainly outdistanced most of the field. Justin Rose was putting on a scrambling clinic for three days, but his inability to hit fairways and greens finally did him in. So that brings me to today’s topic – an honest assessment of your own “short game handicap.” Regardless of skill level, I have long believed that the key to better scoring is the same for us as for these tour-elite players – improving your ability to get up-and-down.

Almost all reasonably serious golfers have a handicap, just to allow us to keep track of our overall improvement with our golf games. But wouldn’t it be more useful if that handicap was such that it told us where we could improve the most? Unfortunately, that’s not the purpose of the USGA handicap program, so I’ve devised my own “Short Game Handicap” calculation to help golfers understand that this is where they are most likely going to improve their scoring.

The premise of my short game handicapping formula is the notion that once we get inside short iron range, the physical differences between golfers is increasingly neutralized. For most of us, our physical skills and abilities will never let us hit drives and longer approach shots like the best players. But I believe anyone can learn to execute good quality chips and pitches, and even full swing wedge and short iron shots. It really doesn’t matter whether your full-swing 9-iron goes 140 or 105, if you can execute shots from there on into the green, you can score better than you do now.

So, the starting point is to know exactly where you stand in relation to “par” when you are inside scoring range…regardless of how many strokes it took you to get there. Once your ball is inside that range where you can reach the flag with a comfortable full-swing 9-iron or less, you should be able to get up and down in 3 strokes or fewer almost all the time. In fact, I think it is a realistic goal for any golfer to get down in two strokes more often than it takes more than three, regardless of your skill level.

So, let’s start with understanding what this kind of scoring range skill set can do for your average score. I created this exercise as a starting point, so I’m encouraging you guys and ladies to chime in with your feedback.

What was your last (or typical) 18 hole score? ______

_____ Number of times you missed a green with a 9-iron or less
_____ Number of times you got up and down afterward
_____ Number of other holes where you hit a chip or pitch that ended up more than 10’ from the cup

Subtract #2 from #1, then add 1/2 of #3. That total ______ is your short game handicap under this formula. [NOTE: The logic of #3 is that you can learn to make roughly 1/2 of your putts under 10 feet, so improving your ability to hit chips and pitches inside that range will also translate to lower scores.]

I believe this notion of a short game handicap is an indication of how many shots can potentially come off your average scores if you give your short game and scoring clubs the attention they deserve.

I would like to ask all of you readers to do this simple calculation and share with the rest of us what you find out.

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