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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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Opinion & Analysis

The “70% Rule” is still the winning formula on the PGA Tour

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In June of 2010, a year before the Tour launched Strokes Gained Putting analysis, I published an article on my blog (www.NiblicksOfTruth.blogspot.com): “PGA Tour Winner’s – 70% Rule.”

I had been studying the winners of each tour event for years and realized that they all had specific success in three simple stats–and that the three stats must add up to 70 percent

  1. Greens in Regulation – 70%
  2. Scrambling – 70%
  3. 1-Putts from 5 to 10 feet – 70%

Not every one of the three had to equal 70 percent, but the simple addition of the three needed to equal or exceed 70 percent.  For example, if GIR’s were 68 percent, then scrambling or putting needed to be 72 percent or higher to offset the GIR deficiency—simple and it worked!

I added an important caveat. The player could have no more than three ERRORS in a four-round event. These errors being

  1. Long game: A drive hit out of play requiring an advancement to return to normal play, or a drive or approach penalty.
  2. Short game: A short game shot that a.) missed the putting surface, and b.) took 4 or more total strokes to hole out.
  3. Putting: A 3-putt or worse from 40 feet or closer.

In his recent win in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Kevin Na broke the rule… by a bit.  He was all good on the 70 percent part of the rule

  1. GIR’s: 75 percent
  2. Scrambling: 72 percent
  3. 1-Putts 5-10 ft.: 73 percent

But not so good on the three-error limit

  1. Long game: Two driving errors and one approach penalty (three errors).
  2. Short game: A chip/pitch shot that missed the green and took FIVE strokes to hole out (one error).

No wonder it took a playoff to secure his win! But there was another stat that made the difference…

The stat that piqued my interest in Kevin’s win was connected to my 70 percent Rule.  It was his strokes gained: putting stat: +3.54, or ranked first.  He gained 3.5 strokes on the field in each of his four rounds or 14 strokes. I have never seen that, and it caused me to look closer. For perspective, I ran the putting performance of all of the event winners in the 2019 Tour season. Their average putting strokes gained was +1.17.

Below, I charted the one-putt percentages by distance range separately for Kevin Na, the 2019 winners, and the tour 2019 average. I have long believed that the 6–10 foot range separates the good putters on Tour from the rest as it is the most frequently faced of the “short putt” ranges and the Tour averages 50 percent makes. At the same time, the 11-20 foot ranges separate the winners each week as these tend to represent birdie putts on Tour. Look at what Kevin did there.

All I can say again, I HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS. Well done Kevin!

For the rest of us, in the chart below I have plotted Kevin’s performance against the “average” golfer (15-19 handicap). To see exactly how your game stacks up, visit my website.

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Instruction

The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between better recreational golfers and those not so good—and also between the tour professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—is the consistency of their pre-shot routines. It is really easy to dismiss something that happens before the ball is even struck as irrelevant, but I strongly urge you to reconsider if you think this way.

To have a set routine to follow religiously before every shot gives you the best chance to execute the shot the way you intend. To do otherwise just leaves too much to chance. Indulge me here and I’ll offer you some proof.

It’s been a while back now, but I still remember an interesting account on this subject that used the final round of the 1996 Masters—when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Norman—as his statistical proof. This particular analyst reviewed the entire telecast of that final round and timed the routine of both players for every shot. What he discovered was that Norman got quicker and less consistent in his pre-shot routine throughout his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

A lot of time has passed since then, but all competitive tour professionals pay very close attention to their pre-shot routines these days. I urge you to watch them as they go through the motions before each shot. And notice that most of them “start over” if they get distracted during that process.

While I do not think it is practical for recreational golfers to go into such laborious detail for every shot, let me offer some suggestions as to how a repeatable pre-shot routine should work.

The first thing is to get a good feel for the shot, and by that, I mean a very clear picture in your mind of how it will fly, land and roll; I also think it’s realistic to have a different routine for full shots, chips and pitches and putts. They are all very different challenges, of course, and as you get closer to the hole, your focus needs to be more on the feel of the shot than the mechanics of the swing, in my opinion.

To begin, I think the best starting point is from behind the ball, setting up in your “mind’s eye” the film-clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight and path it will take. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and “feel” the swing that will produce that shot path for you. Your exact routine can start when you see that shot clearly, and begin your approach the ball to execute the shot. From that “trigger point”, you should do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

For me (if I’m “on”), I’ll step from that behind-the-shot position, and set the club behind the ball to get my alignment. Then I step into my stance and ball position, not looking at the target, but being precise not to change the alignment of the clubhead–I’m setting my body up to that established reference. Once set, I take a look at the target to ensure that I feel aligned properly, and take my grip on the club. Then I do a mental check of grip pressure, hover the club off the ground a bit to ensure it stays light, and then start my backswing, with my only swing thought being to feel the end of the backswing.

That’s when I’m “on,” of course. But as a recreational player, I know that the vast majority of my worst shots and rounds happen when I depart from that routine.

This is something that you can and should work on at the range. Don’t just practice your swing, but how you approach each shot. Heck, you can even do that at home in your backyard. So, guys and ladies, there’s my $0.02 on the pre-shot routine. What do you have to add?

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Akshay Bhatia

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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist Golf, Johnny chats with rookie phenom and Walker Cup Player Akshay Bhatia.

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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