Changes in the Caddie World

The boys are out in Hawaii playing golf and I’m back here scraping windows, picking dog poop out of the snow, and adjusting the thermostat on a regular basis. It doesn’t seem right but that’s the nature of the business at the moment. After talking with a bunch of my caddy buddies last week, it seems like there are a lot of folks in the same boat. According to a couple of informal surveys conducted last year on the Champions Tour almost half the players were using friends or family members, MCI caddies we call them. In fact, I just got a call from Peter Jacobsen last night confirming he had a buddy working for him in Florida.

The caddy profession, especially on the Champions Tour is twisting and turning these days. New players on the PGA Tour are bringing out their buddies, bothers, uncles, and fathers, and the Seniors are letting wives, sons, and daughters drive the carts around the course. Hopefully there will be enough room for all of us, but that’s unlikely. Blood is definitely thicker than whatever is flowing through a veteran caddie’s veins.  A new player would rather have his best friend out there to help weather the tour travel grind, they don’t need a veteran’s caddy’s experience because new technology provides most of the information.

Sandy Jones, Tom Kite’s caddy, has been looking for a job without luck. Tom recently had shoulder surgery and his return is on hold so Sandy has been making a few calls wondering about potential jobs. She said it’s a tough job market. Most everyone I talked with wasn’t quite sure of their work schedule the first part of the year. My brother Dan resorted to a Facebook posting for a job in Cancun. He’s booked a flight without a job in hand; not a bad place to go look for a job, I guess. If he doesn’t work there his first LPGA tournament is in March.

The fabric in the caddy yards isn’t quite the same. I heard guys last year complaining about no air-conditioning, the breakfast buffet was taken away too soon, and they had to pay for their yardage books that week. The MCI caddies are in the clubhouse enjoying player family dining and only the seasoned veterans remember signs, “Public Welcome No Caddies Allowed”. There were caddie pens we had to stay inside until our player picked us up and forget about a tournament provided meal. They’ve got it good out there; maybe that’s why the MCI caddies are sticking around.

Australian Golf Digest recently published one of my articles about Australian golfers and caddies infiltrating the PGA Tours. In the late 80’s there were a handful of golfers and Steve Williams roaming the PGA Tour. Last count there was almost fifty “Aussies” playing on the PGA and Nationwide Tours. Most of the foreigners bring their own caddy replacing one more position for us. When the influx started a few disgruntled caddies informed Immigration Services and the INS would make a few stops at tournaments, especially San Diego. We got rid of them briefly but these days all immigration work papers seem to be in order and the foreign caddies are here to stay.

Something always pops up if you keep beating the bushes. Usually you return to the Nationwide and work your way back with a promising youngster or you find that aging vet, hang on for a couple of years, and tear up the Champions Tour. Either way, you have to suck it up and take a few knocks along the way. I recognize more faces on the Nationwide and Champions Tours these days, and there are a lot of guys taking their lumps with a smile on their face. I guess it’s a reflection of everything else going on these days.

 

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