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Conflict brewing between PGA Tour, caddie association

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A potential showdown is brewing between the PGA Tour and the association that represents the majority of the circuit’s caddies, according to a letter obtained by GolfChannel.com.

The letter dated June 17 from the Association of Professional Tour Caddies to the Tour has requested clarification over a litany of issues.

The APTC, which was formed last year and represents more than 125 Tour caddies, is seeking to create a health program and retirement plan for its members, as well as better working conditions at tournaments.

Since the APTC’s initial meeting with Tour officials on Jan. 20 in La Jolla, Calif., the circuit has been less than accommodating in its meetings according to the letter that was sent to Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and presented to the Player Advisory Council last week at the Quicken Loans National.

“The APTC has worked tirelessly to work out a mutually-beneficial structure with the Tour to achieve the above purposes, while supporting the Tour and, most importantly, its players. Nonetheless, we have generally been met with roadblocks and a lack of commitment to build a positive outcome by the Tour,” the letter read.

PGA Tour executive vice president of communications and international affairs Ty Votaw declined to comment on the letter.

The letter also claims the APTC has “received conflicting information” from the Tour and that officials initially told the association that caddies, like players, were allowed to enter into sponsorship agreements.

Later the Tour adjusted its position, “We were told we have no marketing opportunities and the Tour would be very restrictive as it relates to caddies.”

According to the letter, caddies were also told that any potential sponsor that would conflict with an existing marketing partnership the Tour has would also not be allowed; yet players aren’t subject to the same rules. Lee Westwood, for example, has an endorsement agreement with UPS which would appear to be in direct conflict with FedEx which sponsors the circuit’s season-long points race as well as an annual tournament in Memphis.

Officers with the APTC were also told that any sponsorship agreements involving the caddie bib would not be allowed and that the circuit already has an “exclusive agreement” with Nature Valley for headwear, a deal that also includes a “caddie pool” that awards an estimated $500,000 to caddies based on the performance of their player.

“The caddies have not joined in any ‘exclusive agreement,’” the letter read. “Through the Tour’s actions, caddies have affectively been restrained from competition in the marketplace.”

The association offered a proposal to the Tour that would fund an insurance program and retirement plan, totaling $10 million annually, in exchange “for wearing the bib” but the Tour has not responded to the request.