Player-caddie relationship has its perks, drawbacks

By Jason SobelJune 26, 2013, 4:38 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – Show up, keep up and shut up. We’ve all heard those words before – they’re sort of the official unofficial motto of caddies, one which every looper from Eddie Lowery to Danny Noonan to Steve Williams has understood since the first time a strap touched their right shoulders.

That motto may make for a nice sign to hang in the caddyshack, but it doesn’t ring true anymore – at least the last part. These days, caddies on the professional circuit are instead expected to speak up, calling out yardages, gauging wind conditions and suggesting clubs for their players.

On Sunday, Ted Scott did just that. With his longtime loop Bubba Watson leading the Travelers Championship with three holes to play, Scott suggested a 9-iron over the 8-iron at the par-3 16th hole, and his player promptly deposited it in the water hazard guarding the front portion of the green.

What happened next, in a few prolific bursts, was YouTube gold. Watson berated Scott for his suggestion, then again after his shot from the drop zone flew the green. It was hardly the first instance of a player castigating his caddie in public, but the television cameras and microphones ensured the world would know about this one.

In the ensuing minutes and hours, Twitter timelines exploded with disgust for Watson’s audible outburst. After taking full blame, Scott found some humor in the situation, later tweeting, “Not sure what @bubbawatson was talking about. I never make a mistak.” Leave off the last “e” for epic.

Was public sentiment correct in instantly chastising Watson for his treatment of Scott? Or did we just have the curtain pulled back on the unseemly part of the player-caddie relationship?

In order to answer these questions, it helps to first understand this dynamic.

“Oh, yeah. It’s weird,” Brett Waldman, currently on the bag of Sean O’Hair, said of the player-caddie dynamic. “It’s definitely weird that I spend more time with my boss than my wife.”

The old joke around pro golf is that many player-caddie relationships are more stable than marriages, though some can be equally volatile. Think about it: Caddies are both employees and partners; they work for their players, but also with them.

“The dynamics are very interesting,” explained Scott Vail, who for the last seven years has caddied for Brandt Snedeker. “You have to separate between boss and employee and friend. In my case, Brandt is a friend, too. We have respect for each other. When it’s time to go to work, we don’t put our friendship aside, but it’s just a different dynamic in our relationship on the golf course.”

The job extends past simply finding yardages and pulling clubs. As many observers witnessed in the case of Watson and Scott, caddying can also include the role of punching bag – at least figuratively.

“Sometimes when a player messes up, he would rather think it wasn’t his fault, so as to keep his confidence level maybe higher than it would have been,” said Bob Estes, who has worked with his caddie, Chuck Mohr, since 2001. “Just like if you miss a putt, you might prefer to blame it on a misread rather than it being a poor putt. I don’t like to play mind games like that, but some guys do.”

“If I needed advice from my caddie, he'd be hitting the shots and I'd be carrying the bag.” – Bobby Jones

“Nobody but you and your caddie care what you do out there – and if your caddie is betting against you, he doesn't care, either.” – Lee Trevino

“The only time I talk on the golf course is to my caddie. And then only to complain when he gives me the wrong club. – Seve Ballesteros

Caddie culture may have advanced to the point where it’s a career and not just a job, but treatment toward caddies doesn’t always show similar progress.

“You hear some of the caddies talking about certain players who are much tougher on their caddies than other players might be,” Estes explained. “I’m sure there have been many instances where a player has chewed out his caddie, whether it was deserved or not. Sometimes it could be over a bad yardage or forgetting the umbrella or leaving a club on the driving range – something like that. There are reasons that the employer will chew out his employee, but hopefully it’s always in private and not in front of other people. That’s a situation where you kind of need to take him off to the side and talk.”

“Some guys belittle their caddie, they just do it in private,” one caddie said on the condition of anonymity. “I’ve worked for two different blamers. I guarantee 20-30 percent of the guys just cream their caddies – and only some of those guys apologize after the round is over. And a lot of ‘em are good friends. I had a buddy ream me so badly. After the round was over, we had a three-hour drive. I chewed him out the entire time for being such a jackass to me.”

Using that analogy to marriage again, there are times when irreconcilable differences can lead to the dissolution of the relationship.

“When it comes to the end of a relationship, you can see,” said Mick Doran, who has caddied for Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and Darren Clarke during a 25-year career and now works for Brendan Steele. “The player is always on him. I’ve worked for some good players. It might look easy on TV, but it’s not. They talk quietly to you. When it starts getting to the abusive part, you know it’s time to move on.”

So, you want to talk hypocritical?

While players sticking it to caddies is enough to cause a social media uproar, caddies sticking it to players is still seen as high comedy. Case in point:

Golfer: “You’ve got to be the worst caddie in the world.”

Caddie: “I don’t think so. That would be too much of a coincidence.”

Golfer: “Please stop checking your watch all the time. It’s too much of a distraction.”

Caddie: “It’s not a watch – it’s a compass.”

Golfer: “I’d move heaven and earth to break 100 on this course.”

Caddie: “Try heaven, you’ve already moved most of the earth.”

Golfer: “Do you think I can get there with a 5-iron?”

Caddie: “Eventually.”

“There have been plenty of caddies just drop the bag,” said the aforementioned anonymous caddie. “I’ve twice seen it myself mid-round. I mean, you’re just an employee and if a guy treats you like that, you can just take off.

“The first tournament I ever caddied was at Westchester Country Club. We had a late tee time, so I went out early to how the course was playing. Well, I’m out on 15, just to the right of the green, watching shots and putts.

“Here comes this player and his caddie – I won’t say who it was – and I hear the caddie yell, ‘I’m trying my best!’ The player says something back and the caddie slams down the bag, pulls off his vest and starts screaming at the fans. ‘Who wants this job? You want it? You want it?’ He points at me; he has no idea who I am. I’m like, ‘Um, I already have a job.’

“So he starts climbing this hill just off the 15th green. He goes about 20 yards and then turns around. I figure he must have come to his senses. Nope. He gets back down to the bag, takes his wallet out and walks back up the hill.

“Just like that, he was gone.”

“A lot of people on the outside feel like we’re just part of the background,” Doran contested. “But we’re not. We’re doing a lot. If you can save them a shot each week, that’s a lot. But you do sometimes mess up.”

When these circumstances happen – and yes, they will happen – every caddie appreciates when his player follows such a mistake by claiming “we” messed up, rather than pointing a finger at the guy carrying his clubs.

“You have to remember,” Estes said, “it’s an employer-employee relationship, but at the same time you’re teammates.”

Ask a veteran caddie and he’ll claim that the usual stuff associated with caddying is hardly the most difficult part of the gig.

“The psychological part of my job is easily the most important part of my job,” explained Kip Henley, who has caddied for Brian Gay for the past seven years. “Saying the right thing at the right time and knowing when to shut up and get out of the way. The psychology of caddying is way ahead of yardages and reading greens – no doubt about it.”

All of this information leads us back to the Watson-Scott situation from this past Sunday.

Chris Stroud was Watson’s playing partner in the final twosome of the day, giving the eventual runner-up a front row seat at what occurred on the 16th hole.

“For him to hit that one shot poorly and then just go off like that was very surprising,” said Stroud. “For being that close, he could have easily have made a bogey there or at least a double and still been OK. My caddie [John Limanti] and I were talking about it the whole way up to the green while he was in the drop circle. He just talked himself out of the tournament.

“I think more than anything he'll learn from that. I think the next time he's in that situation, I think he'll draw and say, ‘You know what, I'm not going to do that again. I'm going to choose to be positive with myself and just be persistent and just do the best I can.’

“For Bubba to do that was a little bit of a surprise. I'm sure he'll learn from it.”

With everything we’ve come to know not just about that specific situation on Sunday, but the dynamic between players and caddies, let’s review those earlier questions.

Was public sentiment correct in instantly chastising Watson for his treatment of Scott? Or did we just have the curtain pulled back on the unseemly part of the player-caddie relationship?

The correct answer may be yes in both instances.

Behind closed doors, among whispers down the range this week, Watson is being called out for his boorish behavior. There are players and caddies alike who seemed to enjoy seeing a “blamer” as they call that type exposed in a public forum.

Then again, there’s something to be said about being teammates, too. Scott has looped for Watson for years, at one time before his Masters win giving an ultimatum that if the player’s attitude didn’t improve, he would walk away from the job.

With that in mind, Watson wasn’t just berating an employee on 16; he berating a friend and partner. Some have contended that if he wasn’t so secure in their relationship, he wouldn’t have felt so comfortable reprimanding him in public.

What we do know is that it’s something that has happened many times before and will happen many times again – even if it isn’t always televised.

After all, as Scott knows so well, everybody makes mistaks.

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Thomas donating to hurricane relief at East Lake

By Jason CrookSeptember 19, 2018, 9:20 pm

Much like in years past, Justin Thomas is using his golf game to help with relief of a natural disaster.

The world No. 4 announced on Twitter Wednesday that he’d be donating $1,000 per birdie and $5,000 per eagle at the Tour Championship to a charity benefiting the victims of Hurricane Florence, which ravaged the Carolinas last week.

At a fan's suggestion, Thomas, who has averaged 4.35 birdies per round this season, also pledged to donate $10,000 for a hole-in-one.

Hurricane Florence made landfall on Friday just south of Wrightsville Beach, N.C., and has left much of the area flooded and without power. At least 37 people have died in storm-related incidents.

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Rose realizes his No. 1 ranking is precarious

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:18 pm

ATLANTA – Asked how he would like to be identified when he was finished playing golf, Justin Rose didn’t hesitate – “major champion, Olympic gold medalist, world No. 1.”

He’s had only a week to enjoy the last accomplishment, but the Englishman is aware of what it means to his career to have finally moved into the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“It's a moment in your career that you always remember and cherish,” said Rose, who overtook Dustin Johnson with his runner-up finish two weeks ago at the BMW Championship.


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Rose said he took some time last weekend with family and friends to relish the accomplishment and will play his first event this week at the Tour Championship as the world’s best, but he also understands how tenuous his position atop the ranking is at the moment.

“I accept it's really tight up top. It could easily switch this week,” he said. “I just feel that if I go to [No.] 2 or 3 this week, if Dustin and Brooks [Koepka] both play well, I have an opportunity the week after and British Masters, and going to China and Turkey, there's going to be opportunities to get back there.”

Johnson, Koepka and Justin Thomas could unseat Rose atop the ranking this week depending on their finishes at the Tour Championship.

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Likely ROY Wise not looking past 'special' East Lake

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:05 pm

ATLANTA – Much like the PGA Tour Player of Year Award, voting for the Rookie of the Year Award is very much a rubber stamp this season.

Brooks Koepka is a lock to win the Jack Nicklaus Trophy after winning two majors - the U.S. Open and PGA Championship - despite missing a portion of the season with an injury. Similarly, Aaron Wise, who won the AT&T Byron Nelson, is the only rookie this year to advance to the Tour Championship, which is normally the threshold players use for voting for Rookie of the Year.

“I knew with the rookie class that we had it was going to be tough, and the players still have to vote but it’s definitely something that was important to me,” he said on Wednesday at East Lake. “My focus is just finishing strong this week and giving them a reason to vote for me.”


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For Wise, who had four top-10 finishes this season and begins the week 21st on the FedExCup point list, the chance to win the award is gratifying, but being among the best 30 players on Tour, and securing his spot in all four major championships next season, is an accomplishment worth savoring.

“To win Rookie of the Year you have to have a solid season, but to make it to East Lake, so many guys don’t get this far. You really have to have a special season and this is really special,” Wise said.

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Stanford returns home to share Evian celebration

By Randall MellSeptember 19, 2018, 5:33 pm

Angela Stanford’s eyes welled with tears when her flight touched down at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in her return from winning the Evian Championship.

When she lands from the south, as she did Monday, she always looks for the towering grain elevators in her Saginaw hometown. She also always looks for downtown Fort Worth’s skyline.

She got teary with the replica of the Evian Championship trophy in her carry-on in the luggage bin above her seat, knowing she wasn’t bringing it home just for her.

But for her mother, Nan, who’s battling a second bout with breast cancer.

For her father, Steve, who got her started in the game.

For other family and friends.

For Shady Oaks, the club Ben Hogan made famous, where she is a member.

And for TCU, her alma mater.

She realized how empty she felt in so many returns from major championships.

She’s 40 now.

She won in her 76th try in a major.

For so long, Stanford believed she had what it took to win a major, but that only made the string of disappointments harder.

“So I remembered what it felt like coming home from so many disappointments, but not this time,” Stanford said. “This time I got to bring something home for everyone to see.”



When Stanford got off the plane, her parents were among a group of family and friends waiting to greet her. So was her TCU coach, Angie Larkin, who brought along the Horned Frogs mascot, Superfrog.

Tour pros Kristy McPherson, Dori Carter, Kendall Dye and Emory University coach and former tour pro Katie Futcher were all in Fort Worth helping Stanford celebrate.

“It was pretty cool,” Stanford said. “Of course, I asked them all if they wanted to see the trophy.”

She pulled it out of her carry-on and never put it back.

“It’s a heavy trophy, but I told them I’m carrying this everywhere,” Stanford said.

There was a celebration dinner with family and friends Monday night, and another celebration with friends on Tuesday.

“I think it’s just the start of many celebrations with more friends to see,” Stanford said.

Stanford went to work with a new swing coach about a year ago, Todd Kolb, from Sioux Falls, S.D. In her flight home, she thought about how grateful she was for all the help poured into her game, not just the good work Kolb is doing, but the foundation important figures in her life helped to lay. She thought about the lessons and wisdom Amy Fox, Mike Wright and Joe Hallett passed along.

“I’m still using things I learned from my first instructor,” Stanford said. “Amy Fox is a huge reason I’m playing on tour. Mike Wright is a huge reason why I’ve won on tour. Joe Hallett helped me navigate through a tough time in my career.

“They were all important to my winning Sunday. They all gave me building blocks, and they’ve all helped lay the foundation to what I’m learning now from Todd.”

Stanford said being able to share her gratefulness made her return home special.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” she said. “It’s been everything you could imagine it would be.”