Renslow: A glimpse into the life of a caddie
As you know from reading this, your most trusted source of golf news and information, the position of club professional (local PGA professionals) has not always been held in high esteem.
Many years ago, golf clubs had shoe shine guys, repairmen, and the golf pro.
Yet, over the years, club professionals have grown with the game of golf to become teachers, players, and managers.
The same might also be said for many who make a living as ‘loopers.’
These helpful individuals came to us through Mary, Queen of Scots.
The army cadets, or ‘caddies,’ employed on the course began has a more intelligent mule, the guys who carry and clean the clubs.
But, in the 20th century they became part-time coaches, sports psychologists, friends, valets, green readers, club choosers and anything else required.
Gone are the days when certain Pro Shop signs would declare: “Public Welcome; Caddies Not Allowed,” when they could not even park their car in the same place as the golfers’ cars.
Many of today’s PGA Tour caddies will at some point help their boss make a million dollar decision. Others may be part of that decision on a nearly week by week basis.
So, what is the schedule of a tour caddie? What do they do on a daily basis? And…how much do they earn?
As you can imagine there is a broad range of answers and, because we are talking about employment agreements, individual deals are not public information. However, there are societal norms and most will not stray too far.
On balance, a tour caddie will work about 30 weeks a year. They get to see a different town every week and, even on a bad week, have their expenses paid.
Their day starts about an hour or two before their player is due to tee off. He or she must arrive before the player and make sure that all of the equipment is present and accounted for; golf clubs, towel, rain gear, tees, balls, snacks, and at least one bottle of water. Throw in a 9-inch staff bag and our caddie is lugging around about 25 pounds during that 6-mile walk.
When the round is over, a player may decide to practice for a while. A caddie will tote the bag over to the range, watch a player hit a few chips or putts, then it’s time to call it a day.
Dinner time? We just spent 8-10 hours with our player. Do we need a break? Generally, yes. Players and caddies will occasionally dine together, catch a movie, or see the sites. But, most of the time, the caddie has their own friends (often other caddies) to hang out with. The players will often have family with them and this is their time be with a spouse or parents or children.
Is it actually making a living or is this an opportunity for travel and exercise? A standard deal will provide the caddie with a weekly amount ($1,000 to $1,500) to cover expenses, plus 5 percent of the player’s earnings.
In some cases, the deal may call for increase to 7 percent or 8 percent, if a player is in the top 10 that week or up to 10 percent if the player gets win.
On one side, if the player misses a few cuts — and therefore no paychecks — a caddie might barely be getting by. However, if his player makes $100,000, he stands to make at least $5,000.
Imagine how well Steve Williams was doing as caddie for Tiger Woods (with Tigers travails, Williams is now ‘packing’ for Adam Scott). For a number of years Woods made about $10 million on the PGA Tour. At 5 percent (not counting bonuses), that would be nearly $500,000 for Williams.
No one knows the exact deal, but the rumor is that Williams was paid an annual flat fee of $500,000 (plus expenses). At least it saved a little time in paperwork.
Caddies have come a long way. What started as a grunt, slightly lower than a plebe or cadet where no one knows your name, has become a prolific position with the top performers making more than the leader of the free world. Mary must be rolling over.
John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at email@example.com.
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Hank Sowell’s introduction to the game of golf came early as a set of clubs was among the gifts he received on his very first birthday.