In the days of yore, PGA Tour players either took local caddies or were accompanied by often hard-charging vagabonds who had to do little more than carry a bag for 18 holes.
They were more like, well, Subway-hatted Otto from Happy Gilmore than Steve Williams or Bones Mackay.
Over the past couple of decades, however, the caddying trade has changed massively. With detailed yardage books, rangefinders, and of course, the uptick in prize money, loopers are expected to be big contributors.
ESPN’s Michael Collins, once a Tour caddie himself, routinely talks with caddies on the condition of anonymity for his “Caddie Confidential” segment. It’s always one of the most revealing and insightful features in the golf media space.
The anonymous caddie confirms almost no caddies are living the hard-driving lifestyle anymore. According to him, going out to dinner and hanging out at the hotel are pretty common evening activities.
This exchange is particularly interesting.
Collins: You think fans still believe caddies still party like it’s 1999? At this week’s event, how many caddies are going to go out and hit the town hard?
Caddie: I’d say if anybody does it they’re idiots, during the week. If your guy loses and you’re sticking around town for a couple days … then maybe you go out, catch a live music show and maybe tie one on a little bit, cab it home (to the hotel). I’d say very little this event and really hardly any events guys do it (party) anymore.
The caddie says the difficulty of securing a bag on Tour has increased exponentially in recent years: “Guys are much more responsible. They’re husbands, they’re fathers, they have families. They have just a little bit more than themselves to think about instead of just the gas money to get to the next tournament.”
Famous golfer-caddie duos:
Another interesting element: The contentious relationship between the PGA Tour and caddies seems to be softening under the new commissioner. Tim Finchem, during his tenure, was widely perceived as treating caddie’s like second-class citizens. Finchem routinely referred to the fact that caddies were independent contractors paid by the players. In other words, not the Tour’s responsibility to cater to or take care of.
“Last week at Bay Hill, that was at one point one of the worst caddie treatment tournaments of all time, but the last two years were unbelievable…it’s nice now to finally see that tournaments are kind of picking up on it.”
It’s all part of the changing landscape of golf. There was once a time when caddies weren’t even allowed in clubhouses at Tour stops and now they’re valued right hand men or women of the professionals. Caddies are right to recognize the seriousness of the profession, and the PGA Tour is right to see that caddies are much more than they once were.