Wednesday, November 8

Looping (Conclusion): Pro Caddie Pay and Caddie's Role as a 'Safe Harbor'

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Caddie Mark Fulcher with Justin Rose, back-to-back winner of the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open.

Following is the final installment in John Coyne's caddie series. Read Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5 and Part 6.

By John Coyne


Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.


THE ECONOMICS OF CADDIE PAY, as well as their lives on the PGA Tour, began to change in the mid 1990s with the arrival of Tiger Woods.

Tiger brought to the game, as least on television, a viewing audience that didn't play, didn't even like golf in some cases, but wanted to see Tiger play. Golf viewership grew, as did television ads and revenues. And likewise: purses for the pros.

All of this had a direct benefit for tour caddies. 

Today the majority of professional caddies earn a base weekly salary of between $1,500 and $2,500 and 7 to 10 percent of their player's winnings. If a caddie's player finishes in the top 10, that number could jump to 10 percent. These caddie contracts are all different and usually closed with a handshake.

Caddies also earn additional money from their own endorsement and appearance deals. They must wear bibs with names and logos of the tournament sponsors, but they can display their own logos on their hats or shirtsleeves. Caddies for players outside the top 30 only earn between $5,000 to $10,000 for this, but the caddies for the top players, who get most TV time, they can command between $30,000 to $50,000 a year from sponsors.

Then there is the FedEx Cup with its $35 million bonus structure, which means additional earnings for caddies. When the Cup was introduced in 2007, caddies did not have agreements for any sort of bonus. But an agreement was worked out by the Association of Professional Tour Caddies (APTC), and today the winner shares 10 percent with his caddie.

In 2013 when Henrik Stenson won the FedEx Cup, his caddie, Gareth Lord, bought himself a Ferrari after cashing his $1 million dollar share.

While all of this appears to be a lot of money, and it is, there are other realities of life that factor into the careers of caddies. Very few caddies have a player who is continually among the top 10 place finishers week after week on tour and their pros are only on tour an average of 20 to 35 weeks a year. It's a short earning season.

Caddies also are covering their own travel expenses, and increasingly with a majority of them having families back home, it is not an easy life. Bubba Watson, for one, is extolled in the caddie ranks as a tour pro who covers the travel expenses of his caddie, Ted Scott.

Earning Their Keep

That all said, are professional caddies worth the bother and effort? What do they bring to a player's game that a teenager—girl or boy—at the host club couldn't handle?

Well, what the PGA Tour pro gets from a professional caddie is more than just someone to lug his bag. The professional caddie arrives on Monday and walks the course before the event, aided by an up-to-date yardage book such as former pro caddie George Lucas started creating in the 1950s.

Today a dozen tour caddies produce books for every event as well as another book that maps the greens.

But what the professional caddie brings to the tour player is much more important than yardage knowledge. In conversations with those on tourcaddies, pros and administratorsthe key is the caddie's personality. While a tour player has a "team" behind him, a half dozen people from a swing coach to sports psychologist, the caddie is the only one out on the fairways with him, measuring his mood, easing his temper, giving advice in a calming voice and all the while responding to his needs, from cleaning his ball to assessing putts.

A caddie is the golfer's safe harbor. Tour pros know that. Their caddie is with him for just one reason, to bring him home a winner. 

John Coyne is a bestselling author who has written several books about golf. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

As a former Tour caddie with more than 200 PGA Tour starts, this series has been great. One inaccuracy, though. George Lucas started making the yardage books in either the late 70s or early 80s. Good read. Thanks for sharing.