Friday, May 17

Remembering Great Caddies, Including Old Tom Morris, During the PGA Championship

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By Mark Vigil

ALL CADDIES WATCHING THE PGA CHAMPIONSIP this weekend are encouraged to skip watching Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or one of the young guns. Rather, carefully study the actions and protocols of caddies like Joe LaCava and Mike "Fluff" Cowan, and recall the work of Jim "Bones" Mackay and Bruce Watson.

I offer this encouragement because today many loopers think they have deserved to be well paid because they toted a bag, scoped the yardage to the flag sticks and read a few putts.

This expectation would have Old Tom Morris rolling in his grave.

For those of you who have not heard of Old Tom Morris, he is the godfather of the modern golf game. He learned his craft at the heel of Alan Robertson, the Custodian of the Links at St. Andrews until he died in 1859.

Old Tom is a voice of authority on caddying. He grew from a 10-year-old toting hickory shaft clubs across the links above the St. Andrews Bay to become the trusted advisor and golfing consigliere for the captains and members of the R&A for over 35 years.

The keys to Old Tom's success were his ears. He was a good listener. By listening, in the moment, he would know what he needed to do to prepare his player for the next shot, be it a phrase, a confident smile, or steely silence.

Old Tom had a heart the size of Secretariat's, and it made him a sensitive soul. He felt the joys of the made putt for par on the Road Hole, and the pain and disappointment of the poor shot, causing a big score or a loss of a hole. And regardless of the emotions felt, he transitioned his player to focus on the next shot. He was an ally.

Old Tom earned the player's trust, enabling him to dispense honest assessments, like one's mother, speaking the hard, true words one needs to hear, like "You know better?"

Lastly, Old Tom was a first-class negotiator, and I bet he would be able to out-negotiate any modern day Goldman Sachs banker. This skill wisely deployed allowed him to lead his player to see the correct shot, to attack the right target line, and to select the proper club over his players objections.

So, all you caddies, if you want to become a true caddie and become like Old Tom Morris, a trusted advisor and golfing consigliere, watch today's professional caddies deploy their tools of the trade, which I call L.E.A.N—listen, empathize, ally, negotiate.

Mark Vigil is founder of Laurus Capital Advisors LLC, an advisory firm. He is also a passionate links golf enthusiast who has traveled extensively throughout Scotland seeking out links courses. He is currently writing a book entitled, Searching for the Spirit of Old Tom Morris.

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