Wednesday, November 1

Looping, Part 6: PGA Tour Caddies Unite and Exert More Influence

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Tiger Woods and caddie Joe LaCava during practice day at the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield.

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

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.

ORGANIZING CADDIES INTO A CADDIE ASSOCIATION has proved to be just as difficult as organizing caddies in the country club caddie yard.

Joe "Gypsy" Grillo and Mike Carrick of the Professional Tour Caddies Association (PTCA) hired Dennis Cone, a sports agent, in the early 1990s. He got caddies hat and clothing deals and a contract with B.U.M. equipment.

Then Cone brought in Marriott Vacation Clubs as a sponsor of hats for the PGA Championship and other events, and with Marriott’s support Cone started the PCA (Professional Caddies Association Worldwide) in 1992 to provide members, caddies and their families with additional income opportunities and access to medical and retirement benefits. PCA also launched a world online caddie certification and educational programs that have been used at over 50 top clubs worldwide. More than 28,500 students (loopers) have learned the profession and golf through the eyes of a caddie as a result of Team PCA efforts. PTCA did not renew Cone’s contract as Grillo and Carrick wanted to keep the PTCA just for PGA Tour caddies.

Dennis and his wife, Laura, then, on their own, established the PCAF Foundation Board and in 1999 the Caddie Hall of Fame with the support of Marriott Vacation Club and others. In 2011 the PCA transferred the Caddie Hall of Fame to the Western Golf Association.

In the late '90s the PTCA would cease to exist and professional caddies were once again on their own. But by 2013 a new association emerged from the caddie ranks.

Birth of the APTC

The Association of Professional Tour Caddies (APTC) came about because of a rain delay at the 2013 Barclays when the caddies and a few family members had taken shelter in a club house during the storm and a club security guard began to hassle them, demanding their IDs and kicking the family members out into the rain.

Following that incident 35 of the 70 professional caddies organized a spontaneous meeting at the BMW Championship and voted to become an association.

The APTC was created, according to the president James Edmonsdon (who loops for Ryan Palmer), because of this humbling incident at the Barclays and other abuses by the PGA Tour.

"We realized we had two options," Edmondson said. "Go to the tour with our hands held out or empower ourselves by organizing, therefore expediting the process of the PGA Tour recognizing caddies as a profession like the rules officials. It seemed like because of the era we are in the timing was right."

Officers and board member were selected. Edmondson became president, Vice President Lance Bennett (Bill Haas caddie), Treasurer Jimmy Johnson (Steve Stricker caddie) and Secretary Adam Hayes (Russell Henley caddie). Also, Joe LaCava (Tiger Woods caddie), Brennan Little (Camilo Villegas caddie), and Kenny Harms (Kevin Na caddie) became board members.

There is now a new board of directors for the association that continues to grow in number and influence on the PGA Tour.

Today, 180 tour caddie members pay $300 to be a member. (The tour on the whole has about 250 U.S. and foreign caddies looping for pros.)

The APTC has also raised $41,000 for St. Jude last year, and over $70,000 this year. As Jason Case of ITR Management, who advises the APTC, says, "The caddies want to give back to causes they believe in as much as possible."

Benefits, Lawsuits and Sponsorships

It has not, however, been a smooth relationship between the PGA Tour and the caddie association, which continues to seek a health program and retirement plan for its members, better working conditions and a share in endorsements.

Recently a group of caddies—not associated with the APTClost a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the PGA Tour. They argued that the tour unlawfully compels caddies to wear logos and other insignia of corporate sponsors on bibs. Lawyers for the caddies had estimated that the value of the advertising was upwards of $50 million annually. A district judge dismissed the suit, saying that the caddies had signed contracts with the PGA Tour specifying a requirement to wear uniforms and identification badges prescribed by each tournament.

The suit also included claims that the tour interfered with the caddies' ability to compete in the market, alleged antitrust violations, breach of contract and violations of California state law. The judge did say that the caddies still have legal issues with the poor treatment they're afforded by the tour.

The APTC, however, has had successes. In 2016 the APTC signed with Jani-King towels. Head of Jani-King’s Sports Partnership declared, "The on-course television and digital media exposure has been phenomenal." By 2017, 147 caddies were carrying the towels at PGA Tour tournaments.

The caddie association also had an arrangement with Kentwool Socks. As part of the deal, Kentwool did provide its popular Men's Tour Profile and Men's Tour Standard socks to tour caddies to wear each week, but that sponsorship is no longer in effect. The APTC does have two programs with and Under Armour. 

APTC, in addition, has launched speaking engagements for caddies, featuring them as professionals having "first-hand knowledge about the PGA Tour." The association is offering their caddies to local golf clubs and hospitality tents during tournament events. As the APTC states, while "PGA players charge anywhere from $10,000 upwards to 6 figures. A caddie—with all the same inside informationcosts only $300."

The APTC also admits that their caddies at such events are much more forthright about life on tour than a pro golfer who is understandably protecting his brand in the professional world. 

And as all caddies know, it might rain on them today, but there's always another sunny day and another chance to make a loop.


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

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