Do You Have What It Takes To Become A Pro Caddy?
Three years ago, Jordan Speith’s caddy, Michael Greller, was teaching math to sixth graders in the state of Washington at Narrows View Intermediate School.
The Benefits Of Being A Pro Caddy
For sure, few caddies will have the opportunity to carry the bag of the top PGA Pro playing at the very top of his game. However, being a caddy presents many rewards that are not monetary.
Several caddies are former golfers who prefer to carry the bag of a current pro than give up the game at a professional level.
In addition, while many people have to sit at a desk inside an office park somewhere in a dreary suburb, caddies earn money outside, enjoying sunshine and fresh air.
They get to travel around the country, and possibly the world, seeing new places and meeting new people.
How Much Money Can Pro Golf Caddies Make?
Other than Jordan Spieth’s caddy, what can a caddy earn if he is carrying the bag of an average pro?
I mean, how hard can it be?
Hasn’t everyone heard the old bromide about a professional golfer’s instructions for the caddy?: “Show up, shut up and keep up.”
The truth is that being a caddy is not easy.
They provide expert advice on club selection, knowledge of the topographic elements of multiple courses around the world, and offer emotional support and friendship when needed.
Most professional golfers playing today would have to admit that their caddy is as important to their playing ability as their custom golf clubs, relentless preparation and intensive physical conditioning.
Base Salary Plus Bonus
Caddies on the PGA tour earn a base salary between $1000 and $2000 each week.
In addition, they receive a bonus between five and 10 percent of their player’s winnings.
If the golfer places first, the caddy gets 10 percent.
For a top 10 finish, they take home 7 percent, and receive 5 percent if their player only makes the cut.
This is higher than the salary earned as a caddy at a golf course.
For example, Salary Expert took a survey and found out that caddies at golf clubs take home less than $40,000, with the possible exception of golf clubs situated in larger cities such as New York and LA.
What Skills Do You Need to Make It As a Pro Caddy?
Some of the best caddies are players who are extremely good golfers themselves.
They understand the pressure the pro player is under, and provide expert advice on weather conditions, club selection and putting assistance.
They read greens, suggest the proper club depending on the distance and lie, help control the crowd from getting unruly and more.
It helps to have a surplus of mental strength, because caddies may get blamed for the golfer’s poor performance, even if they are not at fault.
One high-profile professional even told his caddie before working with him that he should be comfortable in taking the blame for errors the professional made on the course.
It was simply this particular pro’s strategy to maintain his mental edge during a tournament.
Presumably, the caddy was okay with this unorthodox method.
This story highlights the importance of the mental side of caddying.
It is much more than carrying a bag and reading off yardages. Caddies need to know when to assert themselves, and when to back off.
They are a combination of coach, counselor and friend, playing different roles depending on the course, tournament and how the professional is playing at the time.
After a time, they may know their player’s game better than their own.
Caddies Getting Fired
One of the disadvantages of being a caddy is the possibility of getting fired.
In the summer of 2015, Robert Allenby and his caddy, Mick Middlemo, had a contentious disagreement in the first round of the Canadian Open.
That led to a separation of the two on a permanent basis midway through the round because Middlemo was fired.
A fan had to fill in for the last nine holes of the day.
Both Allenby and Middlemo blamed each other for the spat, using the media to continue the disagreement and take shots at each other for several days.
Similarly, pro Jessica Korda got into a yelling match with her caddy, Jason Gilroyed, during the blustery third round of the 2013 US Women’s Open at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, New York.
She fired him after the front nine, and put her boyfriend on the bag.
She said the conditions which included high winds and tight pin placements contributed to the pressure she felt at the time.
Tiger Fired Fluff and Steve Williams
Tiger Woods fired his first high-profile caddy, Michael “Fluff” Cowan, after they worked together in the beginning of Tiger’s pro career, which included his epic win at the Masters tournament in 1997.
However, he fired Mr. Cowan in 1999 and hired Steve Williams from New Zealand. Mr. Williams was Tiger’s caddy from 1999 through 2011 when he was also fired.
Williams recently put out a book in which he said Tiger treated him like a “slave”, but don’t feel too bad for him.
It’s not always players that fire golf caddies.
Sometimes it is the other way around.
For many years Luke Donald and his caddy, Johnny McLaren worked together.
McLaren earned a tidy sum carrying the bag for the former number one player.
Mr. Donald seemed surprised, but said he knew McLaren had strong opinions, and he supported him when he decided to move on.
Golf caddies have made great efforts to improve their working conditions.
Over the years, they have felt many times like second class citizens.
For example, in February of 2015, dozens of caddies filed a lawsuit against the PGA Tour in federal court.
Their main complaint was that the Tour not only unlawfully made them don corporate logos on their bibs, they did not share any of the estimated millions of dollars in revenue that promotional advertising brought in.
They have made claims in various legal areas including contract, intellectual property and antitrust laws.
In fact, they petitioned to make the lawsuit a class action representing all caddies in the US. As of September, 2015 the case continues to be tried in Northern California.
Part of the reason that the caddies feel they should get part of the advertising dollars resulting from logos appearing on their bibs is they are independent contractors.
In that capacity, they must take care of their own healthcare, retirement plans and pensions.
They receive none of these benefits from the PGA Tour.
When a new golf season is on the horizon, caddies begin their preparation in earnest as much as the professional golfers they represent.
Dragging their body through an entire golf season without any conditioning and strength training is asking for trouble.
This is especially true as the distances at many championship courses continue to grow every year.
In addition, they must refresh their knowledge of the yardages, construction areas, putting green grain, weather conditions and other elements related to each stop on the tour.
As many of these factors are constantly in flux, they must refresh their internal knowledge base each time they return to a tournament.
For some caddies who work with a golfer who plays internationally, this may mean the caddy must know a wide variety of geographical locations, from the heat of the desert in Dubai to the cold and rain of the great links courses sprinkled throughout Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales.
Another challenge that caddies face is they must remain positive at all times.
At the same time, they must offer an honest opinion on each shot.
It can be difficult to stay positive if the golfer is experiencing difficulty, and especially if they tend to take out their frustration on the caddy.
Is It Worth It?
In the end, is it worth it to go through all of the frustration of becoming a caddy and attempting to work at the highest levels of the game.
Golf Today interviewed caddy Scott Gneiser a few years ago.
Gneisser carried the bag of David Toms for more than 15 years until he left in 2013 to work for John Peterson.
Gneisser confirmed that you can make good money as a caddy if you work for a top player.
His victories with David Toms included the PGA championship in 2001 when it was held at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
Gneisser said he lives and dies with every shot, just like average golfers, and that he would continue to caddy as long as it was fun and provided a good living.
To learn about other great careers in the golf industry, contact us today at Keiser University College of Golf.