How golf caddies became some of the highest-paid men in sports

On the British Open golf championship final month, Collin Morikawa cantered to victory and have become the primary participant within the occasion’s 161-year historical past to take dwelling greater than $2 million in prize cash.

Whereas that was a worthwhile week’s work for the younger Californian, it additionally meant a bumper pay day for his caddie, Jonathan ‘JJ’ Jakovac, who himself remodeled $200,000 — only for carrying his golf bag. 

For a caddie like JJ Jakovac, Morikawa is a dream shopper. Aged simply 24, he has already received 5 PGA Tour titles, together with two main championships, and this week, the pair have been teeing it up within the Olympic Video games in Tokyo. Actually, he appears set for a protracted and profitable profession, which stands to additionally make Jakovac very rich, because of this. 

Usually, caddies will negotiate a fundamental weekly wage with their participant (often round $1,500 per week) after which get a lower of any winnings, often 5 %. But when a participant finishes within the high 10, the lower rises to 7 %, and if the participant wins the whole match, the caddie can rake in 10 % of the golfer’s prize cash. 

Whereas which will sound like a superb deal, caddies are additionally accountable for their very own bills, together with all meals, lodging, automotive rental and journey (though one of the best gamers may additionally take their caddies with them on their personal jets if want be). 

However the association is an uncommon one. Usually there’s no written contract between participant and caddie, with the phrases being made through verbal settlement. And it’s not at all times a straightforward life. Lawrence Donegan spent a yr caddying for skilled golfer Ross Drummond for his ebook “4-Iron In The Soul” — an expertise that not solely opened his eyes to the tough realities of life for caddies but additionally how straightforward it for the connection between employer and bagman to interrupt down. 

“Skilled golfers spend as a lot or if no more time with their caddie than they do with their spouse. That’s the fact of the job,” Drummond stated. “Throw within the every day grind of match stress and the inevitable petty frictions which might be a part of the connection — ‘What do you imply you solely packed one banana for a mid-round snack? I informed you I wished three!’ — and you’ve got all of the constructing blocks for divorce.” 

The success of Tiger Woods (with caddie Steve Williams) is what helped bagmen start earning the big bucks.
The success of Tiger Woods (with caddie Steve Williams) is what helped bagmen begin incomes the large bucks.
Getty Pictures

ESPN presenter Michael Collins, who turned his again on a profession in stand-up comedy to turn into a professional caddie for gamers corresponding to Wealthy Beem and Daniel Chopra, agrees. 

“When that relationship goes dangerous, it’s the worst factor on the planet. It’s like having a girlfriend who you thought was ‘The One’ however you then slowly understand that it simply isn’t going to work,” Collins stated. “While you first get collectively there are all these little issues that you just discover actually cute however then a couple of months down the road they drive you friggin’ nuts to the purpose the place you’ll be able to’t even stand the best way they breathe.” 

And for these caddies not working for essentially the most profitable gamers, it may be a monetary battle, stated Billy Foster, who has caddied for Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and the late Seve Ballesteros. 

“I most likely caddied for six or seven years the place I didn’t have a bean to my identify,” stated Foster, who now caddies for the Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick. “I used to sleep on trains, buses, anyplace. I even slept in a bush one evening. And I stayed in some horrendous inns — even rats got here into the room and ran out once more.” 

However in the event you get on the precise bag, there’s some severe cash to be made. 

Justin Thomas’ caddie Jimmy Johnson (left) is said to have earned $500K+ in 2020.
Justin Thomas’ caddie Jimmy Johnson (left) is claimed to have earned $500K+ in 2020.
Getty Pictures

Have a look at Tiger Woods’ former caddie, Steve Williams. Although he had already loved success because the caddie for family names like Greg Norman and Raymond Floyd, the New Zealander actually made his identify — and his fortune — when he teamed up with Tiger in 1999. The Kiwi labored for Woods till 2011, serving to him to win 64 instances on the PGA Tour, together with 13 majors. Throughout that profitable streak, Woods received in extra of $90 million in prize cash, that means Williams took dwelling an estimated $12 million for his efforts. 

Williams’ success was such that he was typically described as New Zealand’s highest-earning sportsman. In 2006, for instance, he earned an estimated $1.27 million which, had he been a participant, would have put him comfortably on the planet’s high 75. 

I used to sleep on trains, buses, anyplace. I even slept in a bush one evening.

Caddie Billy Foster on the previous ignominy of the job

It’s a greater life for caddies now, particularly since Woods emerged on the scene, pushing normal curiosity within the sport — and potential prize cash — sky excessive. High caddies can simply make six-figure salaries with 5 making greater than $350,000 in 2020. A kind of was Justin Thomas’ caddie, Jimmy Johnson, who is claimed to have earned in extra of $500,000. (In 2019, after authorized motion from the Affiliation of Skilled Tour Caddies, the PGA Tour additionally started offering personal healthcare provision for caddies and their households.) 

Billy Foster, who stood in for Steve Williams and carried Woods’ bag throughout the Presidents Cup in 2007, is in little question concerning the debt his occupation owes to Tiger. “All caddies ought to have an image of Tiger of their home with a mat to bow to him each morning,” he stated. 

“Tiger raised the bar for the remaining they usually have adopted. The publicity of golf went via the roof and the tournaments, by way of high quality and prize cash, are ten instances higher than after I began caddying.” 

Former caddy Donegan agrees. 

“Life is rather a lot higher nowadays than it as soon as was,” he stated. “No person who has a bag on the PGA or European Excursions is sleeping beneath hedges and sharing a two-person RV with six different caddies any extra. Consider their life as an affordable middle-class American existence with the added bonus of plenty of journey and proximity to a few of the greatest names in golf. The issue is there’s now big competitors for the job, even for baggage which might be seldom seen on TV.” 

Golfer Bryson DeChambeau dumped his old caddie Tim Tucker (left) for his new caddie and longtime friend Brian Zeigler (right) this year.
Golfer Bryson DeChambeau dumped his previous caddie Tim Tucker (left) for his new caddie and longtime good friend Brian Zeigler (proper) this yr.
Instagram @brysondechambeau

On the one hand, the caddie acts as a handbook laborer and membership cleaner, on the opposite, as a confidante and counselor. It’s their job to be by their employer’s aspect via good instances and dangerous, celebrating and commiserating in equal measure. 

“The participant has to belief that the caddie at all times has his or her finest pursuits in thoughts. Timeless loyalty is vital,” says ESPN’s Collins. 

Their position, in concept, is easy. Sure, carrying a 40-pound bag round for 4 or 5 hours requires energy and a level of health, however there are different necessities, like preserving the golf golf equipment and gear clear and so as, raking the bunkers, changing any divots and offering correct distances so the participant is aware of how far they should hit their shot. 

It’s additionally the caddie’s job to maintain overzealous followers from getting too near their participant. In 2002, for instance, Williams confronted a spectator who had been taking pictures of Woods throughout the Skins Sport at Landmark Golf Membership in Indio, Calif. Regardless of repeated requests to cease, the fan continued proper as much as the purpose the place Williams snatched the $7,000 digital camera from him and threw it in a pond by the 18th inexperienced. 

Psychology and man administration additionally play a significant half in a caddie’s success, Collins added. 

All caddies ought to have an image of Tiger of their home with a mat to bow to him each morning. The prize cash [is] ten instances higher than after I began caddying.

one-time caddie Billy Foster to Tiger Woods, on how the celebrity golfer raised the bar for bagmen

“What makes a extremely nice caddie is figuring out precisely what your participant wants to listen to at that actual second,” he says. “I informed one participant I labored with that he sucked proper in the course of a gap. I steered he took up professional darts as an alternative and there was a bar a few miles away the place he might apply. He smirked and F-bombed me nevertheless it did the trick. He had a gap in a single straight after. However I knew him and knew how he would take it — he wanted me to present him a verbal slap within the face. Every other participant would have fired me on the spot.” 

However no person units out to be a caddie. Pissed off newbie gamers who’ve perhaps fallen wanting a profession within the skilled sport, like JJ Jakovac, supportive siblings and even associates at a free finish can all find yourself carrying the bag for a golfer and, very often, carrying the can when all of it goes incorrect. 

Because it most inevitably will. 

In 2001, for instance, the Welsh golfer Ian Woosnam was in competition to win the British Open when his caddie, Myles Byrne, realized there have been 15 golf equipment within the golfer’s bag, yet another than the principles enable. Consequently, Woosnam was penalized two pictures, and Byrne’s failure to hold out essentially the most fundamental of checks value the participant his shot on the title and round $300,000 in prize cash. Although Woosnam forgave Byrne for his error, he was much less lenient only a couple weeks later when, on the Scandinavian Masters in Malmo, Sweden, Byrne slept in and failed to indicate up on the primary tee for the ultimate spherical. 

“I gave him an opportunity, I don’t ask for a lot,” Woosnam later stated TO WHOME EXACTLY? at a press convention. “He had one warning, that was it.” 

Golfers are definitely much less set off joyful in relation to firing their caddies at the moment. The place as soon as they could possibly be dismissed within the blink of a missed putt, now golfers appear to worth stability, solely altering their caddies when it’s completely crucial. 

“There is just too a lot at stake to make choices on a whim, or on the premise of 1 dangerous second out on the course,” stated Donegan. “That’s why gamers select their caddie very rigorously and as soon as they discover a bagman they like and belief they cling on to them. You’ll be able to see this mirrored within the variety of player-caddie partnerships that endure for years out on the fashionable Tour.” 

Golfer Ian Woosnam sacked his caddie Myles Byrne (left) after he cost him his shot at the British Open in 2001.
Golfer Ian Woosnam sacked his caddie Myles Byrne (left) after he value him his shot on the British Open in 2001.
R&A through Getty Pictures

A working example is golfer Jim Furyk. He took on Tiger Woods’ former caddie Mike “Fluff” Cowan in 1999 they usually’re nonetheless collectively, 22 years and 15 titles later. 

However caddies can simply as simply get dropped like a mis-hit wedge right into a water hazard. World quantity six Bryson DeChambeau lately sacked Tim Tucker — the caddie who had been on his bag for all eight of his PGA title wins, together with his 2020 US Open victory — instead of longtime shut good friend Brian Zeigler. 

DeChambeau introduced the information on Instagram because the pair dived right into a swimming pool, full with the participant’s fully-loaded golf bag. 

In line with DeChambeau’s agent, Brett Falkoff, the connection between participant and former bagman Tucker had merely “run its course.” 

Tucker, in the meantime, gave his model of occasions on Golf’s Subpar Podcast lately. 

“I wouldn’t say [it was my decision], it was a mix,” he stated. “There is no such thing as a animosity between Bryson and I in any respect, I owe him rather a lot and I’m very grateful I obtained to be round and watch that greatness.” 

Tucker’s loss is Zeigler’s acquire: Final yr, DeChambeau received practically $5.5 million in prize cash and he’s already eclipsed $6 million this season. Zeigler can confidently anticipate to get pleasure from a protracted, fruitful partnership and a few very tidy paychecks within the months and years to return. 

As long as he remembers to depend the golf equipment. | How golf caddies turned a few of the highest-paid males in sports activities


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