They Always Manage to Carry On
Old Tom Morris, one of golf’s early figures at historic St. Andrews in Scotland, concluded more than a century ago that caddies required stricter rules than had governed them previously.
So, in what was really a suggestion more than an edict, he announced that caddies should “appear for work clean and moderately sober.”
Old Tom, apparently, was fed up with carrying the game, the bag and the caddie.
Generations later, Jack Nicklaus stated his philosophy regarding the boys, men and, lately, women who hoisted his golf bag from the trunk of his courtesy car to their weary shoulders.
It went, “Show up, keep up and shut up,” and serves as a none-too-subtle reminder today.
Still later in the golf timeline, Carl Spackler, the most famous caddie and greenskeeper in movie history--he’s a character in “Caddyshack"--was stiffed while looping for the Dalai Lama at a course in the Himalayas. His experience helped mold the job description of the 21st century caddie.
Instead of a tip, Spackler was told he would receive total consciousness on his deathbed.
“Gunga galunga,” Spackler said the big-hitting Lama told him.
Then he corrected himself. “Gunga, gunga-galunga.”
So Spackler had that going for him, which was nice.
Not all caddies are as fortunate.
It is 6:30 a.m. Friday at Newport Beach Country Club, 90 minutes before the first shot is struck in the Toshiba Senior Classic. To some, semi-consciousness is a nice goal.
The modern caddies--tan khakis, navy Windbreakers, wrap-around sunglasses on the bills of baseball caps, goatees on the chins--hover over their carts and their Styrofoam cups. They wait for their players to nose their Cadillacs, seat warmers on high, off Pacific Coast Highway and into the parking lot.
Six-Pack sits among them. His given name is Jack Keating. Almost nobody uses it, even though he has been sober for going on eight years.
He is 58, and he has been dragging his left leg a little since the car wreck last summer. He carried his first professional bag when he was 13. His father and brother were locker-room attendants, but he couldn’t stand that work.
“I got tired of saying, ‘Yessir, nosir, how do you do, sir,” Six-Pack said.
At the regular tour’s Greater Hartford Open in 1996, Six-Pack had a heart attack between the fifth and sixth holes of the TPC at River Highlands. With the help of two bottles of Maalox, he finished the round. Three weeks later, he was back on the tour.
Six-Pack is heartier than he looks. This week he is on Walt Zembriski’s bag.
“Somebody’s got to do it,” he said. “Here I am. I’m doing it.”
Six-Pack said he has no idea how much money he made last year or the year before. The general rule is that caddies earn a stipend, about $700 a week. From there, the caddie’s share is 5% of the purse, or 7% of a top-10 finish, or 10% of a victory.
Using that formula, and were they not under contract, Tiger Woods’ caddies would have earned $658,414.57 last season. That’s more than Brad Faxon, Greg Norman, Corey Pavin and Paul Azinger earned.
There isn’t that kind of money on the senior tour. But, apparently, a few can make a decent living.
So they stand and wait for their pros as the sun rises and the bottoms of the clouds turn pink and orange. They wipe clubs. They check rain gear. They stock towels and sun block. They make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. They laugh with their buddies.
Long ago, at places such as St. Andrews, they were called Stumpie Eye and Boosy Chas and Trap Door. Today, they’re Six-Pack and Audry Roberts and Steve Bybee and Beth Kaufman.
Kaufman has a demeanor so sweet she could coax a soft draw out of the worst banana-slicing hack at the pro-am. Ten years ago, she was in the international retail business. This weekend, after a career change in her mid-30s, she carried Arnold Palmer’s bag.
“I really love it,” she said. “There’s a lot more to life than just money.”
That’s a common theme among caddies, who have been known to cram four or five into a hotel room to save money. They pay their own expenses, so they cut corners where they can.
Gary Elias caddies for Gary McCord. Long before their work relationship, they were friends. Elias, Kaufman and Bybee, who has a history degree from Virginia Tech, are part of a newer breed who don’t have the hard-living reputations.
“Nowadays, it’s probably more professional than it used to be,” said Bybee, who is on Jim Colbert’s bag this weekend. “You have to take the job seriously.”
Well, mostly seriously.
“This life of the travel and the serendipity of the whole thing really is involving some of these young guys that want to get out and travel and see the country and follow the tour,” McCord said.
“Man, if I was 23 or 25 and wanted to learn the game, I’ll tell you what, you get out there a couple years you’re going to learn more than you’re ever going to learn at any golf school or by going through PGA Tour qualifying school. You’ll learn first-hand what it takes, and the marriage between playing and caddying, the ups and downs, the gives and takes and how to handle the mental pressure. Hitting a golf ball, that’s the easy part. It’s dealing with all of the spare time you have walking to it.”
That’s where Elias comes in. He’s a little older than McCord and has extremely thick skin.
“He helps me because he is the vent of my frustration,” McCord said. “I can just absolutely verbally attack him. When I’m not going good and I’m trying to circumvent certain disaster, I can just jump on him and I don’t do it on myself. The worst thing in the world is to get down on yourself. So, I take him apart verbally. Undress him.”
And Elias always forgives him, usually in time for dinner.
“Well, I pay him,” McCord said. “So he’s not going anywhere.”