If Tom Sargent had his way, he would have one in place.
And members at Mesa Verde Country Club in Costa Mesa, where he is
the head golf professional, would have the option of taking a caddie
along for their round.
Never one to turn down the chance to use a caddie, Sargent, the
head pro at Mesa Verde since 1995, has flown halfway across the
country to attend conferences on caddie programs and spoken with the
golf bag-toting workers who provide insight into a course's mood
while offering priceless information such as precision yardages to
Traditional courses like Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades
and Bel Air Country Club in Los Angeles have established caddie
So why do caddies seem virtually nonexistent in Orange County, a
bona fide metropolis in its own right?
Running a caddie program is expensive, Sargent said.
"A lot of clubs don't want them because it cuts into revenue if
someone takes a caddie and not a cart," Sargent, the 1997 PGA
National Golf Professional of the Year, said.
There is the issue of pay, loss of cart revenue and the potential
worry of not knowing if the person will show up to work.
To add another name onto the payroll sheet would force hiring a
caddie administrator, Sargent said, to ensure everyone follows the
rules. Another expense.
Sargent said Mesa Verde has experimented with caddies before -- in
the 1990s -- but members didn't support it and interest waned.
Caddies charge different amounts, but Sargent estimated the going
rate at $50 for an 18-hole round. If someone played eight times a
month, they could spend $400 using that figure.
Some golfers would undoubtedly cringe at forking over that amount,
but caddies can forge a steady income stream if they regularly
Sargent said he met one caddie on his travels to the Midwest who
earned $6,000 one summer for 100 rounds "on the bag."
"It's like a server, some make $300 a night in tips, and the same
thing is true with caddies," Sargent said. "You can make a pretty
good chunk. Plus, you're outdoors and around nice people."
Members at Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach have the
option of using caddies Friday through Sunday.
Mike Fisher is first assistant of the caddie program -- Al
Alvarado is the caddie master -- which existed prior to and during
Fisher's three-year tenure.
The program has about 15 revolving caddies -- all must be 18 or
older -- ready for the call, Fisher said.
The range of ages is anywhere from early 20s to 40s, Fisher said.
Some caddies have played on the Canadian, Korean and Spanos tours
and spend their free time caddying at Big Canyon.
Caddies engage in a training program before they venture with a
member for the first time.
"We show them the course, where to stand, what members expect from
them," Fisher said. "Most of the caddies have been here awhile and
have set guys they go with." Mike Carpenter, Big Canyon's reigning
men's club champion, said oftentimes one caddie will join a foursome
instead of carrying the bag for one player.
He said caddies offer positives and negatives.
"Sometimes it's nice to have someone give a second opinion,"
Carpenter said, "but on a putt, even if a guy can read a putt for
you, there may still be doubt between you and what the caddie
Then there is the possibility the golfer knows the golf course
better than the caddie.
Carpenter said it all relates to personal preference.
"It's good to have one if you walk," he said. "I play with guys
who have been playing at the club every week for 40 years and they
like caddies telling them how to read the putts. It's more beneficial
for better players. You don't have to look around for sprinkler
heads, but just go up to the ball and hit it."
Caddies are independent contractors at Big Canyon -- in other
words, they aren't on the club's payroll.
"They show up when they want to show up," Fisher said.
Sargent is a bit uneasy about that uncertainty.
"You can't have members showing up and not having caddies
available," Sargent said.
Caddies are a dying breed in Southern California. They have been
ever since the golf cart came along in the 1950s, Sargent said.
But even today, there are places in the country, like the Midwest,
where caddies flourish.
There, caddies are rewarded with scholarships to college.
The Evans Scholarship Foundation is the nation's largest,
privately-funded, full-tuition program that offers housing grants to
Eight-thousand caddies have graduated since the program began in
1930, attending schools such as the University of Illinois and
Michigan.For some, caddying is a full-time job.
For others, caddying offers a chance to supplement another job or
provide additional spending money.
Sargent played Carnoustie in Scotland and met a caddie there who
adored his job carrying golfers' bags and offering course knowledge.
"I asked him, 'What do you do,'" Sargent recalled. "He said, 'What
do you mean?' I said, 'When you're not caddying, what is your real
"He looked at me in horror and disgust."
The caddie answered, "I'm a caddie. That is what I do."
Courses in Europe also don't offer golfers the luxury of yardage
markers in the fairways, Sargent said.
"On those courses, you either take a caddie or don't play,"
Fisher said caddies are more revered at traditional clubs on the
East Coast and Midwest that have long-standing programs.
"Clubs have either few or no carts and caddies have been around
forever," Fisher said. "They tend to stick with that mentality. They
are mostly caddie-oriented clubs. It depends on how many rounds they
Golf courses in Orange County, especially public ones, see
extraordinary numbers of rounds per year.
If a caddie program was created at Mesa Verde, Sargent would like
them to be independent contractors.
"It's cheaper for the club," Sargent said.
And, caddies offer interaction, he added.
"Which would you rather do: talk to a caddie or talk to a cart?"