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How important are caddies?

Not bad work if you can get it

Caddies have been around since the 1600s in Scotland. When the game gained in popularity in America in the late 1800s, caddies were used to carry the clubs. Famous players such as Gene Sarazen, Walter Hagen, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan all started as caddies. Now, with only ultra-exclusive clubs and five-star resorts such as Pebble Beach, Augusta National and even Old Memorial in Tampa using caddies, the loopers usually come from college golf, select caddie schools or through friendships with the players.

Caddies are independent contractors and have to work out deals with their pros. Standard payment is between $1,000-$1,500 in weekly base salary. Then caddies generally get 5 percent of the player's tournament purse, 7 percent for a top 10 and 10 percent for a win. That can vary slightly from pro to pro, but that's the general agreement. Caddies usually have to pay their own expenses, which include travel and lodging. That cost can reach $1,000 per week, so if a caddie's player isn't making cuts, the caddie isn't making much money.

But the caddie of a top player is living comfortably. According to Forbes Magazine, Steve Williams made about $1.27 million in 2006. That was Tiger Woods' phenomenal year when he won eight times and made nearly $10 million. Williams is said to have earned close to $9 million in his 12 years with Tiger.

Caddies of consistent top 25 players such as Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood are making in the mid six figures yearly. In past generations, caddying was a thankless job with little pay. It has evolved into a valued profession for those who can get it. Jim "Bones" Mackay, caddie for Mickelson, has called it "the best job in the world.'' Players rely on caddies not only to give them yardage and clubs but honest opinions and assessments as well.

Who replaces Steve Williams?

When Woods returns, it will be big news. The second biggest news will be whom he names as his caddie. Woods has had only two since turning pro in 1996 (Mike Cowan and Williams). It is the kind of job caddies would line up for. Only Woods knows, but here are some names being thrown around as legitimate possibilities:

1. Tony Navarro: He is Adam Scott's former caddie, which coincidentally is whom Williams is now caddying for. Navarro, 51, has 33 years experience and would be a logical choice.

2. Fanny Sunesson: She is currently with Henrik Stenson, and she is a close friend of Williams. Not sure if she would take on Woods after all this. Plus, would Woods want to deal with another Swedish woman?

3. Paul Tesori: He used to caddie for Vijay Singh, and if you can caddie for Singh, you can caddie for anyone. He also worked for Sean O'Hair before losing that gig in 2010.

4. Byron Bell: A childhood friend who actually filled in as Woods' caddie here and there. Woods may need a friend when he finally returns, and Bell could fill in for a while.

5. Notah Begay: Okay, a long shot. They played college golf together at Stanford. Begay is still playing some competitive golf. But he hasn't made any money at it this year, so taking a caddie job with his buddy isn't out of the question.

6. Brett Waldman: He used to caddie for Camilo Villegas but quit to become a pro himself. He's struggling on the Nationwide Tour and is rumored to be interested in joining Woods.

One of the biggest stories in golf this year involves a caddie. Tiger Woods fired Steve Williams, his caddie of 12 years, last week. Williams was with Woods for 13 major titles and 63 PGA Tour wins. They were even in each other's weddings. Williams was just about as recognizable as Woods. He was Woods' friend, confidant and enforcer. After a less than amicable split, he is none of those things now. But the Williams/Woods story put a spotlight on caddies. How important are they? What do they do? And how do they get that job in the first place?

Who's your caddie?

Caddies, or loopers, are kind of like umpires; if they are doing a good job they usually don't get noticed. But some caddies have gained a certain amount of fame within the golf world, mostly by being on the bag of a Hall of Fame golfer. Aside from Steve Williams, here are some caddies who are just about as well known as the players they work for.

1. Angelo Argea: He was the caddie for Jack Nicklaus from 1963-82. Best known for his shocking white head of hair, Argea was on the bag for nearly 40 of Nicklaus' wins.

2. Bruce Edwards: One of the most well-liked figures on the PGA Tour, he caddied for Tom Watson from 1973-89 and again from 1992-2003. Edwards worked with Watson for many of his major championships. He died in 2004 of Lou Gehrig's disease.

3. Mike "Fluff'' Cowan: He was the first caddie Tiger Woods had when he turned professional in 1996. During Woods' historic Masters championship in 1997, Cowan was the caddie. Like Williams, Cowan was unceremoniously fired by Woods. He is now with Jim Furyk.

4. Jim "Bones" Mackay: Phil Mickelson has had one caddie his entire career, Mackay (pronounced Mc-Eye). He has been on the bag for all four majors and 37 PGA Tour wins. If you've ever seen Mickelson play, you've seen Bones Mackay.

5. Fanny Sunesson: One of the few female caddies on the PGA Tour, she was most famously the caddie for Nick Faldo from 1990-99. She also had a short stint with Sergio Garcia before finding her current employer, fellow Swede Henrik Stenson.

6. Eddie Lowery: Ever heard of him? He was 10 years old when he caddied for 18-year-old Francis Ouimet at the 1913 U.S. Open. Ouimet won the tournament, and a picture of the two together made it onto a U.S. stamp.

7. Terry McNamara: He had the fortune of caddying for Annika Sorenstam. Of course, you don't get that fortune without being good.

8. Herman Mitchell: He caddied for Lee Trevino for much of the 1970s and '80s. Not only did he help Trevino entertain crowds, he was also a near scratch golfer himself.

9. Jon Gruden: It didn't last long, but Gruden did caddie for John Daly for part of one round at the Transitions Championship in 2008. Some players don't take their caddies too seriously.

10. Danny Noonan: Worked in the caddyshack at Bushwood Country Club. Toted the bag for Judge Elihu Smails in the club championship but was forced into action when Al Czervik's drive on the 10th hole caromed off a ball-washer and hit him in the arm ("Ooo, my arm. It's broken.'') Noonan and Ty Webb ended up taking home the championship.

How important are caddies? 07/27/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 9:18pm]
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