A Look At The Role Of Caddies In Golf
MELISSA BLOCK, host: It's not very glorious being a golf caddy. Bobby Jones, one of most legendary golfers of all time put it this way: If I needed advice from my caddie, he'd be hitting the shots and I'd be carrying the bag. But that's not the way Steve Williams sees it. Williams caddied Tiger Woods to 13 major championships before he was fired last month. And last weekend, after his new boss, Adam Scott, won a tournament, Steve Williams appalled many golfers and fans when he said this.
STEVE WILLIAMS: I'm a great frontrunner when I get racing and I feel like I'm a good, you know, frontrunner when I'm caddying. So, I have, you know, great belief in myself. But honestly, that's the best week of my life. I've caddied for 33 years, 145 wins now, and that's the best win I've ever had.
BLOCK: The best win I've ever had. Well, Williams's comments made people wonder: How much credit do caddies deserve? To help us answer that, we're joined by Lawrence Donegan. He is the golf correspondent for the Guardian newspaper. And he joins us from Atlanta, where he's covering the PGA Championship. Welcome to the program, Lawrence.
LAWRENCE DONEGAN: Hi there, Melissa. Welcome. Thanks for having me.
BLOCK: And you spent a year as a caddy on the European tour for a book you wrote. So, why don't you break this down for us: beyond carrying the clubs, what else does a caddy do?
DONEGAN: Well, there's various standards. In candid, caddies, of course, some are good and some are bad. The good ones, well, they give all sorts of advice on club selection, you know, a lot of it based on reading putts on the greens. I think the main job of a caddy is really, you know, it's a psychological job. You have to know your player's moods, you have recognize, you know, when he needs somebody to talk to, when he needs silence. And it's just a question of, you know, judging a player, judging his moods, knowing his moods. And, you know, when his head goes down, which frequently happens with professional golfers, I mean, it's a caddy's job to really get his head back up and get his spirits back up.
BLOCK: How important would you say the caddy is to a golfer's success? Can you rate that in any way?
DONEGAN: Well, it's a tough one. A lot of the players down here in Atlanta this week were asked, you know, how much would you say a caddy's worth in terms of strokes? Again, everybody has a different answer. Some players think they make no difference and some players think they make maybe a difference of half a shot half a shot a round. Now, that doesn't sound very much, but at this label it's all in the margins in professional golf. Half a shot a round is two shots over a tournament, and that could be the difference between winning and losing. You know, I think certainly the good caddies definitely make a difference and the bad ones probably don't make a difference at all. What I would say is that some of the caddies are paid extraordinarily well, up to 10 percent of a player's winnings. So, some players must think that they're worth something.
BLOCK: Well, yeah, and I think Steve Williams was said to be making over a million dollars a year while he was caddying for Tiger Woods. The golfer Luke Donald made a point. He said this: If I thought my guy was carrying my luggage, I wouldn't pay him nearly as much as I am. That says something right there.
DONEGAN: Yeah, that's absolutely right. Although, Steve, there - again, who knows if this is true - but there, you know, it's been widely quoted that Steve Williams was New Zealand's best paid sportsman, which says something about how much he gets paid or how much sportsmen in New Zealand get paid. But, yeah, I mean, there's all sorts of figures being bandied around. I mean, I have a couple of friends who are caddies who are very good players, and I know for a fact that they make a lot more than me - a lot more than me - and probably you, Melissa, as well.
BLOCK: Yeah, I bet they do. So, here's the hypothetical: if you were to take the caddies on the PGA tournament, shuffle them around, assign them to different players, do you think it would have an effect on the results?
DONEGAN: You know, I think it would make a difference. I'm not a believer in this idea that caddies are not worth very much.
BLOCK: Well, spoken like a true member of the fraternity of caddies.
DONEGAN: I'm sorry. Yes. I'm sorry about that. Yeah, I probably have. I'd love to go back. In fact, if Tiger is looking for a new caddy, he can always come and ask me. I think I would probably take the job.
BLOCK: Lawrence Donegan, former caddy and author of the book, "Four Iron for the Soul." He's the golf correspondent for The Guardian and he's in Atlanta, covering this week's PGA Championship. Lawrence, thanks so much.
DONEGAN: Thanks very much, now. Take care.
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