The Tipping Point
Tips are not just a big part of caddies’ income but also a sacrosanct subject.
Iam not a huge fan of the automatic levying of service charges on restaurant bills. It doesn’t sit well that I’m expected and obliged to pay for service. Surely that’s up to me. But I suppose I’m a bit touchy about this because the subject of caddie tips is sacrosanct, even if sometimes a tad incendiary and at least of a bit slippery one.
Now come to think about it, tips are a big part of my income. Nevertheless, they are discretionary, even if reaching handsome heights at times. But in defence, it’s not cheap to hang out here in the home of golf and in some ways a caddie can add a lot to the enjoyment to a round. But not always.
A chap from Dallas in our group last week carried his own bag after his ‘bad experience on the Old’. His caddie was seemingly awful, arrogant and simply ruined his big day. He’d been forced to have words at the 10th, intimated that he was sure a nice guy but that he should lay off a bit. He appeased the man by saying he would still get a tip at the end. After the 18th and unsure of what to pay he asked the starter who inferred that ninety dollars would do all round. However, he thought he’d up it to a hundred to ease what had become a frosty relationship. But this it didn’t. In fact, he was dumbfounded when the caddie uttered the line “that’s not enough”. I mean what can you say to that! A hundred dollars equates to seventy quid which is well above the caddie fee of fifty. De facto the caddie can’t object. But he did. If I get on a bus and don’t give the driver the full fare he can say that. For sure. But when we are talking about a discretionary tip, no, sorry no. We work on behalf of a charity, The Links Trust, which doesn’t impose mandatory levies for gratuities. It’s not an upmarket Indian restaurant chain.
Shocked and requesting enlightenment at what was enough he was told ’at least another twenty’. Our man was so taken aback he delved into his pocket and found another twenty which he gave in disgust to the brazen chap.
And that’s a shame for this wayward caddie to sully our fair trade. For caddying in St Andrews is not a taxing job if you excuse my very awkward and unfortunate pun. It beats picking raspberries, cockle gathering, even haggis hunting. In fact, if I’m honest I’d say it beats working altogether. It saves me a gym fee and provides much interesting material for my writing. On a human level, I would say it can be at least insightful and sometimes fascinating. We get the opportunity to meet all sorts of people, and on any given day we just don’t know who will pitch up.
Young Duncan got John Daly last summer, and Mr Barack Obama was in town in June to play the Old. Unfortunately, I didn’t get his bag as I was deeply ensconced in a bar behind the 18th green and savouring the chilled delights of Mr Kohler’s excellent Sauvignon Blanc and some rare Scottish sunshine.
To be honest, I wouldn’t have been the chosen caddie anyway as they went for an experienced older character who I dare say was a safe and reasonable choice.
However, they should have chosen a man called Tom Stevenson. Cologne Tom as I call him is the most charismatic, affable, individual, amusing, knowledgeable, interesting, erudite, distinguished looking and eccentric chap ever to have pulled on a caddie bib. To boot, he was a +3-handicap golfer. In fact, there is a rumour going around that Tom sometimes declines to accept pay for his work!
Anyway, I am sure he would have hugely impressed the ex-president and help brighten the image of the St Andrews caddie across the pond.
He certainly would have been my tip, alongside bin 555, for that beautiful sunny June day.
Davis Love IV and his father Davis Love III who caddies for him during a practice round prior to the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills