The old days were tough, but more money brings more pres­sure.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents - By John Fe­in­stein

Mike chris­tensen never had any in­ten­tion of be­com­ing a cad­die when he grad­u­ated in 2000. His dream was to play on the PGA Tour. If that didn’t work out, he had his de­gree in so­ci­ol­ogy. He played mini-tours for sev­eral years, of­ten spend­ing time with Kevin Streel­man, a col­lege team­mate. But by the end of 2007, Chris­tensen was be­gin­ning to think about grad­u­ate school or look­ing for a job. ▶ “It was just time,” he says. “Time to get on with my life.” ▶ And then fate in­ter­vened. Streel­man was head­ing back to Q school, and Chris­tensen’s cousin, Mark, was sup­posed to cad­die for him but had a last-minute con­flict, so Streel­man asked his old team­mate to step in. ▶ “He made five birdies on the last six holes to make it on the num­ber,” Chris­tensen says. “Turned out to be life-chang­ing for both of us.” ▶

Streel­man wanted Chris­tensen with him for sec­ond stage. Chris­tensen said yes.Then, the fi­nals.When Streel­man made it through to the tour, he asked Chris­tensen if he would con­sider com­ing out with him for a year.

“I fig­ured, why not?” Chris­tensen says. “I thought the travel would be fun, and the po­ten­tial to make de­cent money was there if Kevin played well.”

Streel­man made more than $1.3 mil­lion as a tour rookie, mean­ing that Chris­tensen made about $100 000 – far more than he’d ever made play­ing mini-tours, and prob­a­bly con­sid­er­ably more than he would have made at an en­try-level job in cor­po­rate Amer­ica. Plus, it was fun.

So, he agreed to come back for one more year.And then an­other.

It was all good, un­til a Sun­day af­ter­noon in 2010 when Streel­man be­gan the fi­nal round of the Arnold Palmer In­vi­ta­tional tied for sixth, mean­ing he played in one of the last groups. Late Sun­day af­ter­noon, a huge light­ning storm swept through Bay Hill, and the play­ers were evac­u­ated from the golf course. Ev­ery­one headed for shel­ter. Ex­cept the cad­dies. “They wouldn’t let us in­side,” Chris­tensen says.“Kevin and the other play­ers did ev­ery­thing but beg, point­ing out it was dan­ger­ous out­side. No.The rules said no cad­dies in the club­house – pe­riod.There were prob­a­bly no more than 20 of us still on the course at that point, but that didn’t mat­ter. It was fright­en­ing and hu­mil­i­at­ing. I was re­ally shocked.”

Tony Navarro and Mike Hicks wouldn’t have been the least bit shocked.

“I re­mem­ber in Mem­phis, at Colo­nial Coun­try Club, we were lit­er­ally re­quired to stay in­side a pen in the park­ing lot un­til our player ar­rived,” says Hicks, who came out on tour in 1981.“At­lanta wasn’t a lot bet­ter. There was no pen, but we had to stay in one place un­til our player got there.They didn’t want any of us mov­ing around on our own.

“And the club­house? Are you kid­ding? No way.”

Navarro re­mem­bers the pen at Mem­phis, too. He came out on the tour in 1978, rid­ing a Grey­hound bus from his home in Mo­line, Illi­nois, to Glen Abbey Golf Club in search of a bag for the Cana­dian Open.A cou­ple of months later,“I got Slug­ger White,” he says, laugh­ing, re­fer­ring to the long­time PGA Tour rules of­fi­cial.“I thought I’d travel for a year or two and go home to col­lege or get a job at John Deere. I still haven’t gone home.”

Hicks, like Navarro, was a teenager just out of high school when he joined the tour three years later. His first bag was Mike McCul­lough. Six years later, Hicks be­came Payne Ste­wart’s cad­die and even­tu­ally part of one of golf’s most iconic mo­ments:Ste­wart’s win­ning putt at the 1999 US Open at Pine­hurst.The lit­tle guy jump­ing into Ste­wart’s arms is Hicks.

Navarro has also had great mo­ments while cad­dieing for Jeff Sluman and Greg Nor­man, among oth­ers.To­day, Navarro cad­dies for Nick Wat­ney. Hicks, who has been on and off the tour since Ste­wart’s death, works for Vaughn Tay­lor.

Both have made a good liv­ing. Both love the priv­i­leges cad­dies have now that weren’t even thought about when they were young.

“It’s a dif­fer­ent life,” Navarro says.“When I first came out, I can re­mem­ber sleep­ing in gas-sta­tion bath­rooms to save money.You could get in there at night, lock the door and feel safe. I slept in cars and in or­ange groves.

“If you stayed in a mo­tel, it was usu­ally four to a room. Now, it’s com­pletely dif­fer­ent. But I wouldn’t trade those days. To­day, cad­dies make a lot more money. They’re treated with a lot more re­spect. But I’m pretty sure they don’t have nearly as much fun.There’s just too much money at stake.”

The money ratch­ets up the pres­sure ev­ery­one feels. One thing that hasn’t changed on tour is the old cad­die mantra: “If your man’s go­ing bad, he’s go­ing to fire some­one. It can be his wife or his cad­die. Fir­ing his cad­die is a lot cheaper.” The joy of in­door plumb­ing

To­day, a lot of cad­dies make six fig­ures – of­ten well into six fig­ures. Many are col­lege grad­u­ates; of­ten they’re play­ers like Chris­tensen who weren’t quite good enough to make it to the tour. Some, like Lance Ten Broeck, are for­mer tour play­ers. Some­times, they’re fam­ily mem­bers – like Phil Mick­el­son’s brother,Tim. Most are white.

That’s all very dif­fer­ent from the old days. Years ago, many cad­dies came from the clubs where tour­na­ments were being played or were cad­dies at sea­sonal clubs – like Au­gusta Na­tional – who would come out on tour when the club closed for the sum­mer.

“A lot of them were great cad­dies and real char­ac­ters,” says Neil Ox­man, who first cad­died in the early 1970s to make enough sum­mer money for col­lege and then law school.“They taught the young guys how to be cad­dies. But as the money went up and play­ers were al­lowed to bring their own cad­dies to all the tour­na­ments, things changed.”

“In­door plumb­ing and food,” says Jim Mackay, Phil Mick­el­son’s long­time cad­die, who came out on tour in 1990.“Those are the two big­gest changes.When I was first out, if you wanted food, you went to a con­ces­sion stand. Some­times you got dis­count tick­ets, some­times not.And no one went in­side a locker room or a club­house.”

Now, cad­dies are al­ways al­lowed in­side the locker room at the start of the week and at the end of the week.At the end of the Honda Clas­sic in March, they were al­lowed to shower once their player was fin­ished play­ing for the week.There is club­house ac­cess now at some tour­na­ments – though not all.

And the tour­na­ments are now re­quired to give them shel­ter dur­ing a dan­ger­ous weather sit­u­a­tion.“I’m re­ally proud of the im­prove­ments our tour­na­ments have made for cad­dies,” says Andy Pazder, the tour’s ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and COO.“I think we’ve come a long way and done a lot for the cad­dies – which is the right thing to do. They de­serve it.”

But it isn’t all hearts and flow­ers between the tour and the cad­dies.Three years ago, 168 cad­dies filed a $50-mil­lion class-ac­tion law­suit against the tour, ask­ing for health in­sur­ance and a share of the money the tour is paid by ti­tle spon­sors to have their cor­po­rate lo­gos on cad­die bibs.

Hicks’ name is on the law­suit as the lead plain­tiff in Hicks vs PGA Tour, but that’s not because he led the charge for the suit.“I signed the orig­i­nal pe­ti­tion,” he says.“When the suit was filed, I was off the tour.They de­cided to use my name because I’d be less likely to get hassled by the tour since I wasn’t out there at the time.”

The case was dis­missed by a judge early in 2016 but was ap­pealed later that year and is still un­der ap­peal.As a re­sult, the tour won’t com­ment because, as Pazder puts it,“It’s still un­der ad­ju­di­ca­tion.”

In court, the tour took the po­si­tion that cad­dies are paid for wear­ing the cor­po­rate lo­gos – through purse money. Most play­ers agree with that po­si­tion.

“One of the things a ti­tle spon­sor pays for is hav­ing its logo all over the place dur­ing tour­na­ment week,” says Ste­wart Cink.“If they weren’t given that op­por­tu­nity, they’d pay less, and the purse would be smaller. We’d make less, and so would the cad­dies.”

The larger is­sue with most cad­dies is health in­sur­ance. For years, the cad­dies had no health in­sur­ance, and many – if not most – couldn’t af­ford to buy in­di­vid­ual health in­sur­ance. In re­cent years, the tour


has of­fered to pay up to $2 000 a year in re­im­burse­ments for med­i­cal costs.

“That’s noth­ing for guys with a fam­ily,” Hicks says.“Plus, they 1099 us (the cad­dies pay taxes on the $2 000). By the time you wade through the pa­per­work and pay the taxes, it’s re­ally not worth it.”

Navarro, who has two daugh­ters, says he pays about $20 000 a year in in­sur­ance to cover his fam­ily.

“We should do a bet­ter job with that,” Cink says.“There should be a way so that if a cad­die works a cer­tain num­ber of events in a year, he’s el­i­gi­ble for a group-in­sur­ance plan the next year, for as long as he’s out here.”

Noth­ing like that will hap­pen, though, un­til the law­suit is re­solved one way or the other. Four years ago, Robert Gar­ri­gus, a PGA Tour win­ner, and Tim West, who has run pro-ams and cor­po­rate hospi­tal­ity for more than 20 tour­na­ments a year for a quar­ter-cen­tury, came up with a plan for an emer­gency fund avail­able to cad­dies whose fam­ily had a health catas­tro­phe.

The idea was to get play­ers to con­tribute to the fund and then ask tour­na­ments to pro­vide match­ing funds. It never re­ally got off the ground.

“We had raised some money and were mak­ing progress,”West says.“Then came the law­suit.We couldn’t very well ask the tour­na­ments to pro­vide match­ing funds for a group that was su­ing them for $50 mil­lion.”

The money is still in an es­crow ac­count, and West hopes the fund can be re­vived once the suit is re­solved.

Navarro signed on to the law­suit as much out of loy­alty to his col­leagues as any­thing.

“Don’t get me wrong,” he says.“I think things could be bet­ter for cad­dies, but over­all, they’re pretty darn good.Things are very dif­fer­ent out here now. I re­mem­ber those days in the South when we were put in pens. Let’s be hon­est:A lot of that was racial.”

In those days, most cad­dies were guar­an­teed only $25 a week – and they paid their ex­penses.The only way to make money was for the player to make the cut, in which case the cad­die got 5 per­cent of his win­nings.A top 10 brought 7 per­cent, and a win brought 10 per­cent.Those rates have stayed es­sen­tially the same, although weekly salaries are much higher now and some long­time cad­dies have con­tracts with play­ers that pay them more.As the purses grew, so did the money cad­dies were mak­ing.

Dur­ing the 2016-’17 sea­son, 102 play­ers on the PGA Tour made at least $1 mil­lion,

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