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PGA Tour caddies Kip Henley and Don Donatello dish on the realities of the job

PGA Tour caddies Kip Henley and Don Donatello dish on the realities of the job

Outdoors the ropes, golf is usually seen as a gents’s recreation, one primarily performed by prosperous and etiquette-conscience elites, of types. Crescendos of well mannered clapping from the galleries await every participant after a good strategy shot or transformed putt.

The royal hierarchy inside the ropes has all the optics of an aristocratic affair, the good pairing of an immaculate course and everything-in-place athletes with a trove of riches bestowed upon the greatest golfer of the week. However palace intrigue lies slightly below a rose-colored veil. If the golfer is the nobleman, everybody round him is a pawn.

The royal class of the PGA Tour strives to actually retain standing, slicing out perceived weak hyperlinks amongst these in his secure ought to his rating be threatened. PGA Tour gamers have a bit of Marie Antoinette in them.

A PGA Tour participant’s inside circle takes a calculated danger to be an element of one thing bigger, understanding that their place at the desk hinges on the needs and success of the participant. And no one is nearer to the execs than the caddies.

“Normally the caddie goes first; the second to go is the coach; the third to go is the agent, and then guess what is the fourth to go? The wife or spouse,” veteran caddie Don Donatello says. “And I know it sounds really cruel, but they just find it easier to blame other people than just to be honest with themselves and say, ‘Hey, guess what? I hit a bad shot. I just need to do better.’”

Donatello says there will not be many long-standing player-caddie relationships anymore. The splits happen for a quantity of causes. Take his 2018 cut up with Tom Lovelady.

“When you’re spending every single waking day [with a player], sometimes things can get on your nerves,” he says. “One, you could be tired. Two, you know, the pressure of trying to keep your card, especially a young kid like that. He’s a rookie.”

One of the greatest recognized — and jocular — loopers, Kip Henley, understands the fragile nature of player-caddie relationships and claims there are numerous broke caddies on Tour.

“Caddies are like underwear. When something goes wrong, you change ‘em,” the Chattanooga native says, including, “There ain’t a caddie out there that hasn’t been fired. Not one.”

How a lot do caddies actually make?

The no-contract affiliation between participant and caddie makes for a dangerous monetary surroundings.

Regardless of receiving journey stipends sometimes starting from $1,200 to $three,500 relying on the success of the golfer, caddies often rely on participant efficiency for any further vital compensation. The Sony Open in Hawaii can show to be an costly begin to the yr, with journey bills upwards of $three,000 for the caddie alone.

“There’s not five caddies that miss the cut that make money that week,” Henley says. “Honolulu can be a disastrous start to the year for some guys.”

Participant-caddie compensation agreements range, with caddies incomes anyplace from as little as 6 % of a participant’s verify for a made minimize to 10-plus % for a win. The Valspar hats caddies put on additionally present a pleasant end-of-year bonus. Caddies earn some extent for every event day during which they take part and can earn extra based mostly off participant efficiency. A missed minimize will yield simply two factors for the week, whereas a win could possibly be rewarded with 18 factors. At the finish of the yr, the cash from sponsor Valspar is split by the quantity of factors to find out the worth of every level. This yr, factors have been value $43 apiece.

“I had 125 points this year, and I had an average year,” Donatello says. Higher participant efficiency yields greater paychecks, of course, and further hat sponsors. The highest tier caddies are making $40,000 to $60,000 from hat sponsorships, based on Donatello.

The caddie lawsuit and the Tour’s sudden decision

The advantages package deal on Tour for the caddies has been non-existent in previous years, whereas gamers take pleasure in maybe the greatest insurance coverage insurance policies and retirement plans of any sport. The shortage of advantages has been some extent of rivalry for Henley and different caddies, who’ve tried suing the Tour in recent times.

“There was enough money going around, and the Tour was helping enough people, but they weren’t helping us so that’s why we did our lawsuit,” Henley says.

Regardless of having the case tossed out of courtroom twice, Henley praises the Tour for his or her current settlement to offer medical insurance compensation to caddies and their households.

“It’s a bit of a new regime on the PGA Tour, and for them to come back after we did that and say that they still want to help us, it’s nothing short of a miracle,” Henley says.

Henley believes the Tour might at some point present caddie retirement plans as nicely if the monetary power continues.

“There’s some good, solid leadership going on on the PGA Tour right now. It’s amazing. We’re grateful.”

Dishonest on Tour

Though caddies face immense strain, gamers additionally rely on low scores for top pay. The drive to succeed can result in gamers in search of unfair benefits.

“Some of it’s innocent cheating, some of it’s intentional cheating,” Henley says.

He has seen his justifiable share of it: A participant not calling a penalty on themselves if the ball strikes after handle; tamping down spike marks on the inexperienced; improper ball marking; and overestimating how far a ball crossed over a hazard are the primarily infractions Henley has witnessed.

“I’d never name names, but the people that are out there, they know,” Henley says. “They know the guys that are guilty of it quite often.”

Donatello has seen the dishonest as properly: “ Tour Finals, I worked for somebody, and I can’t mention the name, but I saw the ball positioned one way, and then I looked down and it was in a different spot and I know that same person that I worked for, they hit a ball in the water and it didn’t cross where he said it did. And so he took a drop way up further so that he could still hit it to the green.”

Climate can wreak havoc on a spherical, maybe nowhere greater than at the British Open. In 2010, when Louis Oosthuizen gained on the Previous Course at St. Andrews, Donatello and Henley each battled the parts. Henley was caddying for Brian Homosexual.

“I’ll never forget that day,” Henley says. “Brian Gay teed off in beautiful weather on No. 1 at St. Andrews. It was just an amazing atmosphere, you know. As soon as he hit his tee ball and everyone else in the group teed and we walked off that tee, all of a sudden, it was just like someone flipped a switch.”

Circumstances solely worsened. The 40-50 mph wind gusts brought on blowing rain.

“And by the time we were like five or six holes into it, I had the umbrella out and I swear — no caddie embellishment — I had the shaft of the umbrella parallel to the ground.” Henley provides, “I’m like Forrest Gump, I swear it was raining up.”

Donatello and his participant, Tim Petrovic, waited out the climate in a van being rattled by the winds.

The job at hand

In spite of coping with monetary worries, dishonest and climate circumstances, caddies have a job to focus on once they arrive to the course. Donatello says that when he first began caddying, he would take a look at the course Monday. On Tuesday, he would stroll 9 holes earlier than enjoying 18 holes with the participant and then stroll one other 9 holes after the spherical.

“Before we even started Thursday’s round, I would have 54 holes on the golf course or more,” Donatello says, including that he would take notes on carry strains, greatest bail-out areas, agency areas and delicate spots, and tough size in several areas.

Swing ideas are virtually all the time left to the vary and educational coaches, however Henley works intently with participant Austin Prepare dinner on maintaining his ball place and his strains constant. Maybe the most vital factor a caddie offers, although, is confidence.

“The most important thing when a player is hitting [is] that he believes what he’s doing is correct,” Henley says. Meaning leaving a caddie’s opinions in the bag typically.

“Sometimes I can be so sure that I’m right and I feel him out and realizing well, I can tell by his demeanor that he’s not coming on board with what I’m likin’. I got to figure out a way now to make him think he’s doing exactly right.”

With regards to Prepare dinner, Henley explains, “Everything’s his decision, but we work things out together.”

Donatello tells an analogous narrative: “I had to be 110 percent sure before I even took anybody off a club or decision because I would rather that player be committed and make a committed swing, than me take a club out of somebody’s hand and make a poor swing.”

Shifting bagmen

At present Donatello is on the lookout for a bag for the upcoming season, whereas Henley hopes to proceed on with Prepare dinner, or “Cookie,” as he affectionately calls him.

Caddies not often keep on with the similar participant over the course of both’s profession. Simply take a look at the Affiliation of Skilled Tour Caddies web site, and one will discover a litany of gamers underneath most caddie profiles. Henley served a number of years for Brian Homosexual “being his outdoor butler” earlier than a petty cash situation briefly soured the relationship.

“The day I quit Brian Gay, I knew I was doing something stupid, but I was prideful,” Henley remembers of his cut up with Homosexual at the 2011 Canadian Open.

The grass is just not all the time greener on the different aspect.

“I’d had such a good run with Brian, you know. I felt like Tiger would call me the day I quit him.”

The connection has since been repaired.

Henley says, “Brian was a beautiful boss to me, and his family and me are dear friends to this day.”

After the cut up from Homosexual, Henley landed Brad Faxon the week after the Canadian Open at the Greenbrier Basic. Whereas an excellent bag to hold, he probably might have had a younger, rising star. Henley recollects sitting subsequent to a good friend in the caddie trailer that week who talked about that some man named Billy Horschel — who was in his first full season on Tour at the time — was on the lookout for a caddie. Horschel’s 5 made cuts in 18 occasions to date that season didn’t impress Henley.

“I’m not gonna caddie for somebody I can beat,” Henley informed his good friend. Three years later, Horschel gained the FedEx Cup.

Their Massive Break showdown

Henley understands the problem of breaking onto the Tour. Henley, who has gained the Tennessee PGA Part championship a number of occasions, performed in round 30 Nationwide Tour occasions and the PGA Tour’s St. Jude Basic seven occasions.

“I was 5 under standing in the middle of 12 fairway one year in St. Jude in the first round and I was in second place, and I still managed to miss the cut that year,” Henley says.

Mockingly, Henley and Donatello share a well-known backstory. Henley gained Golf Channel’s Massive Break II in 2004 over none aside from Donatello. Henley’s spouse inspired him to use.

“The deadline day, she begged me again and just to pretty much just shut her up, I did it. I filled out the questionnaire and sent it in,” Henley recollects.

Then in his 40s and with bleached-out hair, Henley didn’t match the typical contestant.

“I think I was just a little bit different than all the great players who were good-lookin’, tall, young guys on the range hittin’ perfect golf shots. I think they chose me just ‘cause I was so different,” Henley says, including that he “was kinda funny” as nicely.

The offseason

Throughout the offseason, Donatello plans to work on his personal recreation, train some classes to school golfers and spend time with household.

“Didn’t see my family for 14 weeks,” Donatello says of his summer time caddying for Lovelady.

And don’t be stunned in the event you name for an Uber in Chattanooga this winter and see a person named Kip drive as much as the curb. The all the time entertaining and not often predictable Henley says that part-time job could also be in the playing cards this offseason.

The PGA Tour ranks are overflowing with individuals making an enormous sacrifice in pursuit of a much bigger dream. From gamers to caddies to wives and households, danger and sacrifice permeate. Maybe the drive to be an element of one thing greater than themselves makes the way of life value it.

“Being inside the ropes around the best players in the world, seeing the best shots,” Donatello says. “It doesn’t feel like I’m playing, but it still feels like I’m part of the game.”

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