Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Periscope: Time to Treat Caddies like Pros

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Periscope: Time to Treat Caddies like Pros

Article excerpt

Never mind Jordan Spieth.

He's the 21-year-old Texan who won the PGA Masters in April and the U.S. Open in June. He's made nearly $7.9 million playing golf so far this year. But look behind Spieth in the U.S. Open photos from Puget Sound, and you'll see a 37-year-old man with a neatly trimmed beard named Michael Greller. He's the one carrying the bag.

Although Greller's deal for the U.S. Open hasn't been disclosed, the typical caddy arrangement is wages of $1,500 to $2,500 for the tournament plus a bonus: 5 percent if the golfer makes the cut, 7 percent if he finishes in the top 10, and 10 percent if the golfer wins it all. That likely made Greller's bonus $180,000. That's a pretty good salary bump for a guy who started schlepping for businessmen at $50 to $100 per bag.

But caddies are independent contractors, and the 150 or so who make a living at it on the PGA Tour are trying to organize. So far, that's been unsuccessful. The job started when golf courses were less pristine than today's; caddies carried bags and hunted down stray balls, which were frequent. By spending all day on the course they got to know its quirks, and that local knowledge became valuable to golfers. At the U.S. Open level, caddies are psychologists as well as strategists and porters.

"He was the one that got me through this week when I wanted to get down when things weren't going well," Spieth said, praising his caddie after the tournament.

There's an association for tour caddies that has become a pseudo- union, negotiating with the PGA in an effort to get health benefits, pay guarantees, clubhouse access and other improvements for its members.

On the tour, caddies are free to sign their own endorsement deals. Although the PGA requires caddies to wear bibs with sponsor logos, caddies are free to sell space on their hats and sleeves. …

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