Missy Pederson's cool sports job: LPGA caddie

Michael Collins of espnW spoke with two LPGA female caddies about working in a male-dominated profession.

A Division III women's basketball All-American at the University of St. Thomas, Missy Pederson is in her ninth season as a caddie on the LPGA Tour. Since the fall of 2013, she has worked for two-time major champion Brittany Lincicome, who is currently No. 25 in the Rolex Rankings and competing at this week's U.S. Women's Open in San Martin, California.

Pederson, 35, a native of Plymouth, Minnesota, talked with espnW about her late exposure to golf, her career and being a female in a male-dominated profession.

Female caddies are a rarity

I don't think even 10 percent of the caddies are women. There is the physical side of it, obviously, which might not be appealing. The bag that can weigh about 50 pounds when it's maxed out with rain gear, towels, umbrella and food -- and going up and down on a hilly course isn't easy. I take pride in working out and being in shape, because if you get physically worn out, chances are you'll start making mental mistakes. Brittany can't have me making mental errors.

David Cannon/Getty Images

Players are starting to realize the value-add of having a female caddie. Brittany Lincicome, right, and Missy Pederson spend more time together than with anybody in their lives.

Players are starting to realize the value of having a female caddie. Brittany and I, as with most player-caddie relationships, spend more time together than with anybody in our lives. You have to be comfortable and have trust. We can talk about anything. There are no rules, and I think that has a calming effect on her.

The vast majority of the guy caddies are friendly. Once they realize you can take the ribbing and go back at them, they accept you. Any female in any male-dominated industry accepts that as part of it. The thing I like most about the caddies is that they are direct. If someone needs to tell you something, they tell you.

How I got hooked on golf

I wouldn't be doing this if I hadn't attended the 2002 Solheim Cup at Interlachen Country Club. My family didn't play golf. I was a basketball player and had just graduated with a biology degree. But I really liked what was going on at the Solheim Cup. My basketball career was ending, and a year later I moved to Florida and decided I was going to try to play professionally even though I hadn't yet picked up a club. That's how naïve I was. I played for a couple of years as an amateur, then turned pro and qualified for the Futures Tour. I had limited status, only playing seven or eight events over two seasons. The best golfers out there were so good compared to me -- I was trying to learn things at 25 most of them had learned at 12. I loved being around it, being a part of it, but I knew it wasn't going to be as a player.

One my best friends, the late Danielle Downey, asked me if I wanted to caddie for her at LPGA Q-School in 2007. She got through successfully, and it was so exciting though I wasn't playing. I had won a couple of small amateur events but never felt the same satisfaction as when Danielle qualified. It felt more like it had when I was in basketball. I worked the first part of the 2008 LPGA season for Danielle, but she fired me when a more experienced caddie became available.

I was at a crossroads, but decided to stick with it. I bought a ticket to the second major of the year, the McDonald's LPGA Championship. I stood on the practice green all day Monday and Tuesday, trying without any luck to get a bag. I came back on Wednesday, and about noon a player named Irene Cho came up looking for a caddie. She tied for sixth that week, and I worked for Irene the next two years.

The delicate balance of a caddie

The hardest thing as a caddie is reading the situation, knowing what to say and when to say it. Does she need me to pump her up? Does she need me to walk away? Does she need me to yell back at her? What does she want? You have to have thick skin. You're constantly being judged by the read you made on the green or the club you select. The players need that outlet. If the players blamed themselves for everything, you wouldn't have any golfers. You're also a release valve for other aspects in their life. It might be family pressure, sponsor pressure, agent pressure.

Every course we go to, I do a SWOT analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Is it going to be a week when we can attack or one of being patient? Where is the right place to miss a shot? And, of course, charting the greens is a big part of the job.

Brittany is outwardly laid back but extremely competitive. She's hard on herself and has that perfectionist tendency. She wants the right answer at the right time. But she also has tremendous perspective. Some players out here, when they're playing great, they're your best friend, they're polite, they're great, but the minute things turn, it's "Oh, lord, look out." Brittany doesn't take it out on the volunteers or her parents. We might go back and forth, but that's a safe place. I have a ton of respect for the outlook she has.

AP Photo/Alex Gallardo

Missy Pederson, left, helped Brittany Lincicome, center, celebrate a major win with her father, Tom Lincicome, after Brittany captured the 2015 ANA Inspiration on the third playoff hole.

The importance of my role

I critique myself after every round, about what I could have done better to help my player. I've done two bad yardages in my career. One really didn't have an effect -- we made par and it was fine -- but the other was very important. I was working for Alena Sharp in the 2011 U.S. Women's Open at the Broadmoor in Colorado. We came back to a par 3 in the morning after a weather suspension the previous day. They had moved the tee and I didn't notice. She hits a shot, she's posing, it's right at the pin. And it flies over the green. She ended up missing the cut by one or two. That kind of stuff can't happen, and I implemented a checklist so it never would again.

I firmly believe every player should caddie at some point because it will change your perspective. You become more objective. You start thinking in terms of probabilities not possibilities. As a player, you might see a small gap in the trees and want to hit it right through there. Yeah, you could, but it's probably not going to work out well.

How caddies get paid

Players have different financial arrangements with their caddies. Some do an annual salary. Most do a weekly wage -- $1,200 to $1,500 -- plus a percentage of winnings that ranges from 10 percent across to the board, to 10 percent for a win, 7 percent for a top-10 finish, 5 percent for making the cut but finishing outside the top 10. Everybody's different. If you're working for a really good golfer, though, you can make some money and have a great time, see the world and meet lots of new people.

Life on the road

I travel with two fellow female caddies, Audrey Gerdes and Mardi Lunn. I'm big on renting houses because it feels more like home and you can have people over. It takes an effort, but we do it about three-quarters of the time. I enjoy cooking, and I'm known for my pizzas. We have a pizza night almost every week. I've done up to 12 in a night.

Traveling around the United States isn't that big a deal, but on the LPGA we make some long trips -- to Australia and Asia in particular. Those trips, between flights and layovers, are 40-plus hours. Sitting in coach on an 18-hour flight from JFK to Singapore is when I'm glad I'm only 5-foot-4½. I'm not a great plane sleeper, but as soon as I board, I try to get acclimated to the time zone where we're going.

Brittany played 27 events in 2015, so it's a little more than six months of travel. Certainly you miss some things being gone so much. You want to have a relationship and the person thinks it's so neat what you do until you're gone for five or six weeks straight. I get asked a lot, mostly by my family, how long I'm going to do this, but I really love it. I find it intoxicating. When you watch somebody reach a potential, or do something they didn't think they could do, and you somehow contributed to that, it's fulfilling. Some of my friends wake up on Monday and dread going to their job. I've never done that. I work very hard, but I almost feel like I'm on vacation.

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