NAPLES, Fla. -- Since I started writing this I've always wanted to talk with a caddie who has worked on both the LPGA and PGA tours. I hoped getting some insight into the similarities and differences that go into the job of looping for men and women would be both fascinating and compelling.
This week covering the LPGA's CME Tour Championship we got that opportunity, and I think we can learn a lot from both sides of the fence. Enjoy!
Michael Collins: Let's dive right in. What are the biggest differences between caddying on the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour? First let's start with the golf courses.
Caddie: Well of course it's length. That's the No. 1 thing. They try to make them where both of the [course set-ups] are very similar. They're trying to make the par-5s doable for the longer players. And you know what, you see the same thing on the men's tour as you see on the women's tour. Your longer players normally -- key word being "normally" -- do have an advantage every single week. There have been some courses we don't play anymore that were much shorter, like if we still played Corning, your big hitters wouldn't even go there. Because they'd have absolutely no advantage. But that's the same on the men's tour, ya know what I mean?
Collins: Do you think on the LPGA Tour the fans are drawn to the big hitters?
Caddie: Yeah, there's no doubt. Look at all your long No. 1 driving distance people -- they all have logos all over their shirts. It's very easy marketability. People are going watch how far Bubba Watson hits it, people are going to watch how far Lexi Thompson hits it. They like it, so I think both the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour cater to it (when it comes to golf course length).
Collins: Is there an adjustment caddying for a man who hits a 7-iron 200 yards, while some women hit a driver 220 yards in the air?
Caddie: No, it's just numbers. A 7-iron goes this far, 8-iron goes this far -- like Ai Miyazato, who is one of the shortest people on the golf course [in terms of length]. Look how much success she's had. It comes down to rollin' it.
Collins: And the speed of the greens?
Caddie: Speed of the greens [for women] are a little bit slower than the guys, but they normally are very consistent. And that is one thing that [tournaments] all do really well. The only problem, and it happens on both tours, is that your [practice] putting greens are not always the same as the speed on the golf course. It happened this week. This week the practice green is probably a foot to a foot-and-a-half faster than the greens on the golf course. The guys' bunkers are always perfect. Ours every week are different. Every single week they're different. I get the rules sheet every week and see what the local rule is on "stones in bunkers." That's the only thing I'll look at on the rules sheet.
Collins: Every week there are different local rules?
Caddie: Just for stones in the bunkers. Every single week, I look at the rules sheet just to see if we can remove stones in the bunkers. On the PGA Tour, every week they require the bunkers to be perfect. Ours are not, and that's a little bit of a difference. I wouldn't call it a big difference, but it's something I never even looked at on the men's tour.
Collins: What's the difference in caddying for men compared to women?
Caddie: You've caddied. You know each and every person is different, individually different, regardless of whether it's two guys or two women. You've done this enough to know that. But as a whole, I really feel like the women will let you caddie -- I feel like the women will let you caddie, guys know everything. Personally, I think that's the difference. Guys know everything. As you know, to be a good caddie you gotta read [people] a lot. That's nothing negative toward the guys, it's just different.
Collins: I want to ask you about the travel, because that is a big difference as well.
Caddie: [Laughs.] First thing is you go to Thailand and Singapore. Then Australia is on the calendar. Before tax day [in April], you've been in four different countries. Then you take it easy for a little bit while you're in the States. Then you go out again for four weeks starting with Hawaii. It just gets really different at the end of the year when you go to five different countries.
Collins: But travel is expensive. And there's a lot less money on the LPGA Tour than the PGA Tour.
Caddie: The women pay for most of the flights. All international flights are paid by the players. That's pretty much everyone, even the rookie's caddie. He's going get his international flight paid for. You can't expect a guy to go fly to the British Open and back for $1,500. You can't do it, it makes no sense. If he's making $1,200 a week, he's already $300 in the hole.
Collins: So in most cases, the player pays for the caddie's airfare?
Caddie: Yes sir. All of them pay for the airfare internationally. I would say there's a percentage that get them all paid for, about 50/50 who get both [international and domestic] paid for. I'm gonna do 100,000 miles this year, OK? You gotta get your airfare paid for. That's a big expense at the end of the year. I haven't been to my house in seven weeks.
Collins: Holy brutal travel, Batman! Well have a great week, and then go reacquaint yourself with your sofa for a while.