Caddie thrown for a loop, still in awe of seven-figure bonus

Offering to give his caddie, Micah Fugitt, a million-dollar bonus if he won the FedEx Cup might have seemed like a far off dream a few years ago, but PGA Tour pro Billy Horschel made good on the promise. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Long before it became the BMW Championship, the tournament formerly known as the Western Open enjoyed a cool tradition that no other tournament other than the Masters employed.

Players were not allowed to bring their own caddies.

But unlike the Masters, which utilized Augusta National caddies, the Western Open brought in the top caddies, mostly teenagers, from Chicago area clubs to get their crack at the big time.

The practice died in the 1980s (as it did at Augusta National) as players increasingly felt it was important to have their full-time caddie working for them. Many of today's caddies on the PGA Tour were unaware of the old local caddie mandate, including Micah Fugitt, the caddie for reigning FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel.

Talk about perspective.

Just more than four years ago, Fugitt was hoofing it around a club in Houston, sometimes twice a day, commuting from his home in Waco, Texas, and hoping to make $150 a bag.

Later that year, he hooked up with Horschel, who last year captured the FedEx Cup and its $10 million bonus -- and he paid Fugitt $1 million.

No caddie ever considers that kind of haul, and even nearly a year later, Fugitt finds himself in awe of the gesture.

"In a way, it still hasn't sunk in yet,'' Fugitt, 42, said at Conway Farms Golf Club, where Horschel is the defending champion of the BMW Championship. "It happened so fast. A year ago we were trying to play our way into this tournament. Then we finished second [at the Deutsche Bank Championship] and were pretty much a lock for the Tour Championship.

"Then the win [at the BMW], and last year there was no off week. It was just boom, boom, boom. It happened so fast. And it's still hard to believe.''

It was an incredible ride for Horschel, 28, who caught fire at the end of last season with a runner-up finish and then two victories in the FedEx Cup playoffs, including the Tour Championship.

He hadn't been in the top-10 since June, then won more than $3.4 million in prize money in three weeks, plus the $10 million bonus for winning the FedEx Cup.

Caddies typically receive 10 percent of the winnings for a victory, and various percentages depending on the arrangement for finishes in the top 10, down to 5 percent of any money won.

But getting a part of the bonus money is up to the player, certainly not required. Although he wouldn't discuss the actual numbers, Scott Vale, who caddies for Brandt Snedeker, said he received a substantial amount when Snedeker captured the 2012 FedEx Cup.

"He was more than generous with me,'' Vale said. "He was very nice. I think Brandt started something, maybe a chain reaction.''

A year later, Henrik Stenson's caddie, Gareth Lord, was also rewarded handsomely beyond the usual percentages when the Swede captured two playoff events as well as the FedEx Cup.

Horschel's generosity, however, was borne much earlier. In 2013, he won the Zurich Classic in New Orleans and noticed that he was fifth in the FedEx standings.

"He said, 'If I win the FedEx Cup, I'm going to pay you a million dollars,'" Fugitt recalled. "I was like, what are the odds of us even winning a tournament? The year before it might have seemed more likely, but last year was a totally different year. It was a different mindset, out of the blue.''

Fugitt got his start caddying at a Houston club in 1998. By 2002 he began working on the Web.com Tour, then moved to the PGA Tour in 2004 with Joe Ogilvie, whom he worked for until 2010.

He jumped around later that year between several players, going to work for Ben Martin, Marco Dawson and Stephen Ames for various events. But nothing clicked, and in 2011 he found himself club caddying again, hoping to make ends meet.

"I didn't have a full time job, and living in Waco, I would drive down to Houston and stay with friends,'' Fugitt said. "I'd usually stay for 10 days, work each of those days, go home for a few days, then do it again. I did that for four months and almost moved there.''

But he ended up getting a shot with Horschel in August of 2011, a trial run that turned into a full-time gig.

Horschel, however, was struggling at the time with injuries and poor play and had to return to the PGA Tour's Qualifying Tournament. He failed to advance and played the 2012 season with conditional status, making it into just 17 tournaments. It was a long way from that unlikely payday.

"To make a decent living out here, you've got to have a guy who makes $1 million a year ... at least $800,000 to make it worth your while,'' Fugitt said. "That's one thing that people don't realize, we have to foot the bill for all our expenses. I don't know where people get the notion, 'Where are they putting you up for the week?' I'm putting myself up. Holiday Inn!''

Caddies typically get a travel stipend and then a commission based on the purse. They pay their own travel and expenses, although Fugitt said that Horschel is generous when it comes to overseas travel.

For instance, they are playing events in China and Japan later this year, and Horschel took care of business-class airfare for both journeys. He set up his caddie with housing at the Masters and The Open.

In return, Horschel has someone he has found to be reliable, a good match for his fiery personality. When Fugitt made a rare error earlier this year in Hawaii -- giving a poor yardage -- Horschel laughed it off.

"I gave him a hard time for it and I've given him a hard time about it the rest of the year,'' Horschel said. "But he's never given me any bad numbers, never cost me a penalty, never been late.''

Horschel has struggled to regain the magic from a year ago and needs a big week at the BMW Championship, where the tournament's beneficiary remains the Evans Scholars Foundation, which provides college scholarships to caddies. Horschel is in danger of not qualifying for next week's Tour Championship.

Fugitt, meanwhile, took advantage of his payout by buying a new house and setting up kids, Riley, 7, and Emily, 2, with college education funds.

"It was a nice surprise,'' he said. "It's my profession, I do it for money. But you never dream of getting a bonus like that.''