Tour caddies vote on new group

More than 100 PGA Tour caddies -- including some of the most well-known loopers in the game -- have organized to create the Association of Professional Tour Caddies (APTC) with the hopes of improving their working conditions.

The group grew from a series of issues that irked some of the caddies, including the PGA Tour's decision to cancel "caddie races" at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial for 2014, as well as an incident at the Barclays event in New York where caddies felt they were unjustly treated.

"The straw that broke the camel's back for us came at the Barclays during a rain delay," said APTC President James Edmondson, who caddies for PGA Tour player Ryan Palmer. "This security guy came in, started berating us, asking to see everyone's ID, and then began kicking out our families into the rain. We all thought, 'Would they ever do this to the players in their area?' That's when we decided to have a meeting."

A group of caddies contacted an attorney a week after the Barclays. A meeting took place two weeks after that at the BMW Championship, where 35 of the 70 caddies on site attended. The vote to become an association was unanimous.

The caddies hired the law firm of Barlow, Garsek and Simon to represent them. The firm also has represented the Professional Golf Referees Association since 2011.

The APTC board of caddies, which was voted upon at the tour stop in Las Vegas, includes Edmondson, vice president Lance Bennett (who caddies for Matt Kuchar), treasurer Jimmy Johnson (Steve Stricker) and secretary Adam Hayes (Russell Henley). Also, Joe LaCava (Tiger Woods), Brennan Little (Camilo Villegas) and Kenny Harms (Kevin Na) are board members.

"Caddies realized we had two options," Edmondson said. "Go to the Tour with our hands held out or empower ourselves by organizing, therefore expediting the process of the PGA Tour recognizing caddies as a profession like the rules officials. It seemed like because of the era we are in, the timing was right."

The APTC eventually reached out to 200 caddies. Of the 115 who responded, all agreed to create the association.

"The caddies play an instrumental role in the success of tour players and the success of professional golf," said Christian Dennie, an attorney for the caddies. "In an effort to further their profession, caddies have united to provide more information about their role in professional golf and obtain group benefits that will allow them to have retirement accounts and health care like many Americans who watch golf each week."

As for how the APTC will interact with the PGA Tour, that's still up in the air.

"I have not had any direct contact as of yet with the new group, but I'm looking forward to sitting down and hearing what they have to say," said PGA Tour executive vice president and chief of operations Andy Pazder. "I plan to meet with James and Ryan next week in Mexico [where the tour hosts the OHL Classic at Mayakoba]."

Bennett, the APTC's vice president, emphasized this new endeavor is not about trying to reap financial rewards for caddies.

"I've been caddying for 12 years and just haven't seen a lot of advancement as far as access, amenities and benefits from the Tour's side," said Bennett, who sat on the PGA Tour's caddie advisory committee for two years. "I saw this as an opportunity to better organize ourselves as a profession. The opportunity for financial advancement is not the issue."

According to Edmondson, the APTC also will have an advisory council made up of unnamed PGA Tour players, an associate program for caddies on the Web.com Tour and Champions Tour, and two international caddie advisers from Europe and Australia. The group also plans to use relationships with player agents and trainers.