Conflict in Golf: The Golfer-Caddie Relationship

Posted: 2010/06/29 in Athletes, Golf, Sports
Tags: , , , ,

When non-golf fans think about golf, they think of the sport as an individual game. However, those who know golf or play it professionally realize that golf is no longer about the golfer striking out on his own to face the beautiful, yet deceptive golf course. In modern times, the golfer has a sidekick, a confidante and, ultimately, a teammate in his caddie.

And the caddie’s job is incredibly important and not necessarily easy to do. Just recently, the New York Times golf blogger Bill Pennington experienced what it was to actually be a caddie. He explains that it’s much more than carrying golf bags full of various types of clubs, towels and any other little knick-knacks essential to the golfer. Pennington spent the day not only with 24-year-old LPGA golfer Brittany Lincicome, but also with her caddie, Mike Hobbs, who explained, “It isn’t about coming up with yardage numbers, and most people can learn to read greens. It’s about reading people. It takes time, but you get to know the player, so you can help her play her best even under stress.”

And knowing the golfer is essential. Phil Mickelson and his caddie, Jim “Bones” MacKay have been together for 12 years and have formed such a strong relationship, that MacKay has not missed a round. According to the St. Petersburg Times, he often knows what Mickelson is thinking before even Mickelson can say it. Caddies have a difficult role, for they must know when to agree and when to disagree with the golfer.

Also, if a golfer misses a shot due to poor or misjudged advice from a caddie, the caddie risks losing his job. Some caddies don’t feel comfortable disagreeing with the golfer. Says Don Robertson who caddies for Cliff Kresge, “I might think it’s the wrong club, but he seems so sure about it. In that instance, I shut my mouth. The last thing I want to do is put a doubt in his mind.” Contrarily, some caddies, like Duffy Waldorf’s caddie, John McLaren, know their golfer so well that they don’t mind disagreeing with them.

The golfer-caddie relationship is indeed a complicated one. In the relatively intense competitive golfing atmosphere, it comes down to the golfer and his caddie facing the green and all that it might bring. Sometimes they succeed and others, they fail. The best caddies, if they make a mistake have to say, “Okay, it’s just one shot. We can get through this.” It is a relationship that must be built on trust, faith and resilience.

Recently I watched my boyfriend play in the Oregon Golf Amateur Championships. His caddie, a good friend and fellow golfer, took the week off of work to work with him. After a bad round early in the week, his caddie turned to him and apologized. He explained that if he could’ve given my boyfriend different advice, the outcome would’ve been better. The two guys merely exchanged glances and then shrugged it off. Next time.


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