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Thursday, September 5, 2013
Carrying the bag for caddies

By Steve Wulf
ESPN.com

In some ways, the membership in the World Golf Hall of Fame is wonderfully eclectic. There are men and women from 16 different countries, and they're not just golfers, but presidents, officials, architects, pioneers, writers, entertainers, even a television producer.

But that sort of inclusion begs a question that's worth asking 153 years after Willie Park Sr. won the first Open championship: Where are the caddies?

Where are the hardest-working people on the golf course, the ones who tote the 40-pound bags in rain or heat or sometimes both, who scout and survey the courses, suggest and clean the clubs, keep the yardage books, read the greens, rake the traps, and know not only the rules of golf but, just as importantly, their place in the shadow of the golfer?

Carl Jackson
Carl Jackson has been Ben Crenshaw's caddie for almost four decades at Augusta.

Imagine the Baseball Hall of Fame without managers, or the football or hockey Halls of Fame without coaches. Yet the World Golf Hall of Fame has yet to find a place for the caddie, who serves the golfer as manager, coach, psychologist, friend and pack mule.

Now, there are former caddies in the HOF, players like Park, Francis Ouimet, Chick Evans and Gene Sarazen, sages like Old Tom Morris and Harvey Penick. But they're members for their other talents and accomplishments.

And there is a Caddie Hall of Fame, started in 1999 by Dennis and Laura Cone and now jointly administered by the Professional Caddies Association and the Western Golf Association. It's more than 100 strong, but it's not an actual building -- just an annual dinner at the BMW Championship to pay tribute to the men and women, young and old, who selflessly guide golfers while ignoring their mood swings and bad swings.  

Caddies are so much a part of the game that you would think there would be a place for them in St. Augustine, home of the World Golf HOF. "To be honest with you, it's a slap in the face," says ESPN senior golf analyst Michael Collins, a veteran PGA tour caddie as well as a stand-up comedian. "Hall of Shame is more like it. They treat the clubs themselves with more respect than they do the caddies who suggested the golfers use those clubs."

Why the slight? If it's because caddies are still thought of as "The Help," then it is a shame and a disgrace. All caddies deserve to be treated with consideration, and tour caddies are professionals who take great pride in their careers.

But Jack Peter, the chief operating officer of the Hall of Fame, maintains that the door is open for caddies. "It's not a matter of no," he says, "but a matter of not yet." Caddies are eligible to go in under the Lifetime Achievement category. Nominations for that category, which can come from HOF members, are vetted by the HOF staff and then voted on by the board of directors. "We have a great many worthy candidates for just one or two spots every year," says Peter. "That's how Ken Venturi got in last year. It's just a very competitive category. I do know that we have considered Eddie Lowery."

Lowery was Francis Ouimet's 10-year-old caddy in the 1913 U.S. Open and, as such, became an iconic figure. (It was as an automobile tycoon later in life that Lowery made a further contribution to the game: He sponsored promising golfers, including Venturi.) But Ouimet's victory came 100 years ago, and it would be nice if the HOF had something and someone a little more recent in mind.

As it happens, caddies have gotten some recognition this year -- if not their fair share, at least more than normal. After Adam Scott won the 2013 Masters with a 12-foot birdie on the second playoff hole, he said Steve Williams "was my eyes on that putt."

Phil Mickelson made sure people knew that the Claret Jug he picked up at Muirfield belonged not only to him, but also to Bones Mackay, his longtime caddy:

"We've had a partnership over the last 20-plus years of my career, from the time I turned pro. It's very difficult here to pull clubs because you have three different options of every shot based on the trajectory and whether you're working it into the wind or with the wind. … We were on the same page all week. We did a good job together. Bones was exceptional. We sure are enjoying this. This is a great moment for us."

Us. That's the often overlooked beauty of tournament golf. The relationship between caddie and player, a dynamic born of trust and respect and friendship, is both essential and constant, as important in this day of hybrid clubs and rocket-fueled balls as it was when they were using hickory shafts and the gutta-percha.

"Some people don't realize how good golf can be when you play the game with a caddy," says Hall of Fame golfer Ben Crenshaw. "It's a solitary sport, but when you have a caddie with whom you have a rapport, with whom you can share and consult, you're not alone out there."

Adam Scott
Adam Scott, left, celebrates a putt with Steve Williams.

Crenshaw and Carl Jackson, his caddie for 38 (!) years at the Masters, recently collaborated on a book, written with Melanie Hauser, entitled "Two Roads To Augusta." In the book, Crenshaw, a caddie in his own youth, recalls his last visit with his mentor, Penick, two weeks before the 1995 Masters. From his bedside, Penick asked Crenshaw to take out an old wooden Gene Sarazen putter just so Penick could check out his stroke. Just one caddie watching another caddie use a putter designed by a caddie. After the session, he told Crenshaw, "Trust yourself."

A week later, Penick passed away, but he was still with Crenshaw at Augusta as he teed off on Thursday, the day after the funeral. "I had not been playing well," says Crenshaw. "But Carl guided me through that tournament -- it was like Harvey had jumped into Carl's body. He made simple observations, like Harvey would have. 'Put the ball a little farther back in your stance.' Or, 'Make your shoulders a little tighter when you swing.' I did not win my second Masters by myself."

Jackson was in the inaugural class inducted into the Caddie Hall of Fame, as were such other tour caddies as Fluff Cowan, Squeaky Medlin and Angelo Argea -- Jack Nicklaus's longtime aide.

Dennis Cone, a former caddie and caddie agent, started the Hall of Fame as a labor of love not only to recognize caddies and their champions, but also to raise money for scholarships for young caddies. He's been reluctant to lobby for the inclusion of caddies in the World Golf HOF because, as he points out, "Part of the role of the caddie is not to stand out. I remember we had the hardest time convincing Fluff Cowan to accept our honor."

But it would elevate the profession at a time when caddies who have aged need assistance, and when the pool of young caddies is dwindling. "That shortage is one of my laments," says Crenshaw. "Even if caddying doesn't lead to a career in golf, it provides so many life lessons."

There is no shortage of candidates for the HOF, however. Steve Williams, who went from Greg Norman to Ray Floyd to Tiger Woods to Adam Scott, now has 14 majors, same as Tiger. Bruce Edwards, who died of Lou Gehrig's disease in 2004, walked beside Tom Watson for 30 years and gave caddying a new sense of nobility. There are names -- Cowan, Medlin, Argea, Jackson, Fanny Sunesson, Tony Navarro, Joe LaCava -- whose contributions to the game are worth a lot more to golf than what they were paid, even when they were paid well.

The standard for modern caddies is 10 percent for a victory, 7 percent for a Top 10 and 5 percent for everything else. They should get more than 0 percent of the recognition.