Given the very visible presence of caddies in the pro golf competitive scene, the Rules of Golf are remarkably silent on the duties of the caddie. To be sure, there’s an intimate and complicated relationship between individual golfers and their caddies. The extraordinarily public break-up between Tiger Woods and his long-time caddie, Stevie Williams, after Williams took up Adam Scott’s bag at the 2011 US Open makes my point. Their titillating soap opera provided an often engaging, at times amusing, and eventually rather tiresome subtext to every tourney where Woods and Scott competed for about two years. Still, this personal issue, writ large, really wasn’t related to caddie duties. It was about interpersonal loyalty and interpersonal betrayal. That personal entanglement aside, Dame Laura Davies is now demanding a closer official look at the parameters of caddie duties.
The Rules of Golf currently offer limited guidance on the matter: “A ‘caddie‘ is one who assists the player in accordance with the Rules, which may include carrying or handling the player’s clubs during play.”
Caddie as Therapist?
The key phrase in the Rules of Golf caddie description is “may include.” Clearly, caddies carry and manage players’ equipment. Equally clearly, caddies are in a unique position to support players while they manage the stress of the competitive moment in a sporting event that imposes extreme isolation on individual athletes during their performance.
Cristie Kerr depends on her regular caddie, Australian Mark Wuersching, for a good deal more than managing her equipment. Wuersching also manages Kerr on the course and seems to balance out and smooth Kerr’s rough emotional edges.
Jessica Korda famously fired her caddie mid-round at the 2013 US Women’s Open and drafted her boyfriend, Johnnie DelPrete, from the gallery to take up her bag. What happened? USA Today reported Korda’s minimalist explanation:
We had a couple of disagreements here and there, and I wasn’t in the right state of mind. I knew I needed to switch and just have a little bit more fun out there . . . Jesica Korda
Although he later apologized, Bubba Watson lost all sense of propriety at the 2014 Travelers Championship and blamed his caddie for a missed shot.
Caddie as Technical Assistant?
I watched Karrie Webb and her regular caddie work like a well-oiled machine lining up putts at the 2014 US Women’s Open. They followed a complex, extended routine to strengthen Webb’s putting success on the infamous Pinehurst No. 2 turtle-backed greens. Their was a sadly typical procedure increasing employed by any number of pros, both women and men.
Laura Davies has had enough of it. She’s now gone on the public record demanding that the USGA and the R&A implement a ban on caddies lining up putts. Her reason?
It’s a basic part of golf, alignment. You’re not allowed to get a grip that’s perfectly set for you, so why should you have someone stand behind you and tell you where to aim? And it slows the game down.
Whether it’s a question of player integrity or pace of play, Davies makes a good point and Stacy Lewis and Paula Creamer agree with Davies, as does Charley Hull. Those are some powerful voices calling out for pro golfers to take responsibility for lining themselves up.
What do you think?