LPGA caddies are eager to do the math when the tour makes its scheduled restart at the Marathon Classic in late July.
With caddies optional for the rest of the year, how many players will actually choose to carry their own bags?
The tour said the caddie option is intended as a safety protocol for the rest of the year. It’s meant as an option for players who don’t have a regular caddie and would typically hire a local caddie, someone they might not feel comfortable playing alongside during the coronavirus pandemic.
LPGA winner Caroline Masson and LPGA caddies Jason McDede and Les Luark said during the Caddie Network’s “Under the Strap” Podcast on Friday that they were each surprised when the option was announced and fearful of how it could affect the caddie business if the pandemic continues to be an issue into next year. McDede caddies for Nelly Korda but is Masson’s fiancé.
Luark said typically just two to four players use local caddies in any given tournament, but he said caddies are concerned they will see the option abused with up to 20 to 30 players carrying their own bags every week, as more a cost-cutting option than a safety measure.
“Unfortunately, I think it’s going to happen,” Luark said. “I hope it doesn’t, because that’s going to affect a lot more people than if they had just said ‘No more local caddies.’”
A caddie typically makes between $1,200 to $1,500 a week as base pay, with a lot more to be earned as a percentage of a victory.
Masson said that while she will see family and friends step in to tote bags for players during any given week, she rarely sees local caddies being used.
“I was actually quite shocked,” McDede said of first hearing news of the caddie option after awakening early in the morning a week ago. “Over the last couple days, I’ve kicked it around and I’m still probably in shock.”
LPGA officials told GolfChannel.com that the caddie option is temporary as a safety measure and isn’t part of any long-term plan to phase out caddies.
“But if this [virus] rolls out again in 2021, are you going to keep the same policy?” Luark said.
Luark said he would have preferred the LPGA identify a group of at-large tour caddies that players without regular caddies could choose from, caddies with a tour history. Luark said the LPGA could test and monitor those caddies.
“That would have been pretty simple,” he said.