PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Caddies band together to help in time of need
May 21, 2020
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- May 21, 2020
- Martin Courtois, the caddie for Rocco Mediate, started Caddies for a Cause.
PGA TOUR Champions is the most familial of professional golf tours.
It has smaller fields. It plays fewer events so it’s mostly all of the same guys in the field. And they are players who, with a handful of exceptions, have known each other and dueled in the sun for decades. It’s Fred Couples and Jay Haas and Mark Calcavecchia. It’s Bernhard Langer and Miguel Angel Jimenez and Darren Clarke.
It’s the caddies, too, not necessarily the most recognizable of names, but faces golf fans have seen on their TV screens for 20 or even 30 years.
The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to all of it. And like so many Americans, it’s hitting caddies pretty hard in the wallet. Martin Courtois decided he should try and raise some money for his fellow out-of-work caddies on PGA TOUR Champions.
Courtois, the bagman for four-time Champions Tour winner Rocco Mediate, followed along as Ian Finnis, the caddie for European Tour star Tommy Fleetwood, set a modest goal of selling 1,000 raffle tickets for 10 pounds each ($12.20 in U.S. currency) to raise money for his fellow loopers. The prizes included golf memorabilia as well as playing experiences with some of Europe’s finest. The tickets sold out in less than four hours.
Courtois immediately knew there was something there. His fellow caddies on the Champions Tour haven’t worked since the Hoag Classic wrapped on March 8 because of the pandemic. And they won’t be able to go back to work until the Ally Challenge on July 31, the first scheduled event for the renewal of PGA TOUR Champions.
So on a Monday in April, Courtois sent a text to some of his fellow caddies asking what they thought of trying to raise some money for the guys.
“Within 60 seconds everybody on the thread was saying let’s do it, what can we do,” Courtois said Monday. “It basically caught fire right away.
“Then I sent a generic text to all the players and other people of note kind of outlining what it is and our goals and immediately the Champions Tour players the same day started calling and texting and sending donations and contributions and memorabilia. The first call that came in was Bernhard Langer. Not only did he make a donation but he sent a Masters dinner flag signed by all of the players. From there it really just snowballed.”
It has reached avalanche proportions. Several players have sent financial contributions as well as memorabilia for an auction. Some have volunteered once-in-a-lifetime playing experiences. Courtois and eight other caddies formed the “9 Fore ALL” to head up the effort (the eight other caddies are Billy Lewis – Kevin Sutherland, Brenda Calcavecchia – Mark Calcavecchia, Tommy Anderson – Kirk Triplett, Allister McLean – Colin Montgomerie, Eric Meller – Jerry Kelly, Derek Sanders – Woody Austin, Rich Mayo – Scott McCarron and Mark Zyons – Billy Andrade). They titled it “Caddies for a Cause,” and the auction is set for June 6 through 20 at thegolfauction.com.
Obviously they hope to raise as much money as they can. They plan to distribute it evenly among fulltime caddies on PGA TOUR Champions, defined as caddies who are eligible for the TOUR’s health insurance program. That number probably is between 65 and 75. There will be others eligible for some monies, who missed time for medical reasons or whose player missed time for medical reasons.
“It’s not like anybody is gonna get rich off this,” said Tommy Anderson, caddie for Kirk Triplett and member of the 9 Fore ALL. “It’s probably gonna be somewhere around what the government stimulus check was. We don’t know. It’s more of a goodwill gesture than it is a dollar amount. Anything helps.”
Anderson said most of the caddies on PGA TOUR Champions started on the PGA TOUR and have been around for 20 years or more. His first bag was Bob Gilder’s on the PGA TOUR in 1996, and he caddied there until 2008. Then he moved on to looping on the Champions Tour.
Anderson has donated some items to the auction he collected over the years during trips to the Masters, including items signed by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Eric Meller, caddie for Jerry Kelly and another member of the Nine, has a friend with hockey connections and has procured jerseys signed by such greats as Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby.
Mediate is offering playing experiences at Hazeltine Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, and Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto, Florida. Woody Austin and Mark Calcavecchia also are offering playing experiences.
“I’ve been a caddie, and I like hanging out with the caddies,” Calcavecchia said. “I even married one of my caddies. I understand how times are tough, so it was easy to get behind this.”
“It’s humbling to see the level of care and thought from these people who are contributing, it truly is,” Courtois said. “The Champions Tour is a family like no other. It’s the closest group of people I’ve ever been around, and this is living proof of that. It’s not just talk. It’s action.”
The familial atmosphere might just be the calling card of PGA TOUR Champions. The players have been more than willing to help the caddies in this endeavor.
“Our tour is a lifelong fraternity of great friends and good people,” Champions Tour stalwart Steve Flesch said. “I’m fortunate and so thankful to be a part of it and can’t wait until we’re all back laughing and competing side by side.”