They made quite a team
June 11, 2018
By Laury Livsey, PGATOURLA.COM
RIVIERA MAYA, Mexico—This week at the Bupa Match Play, in what is easily the toughest caddie gig of the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica season—especially if your player is playing well and he keeps advancing—it’s walking, walking and more walking, every day in Yucatan Peninsula heat, with a heavy bag on your shoulder.
Toni Hakula’s caddie took care of his man in his first-round match Thursday, his second-round match Friday, his two matches Saturday and his two matches Sunday. He was pretty drained working in hot, humid and windy conditions on a hilly golf course. It showed in his face Sunday afternoon, but his surgically repaired meniscus in his left knee held up well.
Sunday, after Hakula won the inaugural tournament, the caddie, standing on the green during the award ceremony, whispered to an acquaintance, “I’m happy, but I’m so tired.” He then pointed at his wife, who also walked all 93 holes during Hakula’s matches and mentioned how exhausted she must be, too. That’s when the caddie acknowledged his player, who was front and center receiving a trophy and an oversized check in front of an appreciative crowd. “And he’s the most tired of all.”
The caddie continued to smile when suddenly he said, “Gotta go.” A photographer was motioning for the caddie and his wife to come forward. The photographer wanted to take a family picture of Tommi and Helena Hakula, together with their son, Toni, a PGA TOUR Latinoamerica champion for the first time.
For much of Toni’s professional career, his father, Tommi, who retired at age 42 after selling his company that manufactures spices for foods, has been toting his son’s golf bag around courses whenever he’s needed. Tommi came to the U.S., to attend the University of Texas, and soon, Mom and Dad followed their son to the U.S., setting up a home base in Orlando. They left the frigid temperatures in Espoo, Finland, behind.
As Tommi walked the course this week, he had the best vantage point of anybody who watched as his son carved up opponent after opponent during his six matches. Tommi was fairly beaming when Toni closed out Sebastian Saavedra, 7 and 6, in the championship match to win in his 19th PGA TOUR Latinoamerica start. Player and caddie embraced on the 12th green once the match ended.
“I am so happy. I don’t have words. It’s just amazing. I know how many years he’s been practicing and working for this one,” Tommi said. “This is by far the biggest victory that’s he’s gotten. Hopefully this is not the last one. This is a good step forward, and hopefully next year he’ll be on the Web.com (Tour).”
During his week of work, Tommi admitted this was one of the first times he hasn’t been nervous serving as his son’s caddie, and he credits Toni for that.
“He was playing so well. He was hitting the ball so well. He didn’t try to do too much. He just tried to hit the fairway and try to hit the green and make his putts,” Tommi explained. “All I tried to do was make sure the clubs are clean, his ball his clean and he’s in a good mood. I gave him some yardages, and I let him know where the pins were.
“He does the yardages maybe 80 percent of the time,” Tommi said of his son, “and I will give him the yardages on the par-3s and sometimes the par-5s. He’s a very independent player, so my job is shut up and keep up. It’s not that hard to be a daddy and a caddie.”
“I love having him on the bag. It’s easier and cheaper,” Toni said, laughing, knowing the labor this week came cheaply. “None of us out here are millionaires. We’re always trying to cut costs any way we can, so that’s one bonus, and it’s another bonus to have someone you know on the bag.”
Tommi and Helena watch a lot of golf these days. Not only did Toni play at the University of Texas, his younger sister, Anne, did, as well. Following her graduation, she began a professional golf path of her own. Anne is currently competing on the National Women’s Golf Association, a mini-tour in Florida.
Forgetting for a moment that he’s a caddie, Tommi Hakula puts on his “dad” hat and considers the career paths of his two children.
“You think maybe your children will grow up to become a doctor or a lawyer. Well, we have children who are golfers.” He smiles, pauses and then says, “And I couldn’t be prouder.”