What has Lydia Ko, who celebrated her 20th birthday on Monday, had nine of and yet Phil Mickelson, who is 46 has only had one and Tiger Woods, aged 41, has totalled three?
The answer is – caddies!
Amazingly, the super-talented and well-grounded Kiwi, who also happens to be world No 1, keeps firing her bagmen. It certainly isn’t down to hotheadedness or impulsiveness, given that Lydia has displayed an amazing degree of emotional maturity from long before she won her first professional event at the tender age of 15. She is not alone on the women’s tours of the world. The employment security for caddies is not high – it is much safer, and more lucrative, on the men’s tours. Of course, there have been some long-term female player/caddy associations – think Annika Sorenstam and Terry MacNamara; think Karrie Webb and Mike Paterson – and there have been plenty of short explosive ones on the men’s tours. There is no doubt, however, that the caddy roundabout spins a little faster on the women’s tours and the first list picked up on a weekly basis by the media is the caddy list to see who is working for whom.
Many of the successful caddies who were on the Ladies’ European Tour when I was a player are now extremely successful on the PGA Tour. Mark Fulcher, who steered Alison Nicholas to her British Open title at St Mellion in 1987 and her US Women’s Open title ten years later, has been at Justin Rose’s side since The Players Championship in 2008. He and Rose have currently annexed a US Open title, a gold medal and half a sleeve of a green jacket the other week. Craig Connelly, aka Wee Mon, worked for former world No 1 Martin Kaymer, did a spell with Paul Casey and is now back with his German employer.
So why are there so many hirings and firings by the female bosses? Caddies have the unenviable task nowadays of having to have at least a dozen strings to their bows and be all things to all people. Of course, they must take care of the equipment and have basic addition and subtraction skills; be physically fit enough to lug a huge tour bag around five or six miles cross-country; be a psychologist; a cheerleader; the calm voice of reason; read the game (and their player) well; have a coach’s eye; and know when to be supportive and when to stand their ground. There is no room for indecisiveness. Oh, and a crystal ball doesn’t go amiss either!
A number of good female caddies are out on tour but the concensus of opinion amongst the caddies themselves is that it’s mostly down to the prevailing male/female dynamic that exists in any workplace. If two blokes have a bit of a barney at work they can still go and have a pint together at the end of the day. Two women who fall out at work would no more go for a drink with each other than fly to the moon. Male colleagues may not particularly like each other, yet work well together. Females don’t operate the same way – at least they don’t operate at their best. Mostly it’s important they LIKE their work colleague or, in this case, caddy.
And when Lydia’s agent, Michael Yim, was asked what prompted the latest firing (at the time of writing), of Gary Matthews, he was quick to emphasise that Matthews’ work wasn’t faulted at all. “He’s more of a quiet person, so I think that’s where she wanted more of a friend, someone she could talk to.” Yim added, “It was just a personality difference.”
So, it appears that it’s very important for the women to like and feel comfortable with their caddies. There is an indefinable extra layer of compatibility required alongside the purely strong working business relationship that can suffice in isolation on the men’s tour.
News has come through that Ko has appointed Peter Godfrey as her new looper. Godfrey has just been named Caddy of the Year by his peers, principally for his outstanding results working with South Korea’s Ha Na Jang last year and for bringing home Ariya Jutanugarn at Woburn in the Ricoh Women’s British Open for her first major.
Good luck to them both as they embark on this new chapter together and, well, if Lydia, winner of two majors already and current world No 1, finally finds the perfect on-course partner – just look out everyone else!