I would never consider golf a team sport, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a sense of camaraderie. Sure it exists between players. There are friends on tour who play together every practice round. They share ideas about life, golf, and how to attack certain pin positions. Caddies, though, are the closest thing to teammates a golfer has.
I learned this when I carried the bag for my best friend, and editor of this site, Troy Klongerbo. The first summer, Troy finished fifth at the Lakeview Medal, one of the premier amateur tournaments in our hometown of Duluth, Minnesota. The next he shot 66 at the same event.
Each time Troy would describe his success with “We” instead of I. At first, I treated it as his attempt to keep me included. I have never been very good at golf, so maybe the “we” allowed for some vicariousness. But the more rounds we played together, the more hills we walked, the more I started saying “we” too. We made a 3 there. We finished sixth.
I found that I was an important part of Troy’s round, a fact he already knew. I was his liaison for any fans who were following. After a rather uninspired 6-iron on a par-4, Troy’s father walked up to me and asked, in a friendly manner I should say, “Why did he go with the six there?”
I responded, “Well, we made birdie with the same club yesterday from here so we decided to run with it.”
Reading putts, keeping a player calm, and yes easing the burden of tournament golf is part of a caddie’s job, and his job is integral to a golfer’s success.
Now, I never considered caddying full-time (obviously). Nor have I spoken to PGA Tour caddies. But I do have a basic understanding that for the most part golfers would be lost without their loopers.
Consider Jordan Spieth’s comments after he ran into the Masters weekend with a definitive lead. “Those were all Carl’s reads,” Spieth said of the putts that kept falling. He was referencing Carl Jackson, the man who helped Ben Crenshaw, another great Texan, win two Green Jackets.
Who could forget Crenshaw and Jackson walking off the 18th green at Augusta for the last time a month ago? Who could forget Tom Watson, at the age of 53, shooting 65 in the first round of the US Open, while his caddy Bruce Edwards carried the bag despite his battle with ALS?
There are dozens of similar stories available and even more that have yet to be told. Caddies mean more to the golfers than we can know.
And yet to this point none have been elected to the Golf Hall of Fame. That’s astounding to me. Golfers and caddies are closest to pitchers and catchers in terms of their relationship. One calls the pitches, the other delivers. Sometimes the disagreements can get heated, but there’s always a level of respect and acknowledgement between the two.
Think about the praise Adam Scott lavished on Stevie Williams when the Aussie prevailed at Augusta in 2013. Think about all the high fives between Williams and Tiger during Woods’ dominance.
Think about the characters like Fluff and Bones, whose nicknames suffice. How about Fanny?
Now the caddies have a Hall of Fame of their own. Notice the names. Angelo is there. So are some of the other immortals. The familiar name of Carl Jackson sits on the list. The caddies are recognized among their peers as the best at their craft.
It’s unfathomable that these men haven’t been immortalized in golf’s hall in St. Augustine.
Editor’s Note: I appreciate all of the caddies I’ve had in my life, including my brother Sean Klongerbo, father Mike Klongerbo, friends Peter DeGroot, Nate Anderson, Tyler Zenner, Matthew Schock, Levi Smith and long-time friend/caddy, Dillon Friday, the author of this article.
I would also like to note, I’ve served as a caddy as well, as noted by the picture below.
— Troy Klongerbo