The Biggest Tipper!

Continued (page 2 of 2)

It's an unwritten rule that players tip a little extra if they win, Pazder says. There's a famous story of a 20-year-old Tiger Woods taking his trophy and preparing to go home after his first PGA Tour victory, in Las Vegas in 1996. Butch Harmon, his coach at the time, stepped in and emptied his pockets to cover for his student.

"Even though he'd signed contracts worth north of $40 million," Harmon wrote in his book, The Pro, "he still lived and acted like a college student. Tipping, an appropriate and expected practice on tour, hadn't occurred to him. So I gave the head locker-room attendant $300, not enough by any stretch, but all the cash I had on me at the time." After hopping into a limo with Woods, Harmon told him, "You just won close to $300,000. You should have tipped them a grand. And you should do the same thing every week, win or lose. Every Tuesday when you show up, you should hand out hundreds to everybody in the locker room and thank them in advance for taking care of you."

After failing to tip a caddie as a 13-year-old, Butch got similar advice from his father, Claude, the 1948 Masters champion and the longtime pro at Winged Foot. "If you can't afford to tip the people who clean your clubs, you don't need to have them cleaned," Claude told him. "And what about a thank-you? Could you not afford that, either?" After letting that sink in, Claude added, "If you're down to your last dollar, give it to the guy who helps you out. You can make more money. You can never make up for slighting a man."

"On the whole, the guys are good to us," says a locker-room attendant at one popular PGA Tour event. In front of him as he spoke was a gleaming pair of white shoes that he was methodically shining. "It tends to be the foreign or young guys who are a little tight. Like it's a cultural or generational thing."

Tom Weiskopf would also incriminate a few of the older guys. "It's just pathetic," he told Golf Digest's Guy Yocom in 2000. "There are guys you see at the end of the day taking the plastic bag you're supposed to put your golf shoes in and filling it up with beer or soft drinks to take it back to their room or out to their buddies.... And they're cheap. I've watched some of them tip the locker-room attendant, the guy who shines their shoes all week long, as little as $20. I mean, they drink $30 worth of soft drinks and beer alone. I just couldn't believe it."

Phil Mickelson

Cashing in: Phil Mickelson earns big money and is happy to share it.
Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images


And then there's Phil, the king of the underground world of PGA Tour tipping. (He doesn't comment on his largesse.) Everywhere he goes, the five-time major champion leaves a trail of exceptionally happy staff members.

He'll tip $300 to hostesses for seating him at empty restaurants, and another $300 to valets parking his car. The stories of him handing small, folded-up $100 bills to the young girls at lemonade stands at the Byron Nelson Championship, then watching in delight as they unravel the prize, have made their way into folklore.

After his second win at Colonial, in 2008, Mickelson was loading his car when he realized he had forgotten to tip the locker-room attendants. He promptly had more than $1,500 delivered to them. Something similar happened in 2002: After being ousted in the first round of the Match Play at La Costa, Phil had another large sum delivered to the guys inside.

Yes, he can afford it. Mickelson has earned almost $75 million in PGA Tour purses, and that figure is dwarfed by his off-course income, estimated as approaching $50 million a year in the latest Golf Digest 50 ranking.

Why else does Phil do it? For the same reason anybody overtips. Pete Dye likes to over-tip the girl at the ice-cream counter, he says, because "it leaves her happy and makes my ice cream taste better." It's a similar philosophy with Phil: What's a few hundred dollars to me, when I know it's going to make the other person's day?

And so he does. Like that one time, when a woman trying to drum up attention for her line of sunglasses tried to give Phil a pair while he was eating lunch, according to a tour player who was with him at the time. Phil doesn't wear sunglasses, so he politely declined... while handing her a wad of $100 bills.

A little something for the effort.

Subscribe to Golf Digest
Subscribe today