We begin with a disclosure: When you ask folks in all walks of golf life a personal question, it's only fair to answer it yourself. The question was this: "How much cash do you have on you... and why?"
Cash is still king, right?
Even in this age of credit cards and electronic banking, people still carry cash. OK, well, most people.
I had $182 when I stopped Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee at the Open Championship last summer at St. Andrews. To Chamblee's credit, he was forthcoming. (One major champion declined—old school.) Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player, was carrying $80, plus £70. "I usually carry about $300," he said. "I'm not extravagant.
"I mean, if this is a contest, then Phil Mickelson is going to win it."
Well, it isn't a contest, just a survey. And we'll get to Phil in a bit. But what did we learn?
One surprise was that a few golf writers actually carry more than some players. Aren't writers supposed to be broke? Another surprise, and a nice one, was that most people with cash on hand were thinking of others, mainly in the tipping department.
That says a lot about people in the golf business.
What was no surprise is that the vast majority of players carry a little more cash than the average person. Beyond tipping the locker-room attendants and assorted other service providers, there are real uses for cash. One is that players want to make sure they're not stiffing anyone if one of those Tuesday practice-round bets—supposedly banned by the tour—goes bad.
It seems like every week we're reading a story about cash being dead, dying or degraded. As we were preparing this story, Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple, was predicting the demise of money... while promoting the Apple Pay alternative.
Hmmmm. Seems correlative.
A big job doesn't always equate to a big roll of cash, though we've seen President Obama springing for burgers.
A number of First Golfers appear on currency, but these three didn't carry much—or any—of it:
• In 2014, presidential historian Thomas Whalen told the BBC that John F. Kennedy "didn't carry any cash at all, even before he was president. His friends would have to foot the bill for the privilege of hanging out with him."
• Dwight Eisenhower once had to borrow money to buy a toy for a grandchild.
• In 1989, People magazine asked George H.W. Bush how much he was carrying. The answer: $53. "I've had it there for quite a while," he said.
As for the average person, a Money magazine survey in 2013 revealed the following:
• 42 percent of the people surveyed carry $1-$40 in cash.
• 30 percent carry $41-$99.
• 17 percent carry $100-$199.
• 11 percent carry $200 or more.
We writers are always looking for what we like to call "the money quote." Bonanza: The rest of this story is nothing but money quotes.
MARK O'MEARA: "I'm going to guess $750. [Gets out bills, counts... $752.] That's a pretty good guess, huh? I feel uncomfortable if it gets less than $300, because I like to pay cash for things. Other guys, I know, are more heavy on credit cards, but you can't tip people with credit cards. And you always think there might be something you need in a pinch that requires cash."
LIZETTE SALAS: "I've got 10 bucks in my pocket. Won a bet with my pro-am partner. I said, 'Hey, closest to the pin, 10 bucks,' and I won. Good thing—I didn't have 10 bucks on me."
JESSICA KORDA: "None, because my wallet is back in my room, but there's about 40 bucks in it. We aren't like PGA Tour players—they carry half their bank account with them."
DAMON GREEN, caddie for Zach Johnson: $800. "That's probably about normal."
ZACH JOHNSON: usually $100-$300. "He [Green] has more than me."
GREEN: "Well, if I get into a game and I don't play well, I want to take care of it right away."
JOHNSON: "Well, so do I. I lost $20 on Tuesday to Brendon Todd. I paid off right away." (Ernie Els, who was carrying £700 when we talked to him, is another proponent of fast pay: "I like to pay off on any golf bets right there on the spot. Because I would expect the same.")
JACK NICKLAUS: usually $300-$700, plus a commemorative £5 note with his likeness commissioned by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2005. Jack's general rule: a credit card for purchases over $150 and cash for items less than that.
ELLIE DAY, the week her husband, Jason, won the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits: $20. "I don't usually need to carry cash on the road. I'm bad about it."
ADAM SCOTT: "No more than a few hundred bucks, maybe $300-$400. I never used to carry even that much, but spending a lot of time in the U.S., I've become used to the tipping culture. I like it, actually. It's one of the best things about America. It works well, I think. I like the feeling of looking after someone, safe in the knowledge that someone else would look after me in similar circumstances."
MIKE WHAN, LPGA Tour Commissioner: "About $300, because it's pro-am day. I asked myself, How do I interact with 40 groups in the pro-am without being a creepy 50-year-old guy? So I walk out and make bets with the players, like 'I bet you can't hit it within 10 feet' stuff. So I need cash to pay them off."
CHARLIE MEACHEM, Former LPGA Commissioner: "I usually don't have more than $200, usually in twenties. Plus, I have a habit of buying those instant lottery games, and I buy those in denominations of $20. Last month I was near San Francisco and I had a winner, and although I've won before, it usually is $50 here or there. This time I won $1,000. The directions said I could mail it in or go collect in person. I thought, There's no way I'm sticking this in the mail. Now I'm hooked. But it's some innocent fun. As for carrying more than $200, I don't see a reason for it. If I need more, I can go to an ATM and get more."
DAN JENKINS, Golf Digest Writer-At-Large: "In the gambling days of my youth around Goat Hills or other places of interest, I always carried at least $25 to pay off losses. That was probably the equivalent of $50 or $100 today. But I never intended to lose, and most often didn't. But I wanted to be able to pay, unlike one or two others in the group who chose to owe."
HANK HANEY: $556. "I probably don't need anything more than $20 and a credit card."
TY VOTAW, PGA Tour Chief Marketing Officer: $100. "I usually carry very little. It's all credit cards. I pay for everything with MasterCard [a tour sponsor], of course." [Grins.]
SEAN FOLEY, Swing Instructor: "I don't carry anything in my pockets because it bulges out and makes me look even shorter than I already am. I do usually have a couple hundred in my bag, though, which is a habit left over from when I worked as a waiter."
MORGAN PRESSEL: "About $150. Usually I just swipe the credit card. What are you trying to do, get me robbed?" [Laughs.]
STUART APPLEBY, after a round: "I've got 50 cents in my pocket. That's a 1966 50-cent coin [that he uses to mark his ball]. A couple of hundred bucks is about all I like to carry. Probably goes back to my upbringing, but still seems like a lot to me."
STEVE BURKOWSKI, Golf Channel announcer: $2,000. "That's a bit higher than normal. It's usually about $500, but I know there's a casino about 20 miles from here, and I figured I might want to check it out."
AUSTIN ERNST, LPGA Tour: "About 14 bucks. I lost a bet last week. Got cleaned out playing blackjack."
MARK STEVENS, PGA Tour media official: $0. "I stopped carrying cash a few years ago."
PAULA CREAMER: "Usually about $200. I don't carry crazy amounts, and it's always small bills. I want to be ready for the everyday things that come up. I get hungry a lot and pull into places for snacks. I pay cash for gas, too."
RON SIRAK, Golf Digest Senior Writer: "On every trip I leave with $400 in twenties. I break one twenty at the airport buying coffee and break another twenty buying The New York Times, to give me hotel tip money for the week. I learned to carry cash when I played the Callaway Invitational in 1997. After my practice round, I got hit with a $125 caddie fee and had to scramble to an ATM."
DOUG FERGUSON, Associated Press golf writer: "I think I have $7. [Checks, sees a five and two ones.] Usually I have between $40 and $60. But I gave a $10 tip at a media-day outing the other day. And my Starbucks card just ran out, and I had to pay for coffee. A couple of things out of the ordinary, so I'm low. But if I'm going to be playing golf, I'll get $150-$200 to not be short with a caddie, because that's bad. It's funny, whenever I have a lot of cash—maybe at the start of a trip—I never spend anything, but whenever all I have is a twenty is when I get stuck needing to tip or I end up in a cash-only restaurant."
DAVIS LOVE III: "I never carry around more than $500. Seems like I'm always trying to scrape together 30 bucks for something. In the locker room, I'm usually looking for a hundred bucks from another player to take care of somebody. And I'm always out of money at the end of the week."
MIKE MORAGHAN, executive director of the Connecticut State Golf Association: "I have a twenty, two fives and two ones on my person at the moment for a grand total of 32 bucks. It's what I had left over when I got home last night after a week in California attending the International Association of Golf Administrators Annual Meeting. I went out there with about $250 in cash knowing I might buy a few rounds of drinks and tip generously to anyone carrying a bag or a tray—as I did many, many years ago."
KEN MACDONALD, who has been volunteering at Firestone since the 1966 PGA Championship: $142. "But that's only because a buddy owed me $100, and I just got it in the mail."
COURTNEY HOLT, Golf Channel senior director of player relations and booking: "I probably have about $50 in my purse. I usually don't like to have less than that. A lot of younger people today, they don't carry any cash. I have a lot of friends like that, and I don't know how anybody gets by that way, especially when you need to tip people. That's what you should do a story on: the lost art or courtesy of tipping people."
SLUGGER WHITE, PGA Tour rules official: $300. "I'm usually not comfortable with less than $400. It goes back to something that happened to me about 30 years ago when I took a group of people out to dinner. I tried to pay for it with American Express, but they didn't take that card, and it was the only one I had. I didn't have enough cash to cover it, and I had to ask some of my party to help me out. I don't think I ever was more embarrassed. I felt awful.
I paid everyone back, but it was a lesson for me. I see young guys today who don't carry a lot of cash, and I wonder how they take care of things, if they're tipping people—I hope they are. They could learn a thing or two from Phil. I watched him tip $20 at The Barclays when all he had for breakfast was two strips of bacon. But there he goes before going out to play, putting $20 on the table. He's the best tipper on tour. You should ask him."
Indeed, last year at the Memorial Tournament, Mickelson handed the attendant at the halfway house at Muirfield Village a $100 tip. All Phil had was a hot dog—without the bun.
We finally caught up with him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He was forthcoming, which is so Phil. He keeps some cash in his pocket, some in his golf bag. "I probably have five grand, more or less," he said.
"I want to take care of people. You shouldn't be expecting stuff for free. If someone does something for you, you should take care of them."
Later came a text, Phil following up: $6,500 in $100s and $1,600 in $20s. $8,100 total.
So, that's how you become the best tipper on the PGA Tour.
Additional reporting by Max Adler, Bob Carney, Jaime Diaz, John Huggan, Mike O'Malley, Matthew Rudy, Ron Sirak and Guy Yocom.