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Investigation

Did a caddie harass a player, or was a protest over missed payments punished? The curious case of Jon Bujan, Sophia Schubert and the LPGA

December 07, 2023

The hat was $45, although its cost cannot be measured in dollars.

Jon Bujan says he’s not one for attention, and at 62, he’s at an age “where you try to stay away from fuss as much as possible.” But when alleged transgressions went unpoliced, Bujan, a caddie on the LPGA and its developmental tours, staged what he asserts was a peaceful protest on behalf of his “brothers and sisters” on the bag against LPGA player Sophia Schubert. “This isn’t about me,” Bujan says in a November conversation. “When I found out it was happening to Kevin, then Glenn, then Britney, it lit a fire under me. I needed to support my caddies.”

The LPGA has countered that Bujan is guilty of inappropriate behavior towards Schubert and violated the tour’s conduct policy.

Eight months later, it remains unclear if Bujan’s actions went too far, were justifiable or somewhere between. What’s indisputable is that Bujan has been suspended from the LPGA for what happened during the first round of the Chevron Championship last April. A big part of that day was a gray hat, one Bujan got custom made with purple scripting that read, “PAY YOUR CADDIE.”

Bujan has been a professional looper for a decade, joining the caddie ranks after 22 years of service in the Navy. He’s worked for several players on the LPGA and Epson (formerly Symetra) tours, including Shannon Fish, Ashley Tait-Wengert and Britney Yada. His last regular job was in 2022 with Haley Moore, a former college standout who helped Arizona capture the 2018 NCAA Women’s Championship. One of Bujan’s stints on the Epson circuit was with Sophia Schubert.

Schubert, 27, is best known for winning the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur. She turned professional in 2018 and earned her LPGA card for the 2022 season. Schubert enjoyed a successful rookie campaign, highlighted by her performance at the Amundi Evian Championship. Schubert, who had previously made the cut in only two majors, shot 65 and 66 during the second and third days in France to jump into contention, and a final-round 68 left her just one shot back of champion Brooke Henderson. Schubert finished 59th on the LPGA’s Race to CME Globe season ranking and 37th on the money list with $771,054—$586,262 which came from her runner-up at Evian.

However, among caddies, Schubert became known for something else: They say she didn’t always pay up.

In response to a Golf Digest request for comment, Schubert’s attorney wrote, “My client has paid each and every one of the caddies that she has hired all monies that were due to them for the services rendered. To the extent that someone is alleging something to the contrary we will vigorously defend her reputation. For that reason, I have advised my client to not make any further comments regarding this matter.”

When a payment issue arises between player and caddie, the tours are often unable to intervene, because caddies—like players—do not work for their respective tours; instead they are recognized as independent contractors by law. For Glenn Osowski, this meant turning to the legal system for help. On Feb. 25, 2022, Osowski, a former caddie for Schubert, filed a lawsuit in Schubert’s residence of Anderson County, Tenn. Golf Digest has confirmed Osowski sought compensation for missed payments from three tournaments in the fall of 2021, including Schubert’s win at the Symetra’s Carolina Golf Classic. According to Anderson County court dockets, the case was settled on Aug. 31, 2022, with a judgment for an agreed compromise and dismissal. When reached by Golf Digest, Osowski confirmed the litigation but deferred questions about the case to his attorney. His attorney did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Around the same time that the Osowski case was settled, Schubert’s then-caddie, Britney Hamilton, raised similar payment concerns, multiple sources tell Golf Digest. Hamilton, who started working for Schubert in January 2022, alleged she had not been fully compensated for the second-place finish at Evian. In a matter raised to the LPGA, Hamilton said her agreement with Schubert called for $46,900 of those winnings, yet Schubert had offered $39,000, explaining the discrepancy had to do with taxes. Interestingly, Schubert credited Hamilton in her initial remarks in her post-round comments at Evian. “I have a great caddie, Britney, who really helped me stay calm today,” Schubert said at the time.

Multiple sources say Schubert’s mother, Delisa Simpson-Schubert (who often handled communications for Schubert) eventually handed Hamilton a changed invoice for the Evian, which Hamilton told fellow caddies she felt coerced into signing. Hamilton also alleged the payments she did receive were delayed.

Hamilton was fired by Schubert in November 2022. After her dismissal Hamilton brought her payment concerns to the LPGA, including player president Vicki Goetze-Ackerman, hoping for resolution. Hamilton said that LPGA officials told her because of the nature of independent-contract work the matter did not fall under the tour’s jurisdiction.

Hamilton confirmed to Golf Digest her payment disputes, the changed invoice and pleas to the LPGA, but declined to speak on the record regarding any further questions about her relationship with Schubert.

Additionally, multiple sources say another caddie, Kevin Hamski (whose wife, Katherine Perry-Hamski, is a former LPGA player) told the LPGA about a disagreement with Schubert. Caddies and players usually have a tournament schedule agreement, and Hamski—who worked several tournaments for Schubert in early 2023—arrived at a previously agreed-to site in Palos Verdes, Calif., only to discover through the LPGA’s caddie resource center that Schubert no longer had him listed as her caddie, with Schubert’s boyfriend now on the bag. The move put Hamski on the hook for a week’s worth of lodging and travel. Hamski did not respond to a Golf Digest request for comment.

Floating among caddies are additional allegations about Schubert not meeting financial agreements, but without sources willing to go on record, Golf Digest could not independently verify the claims.

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Glenn Osowski sued Sophia Schubert regarding failed payments related to caddie work. The case ended in an order of compromise and dismissal.

These monetary figures may seem like loose change, particularly given the financial infusion that has dominated the professional game the last few summers. However, the dollars in the women’s game are significantly less than the men’s, and that trickle down includes caddies. A $7,000 discrepancy could be 15 percent of a caddie’s yearly pull on the LPGA. At the Symetra level this squeeze can be suffocating: Only nine players this past season made more than $100,000, and because most caddies have deals ranging from 7 to 10 percent of winnings, there’s not a lot to go around—or to lose.

Complicating matters for caddies are Schubert’s legal threats. Golf Digest has obtained multiple copies of cease-and-desist letters sent to caddies by Schubert’s lawyer. These letters objected to “false and defamatory accusations” made to the LPGA, third parties and to caddies-only message boards and text threads. In reporting this story, multiple caddies cited these litigious actions in fear of speaking on record about the subject.

Jon Bujan was not one of these caddies.

Bujan says he worked for Schubert on the Symetra Tour during parts of the 2019 and 2021 seasons. He never had any big problems with her, although “she was often slow to pay me.” Bujan does clarify that every paycheck was ultimately delivered. The lone issue, Bujan says, was Schubert firing him before an agreed-to event, but Bujan let it go since he was able to get another bag quickly. Their rapport seemed to remain in good standing; Bujan claims that Schubert’s mother made overtures about offering him a job again in 2022.

Professional golf is a small world. It didn’t take long for word of Osowski’s case to make the caddie rounds, the story spreading once similar allegations from Hamilton and Hamski became known. On March 29, 2023, on a message thread appearing on the Telegram app titled “Caddies Uncensored,” Bujan—under the name “Jonny Birdie”—sent out a warning: “Do not, I repeat do not work for Sophia Schubert. She has a documented history of not paying caddies, along with poor communication in regards to events to be work even after they have been agreed to by both her and a few caddies. Me being one of them. She needs to start looking on a street corner from now on as I think it’s bull**** the way she treats the caddie profession.”

Others in the chat shared similarly negative stories, or their vexation with the LPGA for failing to care about caddies. There were also messages best described as resignation, that the caddies were fighting a broken system that had no interest in fixing itself. One person said, “There will always be someone to loop for them.” That person was Osowski.

But Bujan would not let the matter go. As the message thread continued, it became clear Bujan—a man who felt his occupation was continually marginalized—was intent in turning the alleged plights of others into his own mission. One day later, Bujan sent the following message to the group thread:

Spread the word! I’ll be at Chevron with a sign if I can get it through security that says, “Sophia Schubert doesn’t pay her caddies” may need someone to bail me out.”

The 2023 Chevron Championship (formerly the ANA Championship) was played April 20-23 and marked the tournament’s first time at its new venue at The Woodlands outside of Houston after 50 years in Rancho Mirage, Calif. The course is just up the road from Bujan’s Victoria, Texas, home.

Bujan did not have a regular bag this past spring, but he planned to attend the tournament, hoping to pick up a last-second job or just take in the event as a fan. When he discovered the allegations against Schubert, he felt like he needed to be there “to be a voice that wasn’t being heard.” Bujan ditched the idea for a sign, thinking it would be confiscated or too unwieldy to carry, instead opting to make a custom hat with the words “Pay Your Caddie.”

“I thought wearing this hat is something simple,” Bujan said. “It's not derogatory; it doesn't offend anyone. It doesn't cause a ruckus. I'm not the kind of guy that goes and causes a ruckus unless there needs to be a ruckus. It's just making a statement, you know?”

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Jon Bujan claims he was unjustly punished for wearing a "Pay Your Caddie" hat to an LPGA event.

On April 20, Bujan showed up to The Woodlands for the first round of the Chevron. He said he made his way over to the practice green to chat with friends and fellow caddies, where Schubert eventually arrived to warm up. While he was milling around, Schubert’s mother came over and sat next to where Bujan was standing. Golf Digest has obtained a photo verifying Bujan standing five feet away from Schubert’s seated mother. According to Bujan, they briefly exchanged pleasantries, but nothing was said about the hat. “If it was going to be a big deal for them, why wouldn't she say something about it then?” Bujan asks, before adding, “I wouldn't have taken it off anyway, because it's freedom of speech.”

Bujan claims the hat was well received, even by some of the competitors. “All the caddies at the Chevron were like, you know, cheering me on and, you know, waving at me,” Bujan says. “The players would come up and say, ‘I love your hat.’”

Bujan says a short time later he went over to the first tee box to watch Schubert tee off. Golf Digest has obtained video of Bujan, with arms crossed, standing roughly 45 feet away on the right side of the tee with two dozen people. According to Bujan, he spent the next two hours jumping around to various groups on the course, checking to see how his friends were doing. He says he caught up again with Schubert’s group on the ninth green.

“I watched them come off the green,” Bujan says. “[Schubert] walked past me and everything. I didn't say a word to her the whole time. They got on a shuttle cart, and when they sat on the shuttle cart, she saw me. I'm sure she saw me other times during, you know, either on the tee box or on the putting green. But she saw me [on the shuttle], she kind of waved and smiled. So I waved back to her.”

Bujan says he did not follow Schubert or her group the rest of the day. He left shortly after, citing the threat of incoming rain.

Multiple sources confirm that the following day, the LPGA provided Schubert a security detail for her second round. After opening with a 76, Schubert followed with a 77, missing the cut.

Two days after the Chevron concluded, Bujan received an email from the LPGA’s security team, accusing him of inappropriate conduct and harassment. Bujan traded emails with Chris Sanchez of TorchStone Global, a security firm contracted by the LPGA, and those emails eventually turned into phone calls between Bujan, Sanchez and the LPGA. “It was a couple of days of going back and forth with him,” Bujan says. “And then I got tired because, I was being interrogated by somebody that wasn't even a police guy.” According to Bujan, Sanchez continued to call about the matter. “Finally, I'm just like, ‘I'm not going to answer the calls. I'm not going to answer any more than the emails.’”

On May 8, two weeks after his Chevron appearance, Bujan received the following letter from Ricki Lashley, senior vice president of LPGA operations:

Dear Mr. Bujan,

This letter constitutes formal notice of your immediate suspension from caddie services at or in connection with LPGA events, including LPGA Tour, LET and Epson Tour tournaments and related events.

As you know, the LPGA determines caddie eligibility standards and associated regulations, each of which you have agreed to follow. After review of the report prepared by the LPGA security consultant, it has been determined that your conduct on Thursday, April 20, 2023 at the Chevron Championship constitutes a breach of and is a major violation under the 2023 LPGA Tour Caddie Regulations. As a result of your actions, you are hereby suspended for the remainder of 2023, effective as of this date, and will not be able to attain an LPGA Tour, LET or Epson Tour caddie credential.

Bujan’s Chevron actions were found in violation of the following LPGA policy:

Major violations include, but are not limited to, the following instances: drunk and/or disorderly conduct, inappropriate language while at a tournament site, misappropriation of tournament property, and/or driving a tournament courtesy car (when not allowed under the regulations)."

Bujan says he could have appealed the issue with the Professional Ladies Tour Caddies Association, which represents credentialed caddies on the LPGA. Conversely, the consensus is that the PLTCA has little sway; in its current form, the group is more about advocacy than owning real power. Bujan felt it would have been a waste of time.

Bujan was indignant. It was one thing for the LPGA, in his estimation, to continue to protect its players against payment accusations. Now he was being put in the penalty box for trying to help his fellow caddies. That was something he could not abide.

“I said, ‘You know what? It doesn’t matter. I’m not going to caddie on your tour again,'” Bujan says.

The LPGA’s legal, security and communications teams did not respond to requests for comment, and when reached, Schubert’s agent told Golf Digest, “Neither Sophia nor I have any interest in commenting on this matter.”

Schubert failed to build on the success of her rookie season, missing 15 cuts in 21 starts in 2023 to lose her LPGA card.

In early December, Schubert competed in the LPGA’s Q-Series in an attempt to regain tour status. Notably, she was paired with Polly Mack during the fourth of six rounds. Working for Mack was Glenn Osowski, the caddie who had previously sued Schubert for failed payments.

Schubert ultimately finished in the top 45 in Q-Series, allowing her to return to the LPGA in 2024.

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Hamilton caddied when Schubert finished second at the 2022 Amundi Evian Championship, after which she confirmed there was a payment dispute.

It’s fair to ask why Bujan made allegations of others his personal crusade. “We don’t stand up for ourselves because we know we can get blackballed from another job,” he explains. “I get why, but we only make it worse for ourselves, and each other by letting stuff like this go, right? So I looked at this as a way to say, ‘Enough was enough.’ We have rights to, even if the LPGA says we don’t.”

Although Bujan felt his protest was justified, Schubert and the LPGA had additional reason to be concerned for the player's safety, owing to a past incident.

Multiple sources with the LPGA confirmed to Golf Digest that when Schubert was on the Symetra Tour, there was an incident involving an alleged stalker at an event in Garden City, Kan., at Buffalo Dunes. During a practice round, an older man who said he had met Schubert at a minor-league tournament years before kept walking inside the ropes with Schubert’s group. There’s no real security for players at that level, so a handful of caddies notified the club’s head pro to let them know of a potential situation. When Schubert returned to her hotel that night, there were a bouquet of flowers waiting for her from the older man.

Schubert’s father, Bill, caddied for her that week, and the rest of the tournament went on without issue, but the LPGA was aware of the situation when Schubert’s family raised a flag with Bujan’s appearance at The Woodlands.

Additionally, multiple sources confirmed that the LPGA was given evidence from the “Caddies Uncensored” Telegram app in which one caddie posted a photo of Schubert at the range, with the caption, “I can take her out.” Bujan confirmed the existence of the photo and text. “It was clearly a joke, and I didn’t respond,” Bujan says, “but the LPGA took that as a threat, even though it wasn’t from me.”

There’s the reality of gender, age and business dynamics. Bujan’s actions and presence—while he maintains was intended to be peaceful—could be construed as the behavior of a disgruntled former employee. Bujan is also a 62-year-old man who casts a stout figure, while Schubert is a 27-year-old woman. It’s not unreasonable that Schubert or her family felt threatened.

As for the payment disputes, player-caddie contracts are often verbal, and thus hard to enforce. Even Hamilton, who said she was intimidated to sign the reconfigured invoice, does not dispute she signed it. Despite the frustration with the LPGA’s lack of enforcement, the composition of independent contractors does put the onus between players and caddies only.

Bujan finds that ironic.

“So, when we need them, they can’t help,” he says, laughing. “But when the players need help, suddenly it’s under their domain.”

Bujan’s suspension is up in 2024, and he is allowed to seek reinstatement, but he says the fallout has left him jaded towards the LPGA to the point where he thinks he’s done for good. He also says it might not be his call, as his reputation could have suffered a hit from his protest. Bujan doesn’t regret his decision, though, and yes, he still has the hat. “Hey, it was $45, but I would have spent $100 on it,” he says. The hat’s tucked away in a drawer, to a life he’s left behind, and whatever happened that day in April is buried alongside it.

Additional reporting by Kent Paisley