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Undercover Caddie: How do you deal with a player who is having an affair?

July 11, 2023

Professional athletes are inundated with “romantic overtures,” and tour players are no different. Most of these guys are young and in shape, and having a level of fame and fortune doesn’t hurt. If a guy is single, great for him. I once caddied for a player who was such a homebody that I encouraged him to get “in the mix” with the ladies so that he could live a little and free himself up on the golf course. However, a lot of tour players aren’t single, and this is where problems can arise. To be blunt, sometimes golfers cheat off the course. Ever since Tiger Woods’ sex scandal in 2009, one of the questions I get asked the most by fans is, “How often on tour does this go on?”

As much as we romanticize the team aspect of player-caddie relationships, most are strictly business. If we become friends, great, but that isn’t necessarily the standard. You see them at the course, you get your work in and then you go your separate ways. That’s important to understand because when we hear about or witness any type of shenanigans going on, well, it’s none of our business. I remember telling this to a buddy (and a fellow Christian) who told me I was failing in my duties, to which I replied, “If you found out your boss was messing around, would you tell him to knock it off?” That ended the conversation.

However, sometimes you’re lucky enough to have a personal relationship with your player, and if he becomes involved in an affair, there’s not exactly a blueprint to follow. I’ve worked for four different players who I can call true friends, and one of them became entangled in a situation like this. He wasn’t married, but he had a girlfriend who he had been dating for about six years. In the middle of the season, it became apparent he was starting to sleep around with other women. I say “apparent” because I heard his college buddies busting his chops about one encounter when we were out for dinner. I didn’t know what to do. I respected him and believed he was a good person, but I felt what he was doing wasn’t right. I also had gotten to know his girlfriend, and it broke my heart to know he was doing that to her.

If I’m completely honest, I was also worried about my job. For the previous two years my player and I were doing extremely well, and the money was good. If I told my player what I really thought, and he didn’t take it well, I could have been out of work. I’m not proud of this, but I kept quiet. Less than a year later, I was fired—excuse me, “amicably parted ways” is what was publicly said—because the player was in a perceived slump and wanted a change. I wish I could say it was a relief, but I actually felt worse. In the long run I could have lived with standing up for what I believed was right and dealing with the fallout. Instead, I stayed silent and still met the same fate.

When I hear other caddies discussing similar gossip, I mostly stay silent. It’s one thing for me to live with the financial consequences, but it’s different if I’m talking about someone else’s wallet. Only four to five caddies, max, can quit one job and know another will be waiting for them. A lot of caddies have families to support, and because infidelity is fairly prevalent, there’s a decent chance your new job will have the same problem. It’s a tough spot to be in, but being jobless is worse.

Obviously, an unwritten rule on tour is that players are never to go after another player’s spouse. Once that line is crossed, sometimes it spills into the public domain. Just recently there have been issues regarding one player’s behavior toward another player’s date at a wedding and another involving an inappropriate text between a player and a player’s wife (though accounts vary as to who was at fault). When that happens, caddies can become entangled. It doesn’t matter if we have a strictly business or personal relationship with the player. To many in the tour’s ecosystem, we are seen as an extension of our player. When that player is in trouble, well, it can feel like we’re in trouble, too. The weird thing is, you can’t try to distance yourself from the situation because then you’re perceived as disloyal, so you try to just keep your head down, mouth shut and wait for the storm to pass.

Of course, caddies are guilty of straying as well. I even know one caddie who hooked up with a player’s spouse. When it does happen, you can imagine the gossip that follows. In fact, there was a fairly high-profile incident during the past year that somehow almost everyone outside the caddie ranks has missed. The caddie in question is no longer on the same bag, and although I don’t know if his dalliances were the reason for leaving one player, I can’t imagine they helped, either.

As for me, I try to stay above it: “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” —With Joel Beall