Pga Caddies Short-Changed
If clothes make the man, too many clothes evidently can make a man angry, especially when he has to lug a 50-pound bag of clubs in brutal heat round a course that would exasperate a billy goat.
And rake traps too. Particularly when the rules are different for women doing the same thing.
My brothers and sisters, maybe we are all suffering from acute Olympic withdrawal. Whatever’s in the air, it’s affecting even this sport that is so dependably genteel and civilized.
Why controversy verily raged at Valhalla Golf Club Thursday morning, as vehemently as an afternoon thunderstorm that prevented a complete first round in the 78th PGA Championship.
Kentuckian Kenny Perry, who finished off a 66 at dusk, is leading in the clubhouse. But it’s over at the caddy shack where the real action is unfolding. The issue is apparel. Not what’s in, or what’s out, but what’s legal.
The fashion war began with the illustrious 8:41 a.m. threesome featuring this season’s previous major title holders - Nick Faldo (Masters), Steve Jones (U.S. Open) and Tom Lehman (British Open).
Faldo’s caddy, Fanny Sunesson, wore her usual culottes. But Scott Jones, who carries for brother Steve, and Andy Martinez, who bears Lehman’s tools of choice, arrived in short pants to combat sauna-like conditions. Ah, but these brave young men also defied the PGA of America.
They didn’t get far. By the second hole, a delegation of officials in heat informed both miscreants that they would be escorted from the course, would you believe, unless they donned proper attire immediately. Having anticipated a confrontation, Scott Jones and Martinez reached into their respective bags and changed into long pants on the spot.
Fanny not only didn’t blush. She supported her sweat-soaked colleagues.
“If I was a guy, I’d want to wear shorts too,” Sunesson said. “But they can’t. Only we can, and it’s not right.”
Nikki Stricker, wife of Western Open champ Steve, wore shorts and felt likewise.
“It’s sex discrimination,” Martinez growled, “and I have just the right lawyer in mind.”
Regular caddies on the PGA Tour not to be confused with the PGA of America cannot wear shorts at work. That includes women, but culottes are not considered shorts. At last month’s balmy British Open, the most venerable tournament of them all, shorts were allowed and prevalent.
But the PGA of America prohibits male caddies from wearing shorts after practice rounds.
“I guess one of us will have to drop dead,” said Pete Bender, Grant Waite’s caddie. “A couple of us have gone down already. Five times today I was ordered to put on that thick blue bib, and five times I refused. They warn the public to dress appropriately. What are we, dogs?”
The caddies filed a letter of protest with the PGA of America Thursday, but their campaign will unravel like polyester. The best chance is through the players.
“We can try to help,” said Davis Love III, “but you know what will happen if they get to wear shorts. Then we’ll want to wear shorts.”
“And why shouldn’t we?” chimed in Fred Couples. “Look at all the wardrobes that will be ruined by sweat stains here today. It’s a bizarre rule that makes no sense.”
At the 1982 U.S. Open, Forrest Fezler played 71 holes in long pants, ducked into a porta-pottie, changed to shorts and played the 72nd bare-kneed, a rebel without many followers.
“Me in shorts?” Jeff Sluman said. “My legs look like two out-of-bounds stakes.”
Meanwhile, Colin Montgomerie’s caddie, Alastair McLean, could be the difference if this oppressive heat remains.
“He’s Scottish,” Ernie Els said. “They fought wars in kilts. What if he decides to caddy in one tomorrow?”