Six weeks after the wedding Duplantis had another round of phone calls to make. Vicki was pregnant.
The road was an isolating place for Vicki. While virtually all the players have wives or girlfriends traveling with them, these women were not viable options for companionship because the lady of a lord would not deign to mix with that of a serf. Few, if any, of the other caddies brought their significant others on the road. The added expense was a factor, as was the culture-having the ball and chain along would only get in the way of all the carousing.
With her husband often held hostage by Furyk's marathon practice sessions, Vicki grew restless following the Tour. From the outside the life may seem glamorous and fun, and occasionally, when the Tour caravans through a place like Pebble Beach, it is. But most weeks it is a numbing life of cheap hotel rooms, chain restaurants and soul-sucking suburban settings.
Like a lot of caddies, Duplantis was traveling predominantly by car (he was still rolling his battlewagon, a sky-blue Cavalier), and in August, with Vicki already beginning to show her pregnancy, they drove from the Buick Open in Flint, Mich., all the way to Los Angeles for the PGA Championship at Riviera. They left on Sunday evening and arrived in time for Furyk's practice round on Tuesday morning. The long drives were only one of the indignities that came with the job. "There aren't too many professions where you can make the money caddies do and still be treated like a second-class citizen," Duplantis says. At tournament sites the caddies are usually given what Duplantis calls "s—parking" and never allowed to enter the clubhouse, as if they are somehow subhuman. Maybe a dozen tournaments provide the caddies with food, on the order of sandwiches and potato chips. At these Tour stops, "it never fails, there are always guys filling up plastic bags full of food," says Duplantis.
Before long there was trouble in paradise. "When I met Vicki, she told me she wanted a white picket fence and two-point-five kids and a whole new life, and I believed her," says Duplantis. "But she was a wild person at heart and couldn't leave behind her old party life." (It is a measure of how delusional both parties were heading into the marriage that Vicki saw suburban bliss in the caddie's gypsy lifestyle, while Steve was looking for domestic tranquillity in an exotic dancer.)
Duplantis and Vicki's child, a girl they named Sierra, was born on Feb. 20,1996, and Vicki was not inclined to go through the hassle of traveling with a baby. She preferred to stay behind at the home Steve had purchased in Plant City, outside Tampa. All the time spent apart only complicated an already volatile relationship.
In March 1997, Duplantis was back in L.A. for the Nissan Open. "Sunday morning I'm strolling out of the Brentwood Motor Inn on my way to the course," he says, "and some sleazeball comes up to me and says, Are you Steve Duplantis?' I say, 'Yeah,' and he throws a stack of wadded-up paper at me. Vicki had filed for divorce. It was like right out of a movie—a bad movie."
On Aug. 27, at the Hillsborough County Courthouse in Tampa, the family law division of Florida's 13th judicial circuit convened to determine temporary custody of Sierra Duplantis. Steve Duplantis was the petitioner, Vicki Duplantis the respondent. The Honorable Katherine G. Essrig presided over the hearing, case number 97-10120. In the end Judge Essrig cut short Steve's lawyer's final rebuttal and awarded temporary custody of Sierra to the petitioner.
Duplantis became Mr. Mom, and from the beginning it was far more difficult than he expected. Little wonder that he hired a nanny. The young woman was the daughter of a Tampa neighbor, and she was looking to take a sabbatical from nursing school. When the '98 season kicked off, Sierra and the nanny were traveling with Duplantis full-time. Duplantis had graduated from shared rooms at the Motel 6 to suites at Extended Stay America. In addition to paying the nanny $300 a week, Duplantis was also kicking down for three plane tickets per trip. Not only was he paying for the room, he was also on the hook for a rental car, which caddies usually split two or three ways. It was the fabulous financial rewards that came with Furyk's bag that made all this possible. "I was burning up money, but who cared," says Duplantis. "I knew every time Jim teed it up I was going to make a check for three or four or five thousand dollars, minimum. I used to pull into short-term parking at the airport, leave the car for two weeks and then come home, and the bill would be like $300. No big deal—it was just paper back then."
Though Duplantis was known as Kid to the other caddies, he was now more like the big man on campus. "If you want to know who are the best caddies on Tour, just look at the top of the money list—the cream rises to the top," Duplantis says. "It's funny how your life changes, mostly because you're playing a totally different schedule with a different calibre of player. One day you're having dinner at McDonalds with some Q schooler's caddie and the next day you're eating at a steak house with Fred Couples's caddie, or Phil Mickelson's, or whoever."