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Walter Bingham
May 04, 1981
Caddies for the top players on the PGA Tour have discovered that even reflected glory pays nice dividends
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May 04, 1981

It's Money In The Bag

Caddies for the top players on the PGA Tour have discovered that even reflected glory pays nice dividends

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Normally his pace is quicker, but the fans asking him to sign autographs or pose for pictures impede his progress. At length he reaches the entrance to the practice putting green, where he carefully sets down the green and white golf bag that belongs to Jack Nicklaus. He's Angelo Argea, Jack's caddie, and now, as he waits for his boss to appear, he signs his name to a picture that shows him laughing it up with Gerald Ford at a recent pro-am. Nearby, young John Cook, who won the 1981 Crosby, stands alone and unnoticed.

Chuck, the sports guy from the six o'clock news, has his man, and it's just a matter of seconds, while the crew checks out the lighting and sound, before the camera rolls. Chuck smooths his hair and makes certain his blazer with the emblem is buttoned. "Ready?" he's asked.

Chuck nods. "Hi," he says into the camera. "I'm here with Bruce Edwards, Tom Watson's caddie, and...."

Counting retakes, the interview lasts only 10 minutes, which is good. The man from the local newspaper is waiting.

It's the week of the Bob Hope Desert Classic and Phyllis Diller is in Cecil's, a Palm Springs night spot, when a young man asks her to dance. He looks like a dream, only better, and to Diller's delight, he dances like one, too.

"I could make you a star," she says when the music stops. In Dennis Turning's world, he already is. He caddies for the PGA Tour's No. 4 money-winner in 1980, Andy Bean. For obvious reasons everyone calls him Disco.

Caddies—or bag rats, as they call themselves—aren't yet the stars of the show, and not one of them has an agent. They're still definitely second-class citizens on the tour. They don't ride in courtesy cars with the players. They aren't allowed to enter clubhouses which, indeed, were off limits to the touring pros some 50 years ago. Nor are they allowed in locker rooms. And while their pay is improving, especially for those who carry top bags, they must still shop carefully for lodgings and share them. Motels offer rates to players but not to caddies. Getting to and from a course means riding a bus, or four to a taxi, or even hitchhiking. Clubs provide free food for players; caddies aren't so favored, and hot dogs at tournaments go for $1.50.

But it's true that a growing number of caddies are emerging as personalities, and that several of them have become better known to those who follow golf than many of the players. This is partly because so many golfers on the tour look so much alike—whereas caddies don't—and partly because many player-caddie pairings have become as permanent as good marriages. Also, in its quest for new and different ways to cover golf, television has given prominence to those caddies fortunate enough to be in the spotlight week after week.

Argea, unquestionably the most celebrated of his calling, has auditioned for a Lite beer commercial, appeared on Good Morning America and coauthored a book—The Bear and I—about his years with Nicklaus. He's asked for his autograph no less than 50 times a day, often by club members and marshals of the tournament he's working in. Johnny Miller's reemergence has put Andy Martinez, his caddie for more than a decade, back in the winner's circle, too. During the last round of the L.A. Open, CBS wired Martinez so that viewers could overhear the dialogue between the caddie and his man.

Emil Smith—known as Smitty on the tour—works for Ben Crenshaw and receives residual payments from Buick for appearing, if ever so briefly, on Crenshaw's car commercial. He could have been in his boss' Canon camera commercial, too, but he didn't like the numbers. "They only wanted to offer up-front money," Smitty claims.

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