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A little less than one month ago, the LPGA made the decision to make caddies optional for the remainder of 2020 due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
It was a curious decision, seeing as the LPGA’s next scheduled event wouldn’t be until late July at the earliest, and since the PGA Tour was starting up – with caddies – the week of June 8, it could have given the LPGA time to see how things played out.
The LPGA said the decision was made “mainly to avoid the local caddie situation” where players don’t know the caddie’s background, LPGA Tour media director Christina Lance told Golf Channel’s Randall Mell at the time.
Then why not just ban local caddies for the remainder of 2020, many wondered.
Veteran LPGA caddies Jason McDede (caddie for Nelly Korda) and Les Luark (caddie for Lydia Ko) recently told The Caddie Network that they worried some players may use the decision more as a loophole to save money on expenses with their regular caddies than over coronavirus concerns.
With one week down on the PGA Tour and everything – so far – having gone overwhelmingly positive, we asked PGA Tour caddies Chris P. Jones and Kenny Harms (a former LPGA caddie) on our latest ‘Under the Strap’ podcast what they thought of the LPGA’s “caddies optional” decision.
“I think it’s bull****,” Jones said, clearly not holding back. “Sorry, but I think that’s terrible. It’s our job. What are they going to do? Are they going to have a pushcart (Editor’s note: LPGA players who do not take a caddie will have to carry their bag)? That ain’t right… They’re taking away somebody’s livelihood. That’s what Kenny and I do. That’s how we make a living. I’ve been in it for 18 years now and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I would be pretty pissed if I was on the LPGA. Hopefully, none of the players do that.
“If my player did that, I’d start looking for another player, because I’d be like, ‘What? You don’t even value me at all. Because you just think you can carry your own bag and it’s not going to fatigue you and it’s not going to cost you one shot a day, or one shot a week by carrying your own bag?’” Jones said. “That could be the difference between winning or losing.”
Harms, currently on the PGA Tour with Kevin Na and formerly with the likes of Hale Irwin, Raymond Floyd and Hubert Green to name a few, also had stints caddying on the LPGA for Jan Stephenson, Emilee Klein, Lynn Connelly and Michelle Wie.
Harms thinks the LPGA – for all the good they’ve done in recent years – is dropping the ball on this one.
“I think that Commissioner Whan has done a hell of a job with the LPGA Tour,” Harms said. “I give him a lot of credit. But he made a big mistake in that decision. My understanding, from what I’ve read about it, is that he didn’t want any local caddies. Well, that’s fine. Talking to friends that I still have on the LPGA, they say there’s only three to 6-7 players that take local caddies. And they can be responsible for hiring a friend. To me, it’s pretty sad. They’ve always said that the LPGA is one big family. Well guess what? He [Whan] just proved it isn’t. And this is my opinion, but I think he really needs to rethink this. He can always change it. They’re not starting for almost two months. But there’s no reason why every player on that Tour doesn’t have a full-time caddie, especially in the situation that we are in today.”
The blueprint to fix this situation, Jones said, is already there for the LPGA thanks to the PGA Tour.
“Do what we’re doing out here,” Jones said. “You do the saliva test before you leave your house to come to the tournament. You pass that. OK? You get to the tournament, you go take your nasal swab test and if you pass that, you’re clean. You work that week. And then you be careful during the week. You don’t go out partying… You do what you’re supposed to do and everybody is good to go. And then you go to the next week and you do your nasal swab.”
Harms also stressed that one player opting not to take a caddie isn’t fair to the other players in the group.
“You’ve got to realize what it entails when it comes to a caddie – how many times that we are helping the other caddie’s player by getting a bunker, cleaning a ball,” he said. “It all adds up. It all takes time. And I think he’s going to realize he made a mistake and I wouldn’t be surprised by the time they start that he changes that and hopefully he does. It’s the right thing to do.”
The LPGA’s first scheduled event back is the LPGA Drive On Championship, beginning July 31 in Toledo, Ohio.
You can listen to the complete podcast with Kenny Harms and Chris P. Jones in the player at the top of the page, or find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and Stitcher by searching “Caddie Network.”