Caddie forum: Hecklers and how – if at all – they should be dealt with

golf fans
With the size of golf crowds ever growing — especially at team events — heckling is bound to happen. But how much is too much? Credit: Ian Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Back in December during the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne, an unfortunate situation unfolded on the next-to-last day of the matches.

A fan allegedly got in the face of U.S. team member Patrick Reed and screamed an obscenity. Reed’s brother-in-law/caddie, Kessler Karain, reacted and got into a brief physical altercation with the fan.

The fallout resulted in Karain’s suspension from the Sunday singles matches, a match Reed would go on to win with his swing coach – Kevin Kirk – filling in as his caddie, helping the Americans to a come-from-behind victory.

READ: Odd jobs, like dealing with hecklers, not uncommon for caddies

Was Karain’s suspension for the final day of the competition fair? Was the punishment too harsh? Was it harsh enough?

And what about the decorum of fans, not just in this instance, but the growing trend over the last several years where they’ve become far more boisterous on the golf course? Has it gotten out of control?

The Caddie Network chatted with four Tour caddies – anonymously – to find out their opinions when it comes to crowd control and how to handle dicey situations.

Here’s what they told us…

1. Do you think Kessler’s punishment – suspended from singles at the Presidents Cup – was fair?

Caddie 1: Just “kinda fair.” No more punishment was necessary, but we do need to show restraint when it comes to drunk fans.

Caddie 2: Absolutely, it was fair.

Caddie 3: I think it should have been a little more. With the discipline that was given, it sets the precedent that it is somewhat tolerated and that the punishment is not [going to be] that harsh. Hopefully it doesn’t happen anytime soon, but they have kinda set the bar low for what a caddie should expect in terms of punishment.

Caddie 4: Absolutely, it was fair.

2. Do you think the punishment would have been the same for any caddie? Or was Kessler singled out because his player, Patrick Reed, is a polarizing figure?

Caddie 1: I think he got picked on a little because of who he loops for.

Caddie 2: It was fair. I think the punishment would have been the same for any caddie.

Caddie 3: It’s hard to say without being there and knowing all of the facts. I have no doubt the fans were intoxicated and ruthless all day. I think punishments do change from caddie to caddie a little… but not much. I think he got let off because of the circumstances and is a top-ranked player. But since it was the first of its nature I can think of – it will be interesting to see how differently it would have been dealt with.

Caddie 4: I think the punishment should have been more severe.

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3. How would you react if a spectator got in your player’s face and screamed, as was alleged at the Presidents Cup?

Caddie 1: If it was a serious threat where bodily injury was possible, then the 4-iron would come out of the bag. But, usually, it’s best to yell for security

Caddie 2: I definitely would not put my hands on a spectator.

Caddie 3: My player is one of the nicest guys on Tour. If anyone got in his face, that guy has clearly lost his mind. I would have no problem getting security or an officer and giving him the boot. PGA Tour golf has zero place for spectators like that.

Caddie 4: I would definitely step in and intervene, but you can’t put your hands on spectators unless it’s absolutely necessary.

4. Have you ever had a run-in with a spectator? If so, what was the situation?

Caddie 1: Nothing past me just telling them to shut up if they like being on this side of the fence.

Caddie 2: Luckily, no I have not had a run in and hope to never do.

Caddie 3: Luckily, I have not. There have been a couple people here and there but they usually know they are in the wrong if you give them a look and a quick quiet down yell.

Caddie 4: I have not.

5. Has there ever been a time where you felt physically threatened by an unruly spectator? How did you react?

Caddie 1: Never once. I’m fat and sweaty. I think that scares people.

Caddie 2: No. I’ve never felt scared, but it has definitely gotten worse.

Caddie 3: Never.

Caddie 4: No.

6. Do you think there’s any room in the game for heckling?

Caddie 1: A little heckling is fine. As long as it’s not intentionally to mess a player up. People need to toughen up. We should be able to scream back at them though.

Caddie 2: Well, I don’t like it, but I guess Ryder Cups and President Cups it’s kinda OK, but again, not something I like.

Caddie 3: It’s a very fine line. In good fun, I think heckling has a spot. Anything negative has no part in golf.

Caddie 4: Only if it’s in good fun. There is no room for it if it is disruptive or they start getting personal like calling out your family.

7. When heckling happens, what’s a caddie’s responsibility to his player?

Caddie 1: Protect your man at all costs. Most times he is a bud and every time he pays the bills.

Caddie 2: If it’s constant and effecting his game, I have to get someone to get him gone.

Caddie 3: Make sure it doesn’t bother your player first. That’s the most important person heckling affects. If it does, act accordingly to tell him to shut it, or get him to leave.

Caddie 4: It depends on the player. Some guys don’t let it bother them and they can ignore them and just move on. If you do have a player that has an issue with them, you just try and do your best to get them to just let it go. If that doesn’t work, then a lot of times you have to step in and say something to them or get an official or security to step in.

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