Patrick Cantlay, Matt Minister
Patrick Cantlay celebrates with his caddie Matt Minister after winning the 2019 Memorial Tournament. Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

JUPITER, Fla. – A PGA Tour caddie’s job can be a lot like a professional surfer.

You’re always looking for the next big wave (i.e. player) to catch, hoping you get to ride it for a long time. There will be wipeouts along the way, and some of the waves fizzle out just as you’re getting on them.

But there’s always another wave coming. For better or worse.

Matt Minister learned this mindset quickly during his 20 years as a professional looper. He worked for a Hall of Famer (Nick Price) from 2006-2010 and currently carries for one of the world’s top-ranked players (Patrick Cantlay).

Minister also worked for nine players in 2012, meaning he either got fired or quit eight times. He thought a long-term relationship lasted two months; some didn’t last longer than a week.

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“I had gotten used to thinking I’m never going to have this ‘forever’ relationship with a player,” Minister said. “And I was OK with it.”

In the two decades since the 45-year-old Minister stopped playing mini-tours in 2000 and started making a living by carrying clubs, instead of hitting them, his longest job has been four years with Price, whose career was winding down on the PGA Tour Champions.

Minister thought he had finally landed his dream bag in late 2012 when he started working for Sang Moon Bae. What happens? Minister becomes unemployed three years later, again, when Bae is required by the Korean government to fulfill his military obligation.

Matt Minister, Sang Moon Bae
Matt Minister and Sang Moon Bae were a team for three years.

That’s a tough way to lose a two-time PGA Tour winner and an emerging star.

Minister worked for several guys in 2016 and appeared to have a regular job with Chris Kirk as they started the 2017 season. Minister was prepared to work for Kirk at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Until Kirk told him he was taking another caddie to Pebble Beach.

Now what?

Minister received a phone call from a player agency that informed him Cantlay, a top amateur at UCLA who had been sidelined with a back injury for almost three years, was looking for a new caddie. Cantlay wanted to start at, conveniently, Pebble Beach.

“I had already made travel plans and gotten a hotel in Pebble,” Minister said. “If I didn’t already have plans … it made the decision a lot easier.”

Matt Minister, Patrick Cantlay
Matt Minister and Patrick Cantlay have proven to be a great team, with Cantlay currently inside the top 10 of the Official World Golf Ranking.

Minister worked for Cantlay that week and knew he had hopped onto the Big Kahuna of waves. Minister was impressed when Cantlay made the cut in a gritty performance that ended in the dark Friday night.

That was a taste of what was to come.

A month later, Cantlay finished an eye-popping second to Adam Hadwin at the Valspar Championship. From just a few feet away, Minister couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

“Patrick was tied for the lead on the 72nd hole at Tampa,” Minister said, “and he hadn’t played golf in three years.”

In the last two-plus seasons, Cantlay has won two PGA Tour titles, been second three times and earned almost $11 million. That’s a lot of money for the caddie, no matter what the percentages.

READ: Eric Larson was a successful PGA Tour caddie before — and after — spending 11 years in federal prison. This is his story.

“It’s been incredible,” Minister said of working with Cantlay. “I have been very fortunate.”

Cantlay may be the most underrated player in golf. He is No. 6 in the latest world rankings, despite playing a limited schedule, averaging 22 events the last two seasons.

Next month Cantlay will play in his first international team competition as a pro at the Presidents Cup in Australia. Cantlay played in the Walker Cup, but this is a major step up in class.

Minister has no doubt his player can handle it.

“I think he can be No. 1 in the world,” Minister said of his boss. “I know there’s a lot of competition to be No. 1. Without a doubt, he has all the attributes to be No. 1.”

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Matt Minister
Prior to becoming a professional caddie, Matt Minister was a player on mini-tours. Credit: Ian Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Before Minister became a professional caddie, he tried to make a living playing the sport.

The former Ohio State Buckeye moved to South Florida in 1998 to play the Golden Bear Tour. It cost $15,000 to play 15 tournaments at quality golf courses around Palm Beach County.

It was basically glorified gambling.

“The last year I made the cut in 14 of 15 events and just made my entry fee back,” Minister said. “If that was success, then that was it for me.”

Minister tried to Monday qualify on the Nationwide Tour. He would shoot a decent score, not qualify and then caddie for Chris Smith, another Ohio State product who Minister had befriended.

Their first three weeks together, Smith finished second, lost in a playoff and was 23rd. He got a check for $4,000 which seemed like a lottery ticket. It wasn’t difficult to see another door was opening.

“I was making more as a caddie than I was as a player, which wasn’t saying much,” Minister said. “Chris said, ‘You need to stop playing and do this for me.’”

Looking back on his GBT days, Minister says it was a waste of time because the tour stayed in the same area. The players didn’t learn how to travel or adjust to different conditions and grasses.

“All you learned is if you had the guts to stand over a putt,” he said.

Once he started caddying, Minister realized how far he was from ever playing on the PGA Tour. These guys were beyond really good.

“I was making more as a caddie than I was as a player, which wasn’t saying much,” Minister said. “Chris said, ‘You need to stop playing and do this for me.’”

“Seeing how many hard shots the guys have to hit under intense pressure kind of blew my mind,” Minister said. “I’m glad I didn’t have to hit those shots.”

Minister and Smith had success, winning the 2002 Buick Classic. But Smith started struggling and they stopped working together in ’05.

Minister’s career as a caddie stalled, as well. He was working as a club caddie at Price’s McArthur Club in Hobe Sound. Price remembered Minister from when he caddied for Smith on the PGA Tour.

“What are you doing here?” Price said.

“I’m working here,” Minister said.

“You want to start caddying for me?” Price said.

What do you think? Minister quickly said yes.

Price was about to turn 50 and start playing on the PGA Tour Champions. Price had lost some of his desire because of an elbow injury, but he could still win on the 50-and-older circuit. Price won four titles in the next four years.

“I just wish I would have played better,” Price said. “We would have been a great team. He has a wonderful sense of humor and he’s a good companion to have on the road.”

Of course, Minister wishes he would have gotten to work for Price during his prime, when the Zimbabwe native won three majors and was world No. 1.

Nick Price, Matt Minister
Matt Minister, right, caddied for Hall of Famer Nick Price when Price played on the PGA Tour Champions. The two remain great friends.

But getting a chance to work for one of sports’ all-time good guys was a treat, anyway.

“We remain close friends to this day,” Minister said. “It was easier for me to work for him because the pressure of his career was off.

“If he played bad, we would go out and have some beers. If he played well, we would go out and have some beers.”

When Price cut back on his schedule, Minister was back looking for a bag. He bounced around with several players before caddie John “Cubbie” Burke approached him at the season-ending PGA Tour event at Disney World.

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“He asked me was I going to stay on the Champions Tour or come back to the PGA Tour?” Minister said. “I told him I’d obviously rather work on the PGA Tour, where the money was a lot more.”

Burke told Minister that Bae’s agent was looking for someone to caddie for the Korean. Minister was definitely interested.

One problem: Bae’s agent wanted Minister to submit a resume. Minister had never written a resume.

“I wrote one up and I got the job,” Minister said. “What they were most impressed about was I had caddied for Nick Price.”

Even though Price hadn’t been able to give his buddy his best years, he got Minister a wonderful job.

“Sure, that means a lot to me that I helped Matt’s career,” Price said. “But it’s up to the individual. It’s not difficult to be a caddie. It’s difficult to be a good caddie.”

The Bae-Minister pairing resulted in two PGA Tour titles and a spot in the 2015 Presidents Cup in Korea. Alas, that was the last time they worked together – Bae had to remain in his homeland to begin his military duty.

“I was talking after we lost (the Presidents Cup) and Sangmoon was upset about us losing,” Minister said. “I looked up and he was gone.”

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Sangmoon Bae, Matt Minister
Caddie Matt Minister enjoyed great early success with Sang Moon Bae. But the relationship ended abruptly after the 2015 Presidents Cup, when Bae was forced to remain home in Korea to fulfill military service obligations. Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Minister took the rest of 2015 off and then hooked up with another Korean, Seung-Yul Noh, but that lasted only 11 weeks. Then it became caddie roulette for a while.

The best thing about working for Kirk is the way it ended – in Pebble Beach, where fate brought Minister and Cantlay together.

Cantlay previously had one of his best friends, Chris Roth, caddie for him. But Roth tragically died on Feb. 13, 2016 in Newport Beach, Calif., when he was run over by a car, with Cantlay standing next to him, as they were crossing the street. They had been enjoying a night out. The driver sped away, but was soon found and sentenced to two years in prison.

Minister said it was never an awkward situation to replace Cantlay’s buddy. “There were a few times the first year when he might say, ‘Chris, would do this,’ but we have gotten our own chemistry.”

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With a player as talented as Cantlay, Minister doesn’t have to be very hands on. But he does more than just clean his clubs.

“Patrick doesn’t have to do anything but be himself and play golf,” Minister said. “I have to pay attention to figure out what he needs. He doesn’t need a lot. He’s really good at decision making and he obviously hits it really good.”

It seemed natural when Cantlay won Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament this summer in Dublin, Ohio, not far from where Minister grew up and attended college.

“Matt does such a great job making everything easy for me,” Cantlay said. “We have a great relationship on and off the golf course. I know I can always depend on him.

“We have a different relationship than I had with (Roth). Matt’s a little older and it’s less of a best-friend vibe and more of somebody that is guiding me around and looking out for me and maybe protecting me a little bit.”

When asked about Cantlay’s comments about their 18-year age difference, Minister smiled. “I’ll say something and he’ll say, ‘OK, Dad.’”

Minister may be old school, but he learned not to fight the younger Cantlay’s style of play. Like most of the 20somethings on the PGA Tour, Cantlay plays aggressively.

“One of the biggest things is to adjust to the way they play the game these days,” Minister said. “I might say to lay up on a dogleg, but these guys just hit it over the dogleg, we find it and they’ll figure out a way to make a birdie.

“The game has changed a lot over the last 10 years.”

Minister gets to spend another month home with his wife, Julie, and their two kids, Dylan (13) and Sean (12), before Cantlay returns to action at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas the first week in December.

The following week, Minister returns to the Presidents Cup in Australia, but this time he’ll be an American in the U.S. team room.

“We will be kind of the new guys,” Minister said, “but there’s a lot of continuity with the captains and the people involved, so I’m sure it will be an easy transition.”

Minister knows what it’s like to work for a Hall of Famer and one of the game’s top players. He also knows what it’s like to have no job security and no job.

“I’m very blessed to be in this situation,” Minister said. “Not only do I get to work for a wonderful player like Patrick, but I get plenty of time home with my family to be a dad. I’m very grateful.”

He just wants to ride this wave as long as he can.