Caddies weigh in on legal sports betting on golf

Caddies, including J.J. Jakovac, weighed in on what legal gambling in golf could mean for tournaments. Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like golf’s journey into sports betting increases almost by the week. As it’s now legal in 21 states and more to come, the interest generated by this whole new piece of the pie seems to weigh pretty heavily with the game’s stakeholders now.

The PGA Tour recently started a partnership with PointsBet and even last week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open had a live second screen experience called “NBC Sports Edge BetCast.”

Many of these developments have happened during the COVID era with almost no fans in attendance. But as fans begin to come back gradually this season on the PGA Tour, how will the gambling experience affect the job of the pro caddie as crowd’s seemingly would now potentially have bettors amongst them with a lot of skin in the game?

RELATED: Caddie Confidential gambling insights | The Caddie Line homepage

We spoke with a few caddies about this and their overall thoughts on gambling in today’s game.

J.J. Jakovac, Collin Morikawa’s caddie:

“I think betting is good… it’s definitely a case by case basis but (heckling) is certainly a concern. I’ve seen it happen at the Phoenix Open where guys will just be betting with each other on if a guy is going to hit the fairway or hit the green, they’ll scream in their backswing. So if a guy has a $50,000 bet in a matchup and in your group Collin is playing and getting heckled, it’s definitely a concern that’s got to be addressed. It’s something that bigger names will have to deal with. If Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm are in a matchup in a featured group then those guys will be more subjected to that kind of behavior. It’s definitely going to have to be policed a little bit and hopefully people are respectful. That’s the funny thing about golf. If you bet a football game you don’t have to worry about that part of it, or a basketball game too, but if you bet a head to head matchup in golf, maybe you can have some affect on the players.”

Kenny Harms, Kevin Na’s caddie:

“I think it’s a good thing to be honest. It brings more people into the game.

“I don’t have a problem with it as long as those people don’t cause a problem when someone’s on the course playing and the person betting against them is following their group and start giving the player crap. One time at TPC, we had a three-shot lead on Sunday at the Players and this guy screams at Kevin, ‘you better not start choking! I’ve got $2,000 on you!” and I turned around and looked at him and said, ‘really dude?’ Kevin goes, ‘$2,000? I got $2 million riding on this!’ I would imagine if (heckling) occurs the PGA Tour will come down hard on those people and throw them out. You’ve got to set a precedent if it does happen and just throw the people out. That word will spread and people won’t do it.”

Kessler Karain, Patrick Reed’s caddie:

“I get that some caddies are worried when your guy is sitting over a six-foot putt and some guy’s gambling on it and he’s got $20,000 on it and things can get kind of hairy. The problem is, when you get a lot of people gambling and you’re out on a golf course and there’s a lot of drinking involved, that’s where it can get interesting. Because someone who’s very intoxicated who’s making poor decisions because that’s what drinking does sometimes, it affects your decision making abilities, you might bet something you don’t have and they could get really angry really quickly because they didn’t really think they could lose it…

“There are so many questions. It’s going to be trial and error. There should be a blacklist when people are yelling at players. Put them on a blacklist and say ‘you’re done.’ Look at Augusta. Nobody plays around at Augusta because everyone knows that they’re not playing that game. If you mess up there, you’re banned for life. I don’t have a problem with the gambling. It will be interesting how it plays out on the golf course while people are doing live bets.”

Shay Knight, Viktor Hovland’s caddie:

“I don’t have a problem with it as long as spectators don’t put players off because they’ve got an actual bet on the player themselves. I think that’s where we’re going to come into some issues, and if that’s the case then I don’t think it’s going to be good for the game at all. (Heckling) is where us as caddies have to come into our own and take that out of the equation as best as you can. Whether you get security to take them off the golf course, or whatever means necessary, I’ll be doing that for sure.”

Nick Heinen, Matthew Wolff’s caddie:

“I think it’s fun. I like the idea, I just kind of think it brings more people to golf, which is what golf needs. Never hurts to grow your fanbase. I just think it makes golf more exciting for a lot of people. I think the only thing that’s bad is there’s obviously it’s going to be people at tournaments when they’re gambling and I think heckling might increase, but overall it’s overall a good thing for golf. It’s definitely another thing that we have to deal with. Even now with less fans you notice things more. Even now we’re constantly having to yell at people 50 or 60 yards away who are walking or moving or talking. I don’t think it will really change that much. If a fan wants to yell, that fan is going to yell. Just having them out there at all, you run that same risk of them yelling. I’m sure what the Tour is going to do about that.”

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