For veteran caddies — especially in Europe — there’s no place like home
“What are your favorite weeks on the schedule?” is a question that we professional caddies get a lot from golf fanatics.
If you’ve been caddying on Tour for less than 10 years, “The majors” may come out often.
But if you’ve been caddying for more than 15 years, “The weeks at home!” may then lead the list of answers.
Home. As the saying goes: “There is no place like home.” Even more so for caddies, as we are there so rarely.
It was a few years ago during a big event. On a Tuesday afternoon, more precisely. I was waiting patiently for my player on the range, standing next to the golf bag and two large buckets of balls – a pose that all professional caddies master. Then came up a good looper friend, dropped his own bag and buckets, and we started sharing a few jokes. I was laughing so hard and so loud, that the current No. 1 player in the world, who was walking by, stopped, stared at us and then asked: “Why are you caddies always so much happier than us players?”
He wasn’t joking himself. He was serious. And as focused as if he was having a 6-footer on the last hole to win the Open Championship. Yes, here he was: the best player in the game at that moment, who was winning often. A man on the cover page of most golf magazines, a man with whom fans would do anything to snap a quick selfie with. Literally thousands of children dreamt to be in his own shoes at that time. And yet, this role model knew that caddies were happier than him.
Within less than a second, I replied: “because we caddies don’t have our lives measured from the pressure of performance, every day, like yours! Whether you’re here competing or practicing at home!”
An uncomfortable silence broke… He moved on. So did we. And reflecting on my answer the following days, I realized that caddies are lucky to be free during weeks off at home. Players are not. They must work hard on their games, their fitness and their mental strength if they are truly determined to be competitive. They also take the time for media interviews and time with their sponsors.
It is a fact that the best players in the game wake up every morning searching for an edge. To get better, to score better, to feel fitter… to win more often. A natural drug which no medicine can cure.
Therefore, a good home-place for a player requires firstly good weather conditions and good practicing facilities, in order to work on the game efficiently. It also requires a good airport close by. And it requires the right environment for the family to feel stable, safe and happy.
For a caddie, a good nest also requires a good airport close by. But the right family support for married caddies with kids will take the priority over good weather conditions and nice, pristine golf courses. Knowing that your kids have mum, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends and so on close by for their stability is a must, I guess, in order to feel fresh and focused during tournaments.
The respect I feel for all my Tour caddie friends who are husbands and parents is simply indescribable. Because I know that I could not deal myself with the confused looks on my child’s or children’s faces… “Why is daddy leaving again?” with sad tears strolling down is not a question nor a moment which I’d be ready to face minutes before heading to the airport for the next event.
I even have more respect for Tour caddies on the European Tour who have kids. In effect: if your player plans on playing the event in Saudi Arabia and the next week in Australia: you won’t fly home to Europe over the weekend to see your family if your player had the great idea to miss the cut in Saudi. Instead, you wait. On the other side of the pond: most caddies on the PGA Tour change Southwest flights for free when they miss the cut and are lucky to hug their wives and kids late Friday evenings or on Saturday mornings. Different worlds. There is no doubt that the PGA Tour is more suitable for family life as a caddie: bigger purses to support your family, short flights and mostly direct ones to be with your loved ones.
On my side: I’ve been choosing to be single with no kids. It’d be fair to say that I’m as good in relationships as Bill Murray is good at golf. You get my point… “pretty sh**” is the correct adjective. And needless to say, I have always enjoyed my own selfish freedom.
Over the last 22 years, I’ve been lucky to be a resident of five different countries: France, the United States, Australia, Ireland and Czech Republic for the last nine years now. Life is about choices. And choosing to live in Prague for almost a decade has been the best choice of my life.
I love Prague so much that all my friends who live there as well joke saying that I should be the mayor of the city. I’d agree with them, only if I knew the Czech language. I tried to learn it during my “rookie year” as a Czech resident… only to find out that learning Czech is as hard as picking the right club and the right shot on the 17th at TPC Sawgrass during hurricane season…
Prague’s booming tourism along with its vast international expat community allow international residents to only speak English. Some Czechs don’t like it, which I understand and respect, but if it was any different, I wouldn’t live there then.
I had never been to Czech Republic until the summer of 2009. That year, the week after The Open Championship, the European Tour headed to Sweden and then to a new event in the eastern part of Czech Republic. From the prettiest blue-eyed Scandinavian blondes to the prettiest green-eyed Czech brunettes… your player better tee it up in those events.
At that time, my player was actually teeing up in all events as he was having a crisis with his wife, and therefore didn’t want to go home. The tour was his home. But the tension on the course was unbearable. On the Friday afternoon of the Czech tournament, he bogeyed the last two holes to miss the cut by one. Happy days. My options for the weekend were plentiful: going mountain-biking somewhere, discovering a new city… But at dinner with my best friend, Colin Byrne, who was looping for Alex Noren then, he had his opinion very clear: “Drive to Prague tomorrow morning. And spend the weekend there! It’s an amazing city.”
Standing on the Old Town Square of Prague the next day on this sunny and warm afternoon, I looked around and simply wondered if what I was witnessing was real or not. It felt like two sharp claws were grabbing my shoulders and an unknown voice begging me to stay. From that moment, I knew I was going to live there someday.
Because on top of its beauty, Prague, also called “The City of 100 Spires,” makes complete sense for being “the perfect home for a European Tour caddie.”
First of all, the country and the city are centrally located in Europe. Second, Prague Airport is modern, not too big, efficient and has direct flights to most European capitals, and also to New York or Dubaï for the connecting flights on either side of the globe. Third, the cost of life is very affordable compared to most western countries. A pint of good local Czech Beer costs $1.50 US in some pubs on the outskirts or $2 downtown, for example. I know a good restaurant which offers a soup, a good risotto, along with a pint of beer for $6 total.
A yearly pass for the public transport in the city, which includes all buses, trams and metros costs around $220. The list goes on… But to talk more about the quality of the public transport in Prague, I have been living there for nine years without a car. Not a worry about drinking and driving for the nights out, no insurance costs, no fuel spending and on top of it: they are always on time, very reliable and unlike the French public transports: never on strike. If I do need a car, I rent one. And once again, it’s very affordable.
Beer drinking is THE national sport. You may think it sounds funny, but clearly: if it was an Olympic sport, the Czechs would nail the gold medals every time. According to the last Wikipedia statistics, the Czechs consume 143.3 liters (just over 37 gallons) of beer per year per capita! Second is Namibia with 108 liters and third are our Austrian neighbors with 106 liters. In other words: pure dominance like Tiger’s world rankings points lead in the mid-2000s!
Regarding Prague Airport, I must say that I get more and more impressed by its efficiency as well. I was so impressed when I flew there for the first time that I started a game: every time the aircrafts’ wheels touch the runway, I start my phone’s chrono to see how long it’ll take me until I’ll open my apartment’s door. The average is 48 minutes. Average, not best time. The best has been 41 so far. And trust me: as a caddie, this is priceless, because there are countless airports where you’d still be waiting for your luggage 48 minutes after landing. Instead, I get to open the fridge… and realize most of the time that I’m out of beers!
Finally, another reason why I enjoy living in Prague is because of my close friendship with the best Czech professional golfer, Klara Spilkova. Klara is like a little sister to me. We met during her very first professional tournament on the Ladies European Tour back in March 2011 in Morocco. Back then both the European Tour and the LET had their events in Agadir during the same week. Klara was only 16 years old then and she finished seventh in the event. To say that I was impressed by her mental strength would be an understatement. She won that tournament in 2017, has recorded a bunch of top 10s and for the last year, Klara has been chasing her dream to win on the LPGA. It’s a matter of time in my opinion. She works really hard, has a clear understanding of what works for her in her job as she’s already been a pro for nine years, even though she’s still only 25 now.
But most importantly, she’s a fierce competitor. We play against each other a few times every year and these matches are always truly the highlights of our seasons. We both hate to lose more than we enjoy winning. That’s when I get to learn a few swearing words in Czech…
As you can see and feel, I love home! Even if I was caddying full-time on the PGA Tour, Prague would still be home. Because when you’ve spent years looping on the European Tour, you get to accept long flights and learn to manage jetlag.
Prague is so unique, that I have always told my American caddie buddies that they should come for a few days either the week before The Open Championship or the week after. Good times guaranteed.
Best beer, amazing architecture and breathtaking history, prettiest women (another thing the country is known for), great nightlife… all in a very safe environment. Too good to be true? It’s not. Pack your bags!