Jin Young Ko, David Brooker
Jin Young Ko reacts after winning the ANA Inspiration with caddie Dave Brooker. Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Dave Brooker has two talents in life: Helping people spend money properly and helping them make money on the golf course.

He has done the latter for more than a quarter century as a professional caddie, working primarily on the LPGA Tour with stars such as Lorena Ochoa, Suzann Pettersen, Grace Park and now Jin Young Ko.

But in 2017, Brooker needed to do the former. He was going through a divorce and needed to be at home with his three young daughters. He took off his caddie bib, put on a business suit and spent the year working as a financial advisor for Wells Fargo.

It was not as easy as changing his clothes. He had to study for months to pass the necessary exams, then convince clients to invest their retirement money into the cold world of finance.

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“A lot of times people only call you when the market is down,” Brooker said.

But this was only going to be a temporary gig. He made it clear to his daughters that soon, “Daddy’s going to have to go back on the road. I missed (caddying). There’s nothing that can replace the adrenaline of standing next to your player when they have a chance to win on Sunday.”

Paula Creamer gave Brooker another opportunity, asking him to caddie for her during the 2018 season. While looping for Creamer, Brooker found himself in the same grouping several times with a young South Korean, Jin Young Ko.

“I mentioned to her that she was a fantastic player,” Brooker said.

Ko thought the same of Brooker’s caddie skills. At the end of last year, her agent asked Brooker if he would start caddying for Ko.

Dave Brooker
Dave Brooker has enjoyed a dream season with Jin Young Ko. Credit: Scott Halleran)

“I jumped at it,” Brooker said. “I really thought she could ascend quickly.”

But this quickly?

Ko won her first two majors (ANA Inspiration and Evian Championship) and two other tournaments this year to ascend to the No. 1 world ranking in women’s golf. The 24-year-old Ko is a cinch to win her first Player of the Year honors after playing in this week’s CME Group Tour Championship in Naples.

Ko has finished in the top five in almost half of her starts (10-of-21) and the top 10 a dozen times. With earnings of $2,714,281, she leads the LPGA’s money list by more than $700,000 and has averaged $129,251 per event. And she could top $4 million if she wins this week and claims the $1.5 million first prize.

Talk about having money to invest.

With a scoring average of 69.052, Ko can join Ochoa (2007, 2008), Yani Tseng (2011) and Ariya Jutanugarn (2018) as the only players to win the Vare Trophy, money title and Rolex Player of the Year while ranked No. 1 in the rankings during the season-ending event.

If Ko shoots no worse than 1 over this week, she will have the lowest scoring average by a Korean in LPGA Tour history. That’s a lot of star golfers. Ko also went a record 114 consecutive holes this season without a bogey.

“The best part about working for Lorena was not the money, the memories, winning the amazing events,” Brooker said. “It’s that being around her made me want to be a better person.”

Not a bad inaugural year for the Ko-Brooker pairing.

“The two majors are a surprise,” Brooker said. “But I knew she had the winner’s instinct. She has played so consistently – her worst finish is 29th. What amazes me is her level of consistency with her long irons. When her short game is hot, she has a chance to win every week.”

So does her caddie, who celebrates his 46th birthday Friday.

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Growing up in England, Dave Brooker always thought he was going to have a career as a professional soccer player. The defender had signed a contract with Leeds United, but had to quit at 16 because of an injury.

Now what?

“I went back to university to study architecture for two to three years,” he said. “But I didn’t like it. I always felt golf was my No. 2 sport, so I started caddying for a friend in local events.”

Dave Brooker, Jin Young Ko
Dave Brooker and Jin Young Ko take a leap into Poppie’s Pond after winning the 2019 ANA Inspiration.

Brooker thought he could land a job with a professional golfer, so he’d go to big tournaments and try to find a player in the parking lot without much luck.

“Looking back, it seems laughable,” Brooker said. “I was just a dumb 18-year-old who had no chance to get a job.”

Brooker met a guy who was caddying on the Ladies European Tour and he convinced him he could find a job there. The guy even offered Brooker a place to stay in his camper while they were on the road.

“I took my tent, a bag of food and a suitcase, and my parents drove me to a gas station where I met the guy,” Brooker said.

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Brooker found some work, but it wasn’t steady and the purses weren’t enough for him to make a decent living. He knew he needed to go to the United States if he wanted to make it as a caddie, so he moved in 1996.

He worked for Helen Dobson and Mi Hyun Kim, but his big break came in 2003 when he landed a job with Grace Park.

The next year, Park won the Kraft Nabisco Championship, earning Brooker his first major title. Park soon struggled with back and neck injuries, but her impact on Brooker’s career was profound.

“Grace Park gave me a platform,” Brooker said.

In mid-2006, Brooker was hired by Ochoa, who had supplanted Annika Sorenstam as the world’s top women’s golfer. They won their first tournament together, and added 20 more victories in 57 starts, including the 2007 Women’s British Open at St. Andrews and the 2008 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

“She’s the best person I ever met and the best player I ever worked for,” Brooker said. “We never had one argument. I took my kids on vacation with her.”

Lorena Ochoa, David Brooker
In his time caddying for Lorena Ochoa, caddie Dave Brooker helped the World Golf Hall of Famer to 21 victories. Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

To show you the depth of their relationship, in 2006 she was concerned that Brooker’s two daughters (the third had yet to be born) had not been baptized. She asked how many tournaments did she have to win for that to happen.

“One,” he replied, referring to the next year’s Women’s British Open. And she won it, her first major title in 24 tries.

Three months later, Brooker’s daughters were baptized in Connecticut.

“The best part about working for Lorena was not the money, the memories, winning the amazing events,” Brooker said. “It’s that being around her made me want to be a better person.”

Brooker’s only mistake was to play in a soccer match in 2008, where he suffered a fractured ankle and couldn’t caddie for Ochoa for several months.

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Brooker tried to caddie for Ochoa in the LPGA Championship, but had to stop after one round because of the pain. Two weeks later, Ochoa fired Brooker, saying, “David and I have ended our relationship due to a new phase in my professional career. I will consider him always a good friend.”

While Brooker was shocked to be let go, he knew he was to blame. “It was my own fault for playing in the soccer game,” he said.

Losing the best player in the women’s game wasn’t easy for Brooker. But he accepted it as part of the job and realized Ochoa was doing him a favor.

“A lot of my other caddie friends were surprised I took it so well,” he said. “But looking back, Lorena knew she was going to retire soon and we wouldn’t be working together that much longer, anyway.” (Ochoa retired in early 2010 at 28.)

Brooker was in demand as a caddie, and quickly found a job with Pettersen. Four years later, Brooker made the crossover to the PGA Tour, working for Richard Lee (2012-13) and Seung Yul Noh (2014-16).

Then he had to step away from the game, for the sake of his daughters.

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Having caddied for women and men, Brooker has a unique perspective on the major differences between the two genders. It’s not just their size and strength.

“The biggest difference is your level of involvement,” he said. “The men are much more confident. You just give them the yardage, the wind and the club and they do the rest.

“The girls need more. They have issues off the course, and they involve you with them, whether it’s their husbands, boyfriends or family. There’s a lot more emotional involvement on the ladies’ side, and it’s not just golf.”

Lorena Ochoa, Dave Brooker
Lorena Ochoa celebrates the winning putt on the 18th with her caddie Dave Brooker during her final round of The 2007 Women’s British Open on The Old Course at St. Andrews.

Brooker found similarities between caddying and working as a financial advisor. The most important element is finding the right clients.

“It’s all about managing people,” he said. “You have to deal with speed bumps in finance, just like you do on the golf course. You have to be positive and have that trust.”

The biggest difference? A chance to celebrate.

“In golf, a bad week doesn’t really matter because every week is a new week,” Brooker said. “In finances, there’s no validation at the end – when people are doing well, they don’t call. You can’t celebrate on Sunday night like you do in golf.”

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Brooker has 34 18th-hole flags on display at his home in Danbury, Conn., one for each time his player has won a tournament. Five of them were majors. He’ll need a bigger wall if he remains on Ko’s bag.

For some reason, they clicked from the beginning, this middle-aged Englishman and the young South Korean woman. Brooker can’t explain why their pairing works so well, but the statistics say it boldly.

Dave Brooker, Jin Young Ko
Jin Young Ko and caddie Dave Brooker at the 2019 LPGA CME Group Tour Championship. Credit: Scott Halleran

“There is limited chemistry only because of the language, but her golf English is very good,” he said. “We don’t exactly hang out off the golf course. She felt I could help her, and she trusted me from the get-go. There’s always been this level of trust.”

Interestingly, Brooker has primarily worked for Koreans. He said he has spent 12 of his 27 years working with Koreans.

The latest move has certainly paid off, enabling Brooker to also put his financial talents to work. He knows he won’t be caddying for another 27 years.

“You can’t do this forever. You have to have a Plan B,” he said. “I have to take care of my money. I know I also have to take care of my body more than when I was in my 20s. I do yoga, meditation and I try to eat properly.”

It’s not usually a wise move for a caddie in his 40s to take a year off from the profession. There might not be a job when they come back. But for Brooker, it couldn’t have worked out any better.

Instead of studying the market, he’s reading greens and making five-figure paydays.

“I know how fortunate I am to be in this position,” Brooker said. “My resume is stacked. But it’s like any job, the cards have to fall your way and you have to get that lucky break.

“Ask any caddie in the world, and they’ll tell you it’s all about being in the right place at the right time.”

And doing the right things when given that opportunity.