Matt Kuchar donates Players Championship money to kickstart new caddie benevolent fund
The shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic flipped the world upside down, but also provided time for the Association of Professional Tour Caddies (APTC) to create something new to offer its approximately 200 members working on the PGA Tour.
In the latest ‘Under the Strap,’ podcast on The Caddie Network, APTC President Scott Sajtinac announced the formation of a new benevolent fund to help caddies through difficult times.
And the most exciting part? Nine-time PGA Tour winner Matt Kuchar, the 2012 Players Champion, provided the seed money to start the fund by donating his take from the 2020 Players Championship, where each player in the field received $52,000 when the event was canceled.
“Obviously, the Tour shuts down, stay in place order, the quarantine, the uncertainty of when we’re going to play again… And then for Matt and Sybi [Kuchar] to reach out to me – and they know the magnitude of what this situation is for us (caddies) and the uncertainty that the shutdown has caused,” Sajtinac said. “Obviously, he’s had an immensely successful career and when the Kuchars reached out to me and pitched me this idea, I was kind of blown away. The fact that, you know, we have such good relationships with players and caddies out there, it’s almost like a big, traveling family. When he came up with the idea of setting a fund up for the guys to get through a time that’s legitimately tough for caddies that have families and no source of income, I was blown away. It was an act of love and good will that was nice to see in such a trying time.”
PGA Tour caddies typically receive a weekly fee for their services and a percentage of player earnings at each event. With no tournaments being played, all of that is gone.
John Wood, Vice President of the APTC and Kuchar’s longtime caddie, was also a guest on the podcast.
Like Sajtinac, Wood was touched by his player’s generosity.
“It meant a lot,” Wood said of Kuchar’s donation. “I was blown away by it, too, totally surprised. I’m not sure anybody really knew what players were going to do. For Matt to kind of take the lead on this and go to Saj and say, ‘Hey, I want to do this. We all got paid a certain amount from the Players Championship and I want to donate my part to start this fund for caddies,’ man, it meant a lot to me.”
Sajtinac said that the APTC hasn’t had to distribute any of the funds just yet but feels good knowing something is there for the group if needed.
“If this break goes longer – obviously June 8 is scheduled as our restart – we can make it until then,” he said. “But if it goes any longer, who knows? The fact that he [Kuchar] has started this for us, for tough times, it’s comforting to know we have something to fall back on for the members. An act of generosity he’s shown to this group of guys shows that we’re an integral part of the sport and considered an asset. It was touching. That’s for sure.”
Wood is hoping other players will take note of the new benevolent fund and feel compelled to add to it.
“My hope with that – and I’m not going to go out there and trumpet for Kooch, he doesn’t want that out there, trumpeted by me – my hope is that word will get out more and players would say, ‘Hey, great idea. I’m going to contribute as well,’” Wood said. “And hopefully this thing grows for when tough times come again for caddies.”
Sajtinac said – especially for caddies – the coronavirus was a big wake-up call.
“This coronavirus opened our eyes to a lot of different things,” he said. “One of them is a benevolent fund. We really never had, necessarily, a way of getting that going, per say, when times were normal. This opened up our eyes.”
Sajtinac and other APTC board members have worked tirelessly behind the scenes for the group since the Tour season halted and even managed to work with two caddie sponsors in Jani-King and Valspar to pay out sponsorship money that typically doesn’t go out until the end of the year.
“We have a wonderful relationship, a wonderful sponsorship with Jani-King, a corporate janitorial cleaning service out of Dallas, Texas,” Sajtinac said. “We have a sponsorship program with them where they provide the towels for us to use each day and there’s value in that. So, we generally pay out our sponsorship money at the end of the year, but this board scrambled together knowing that we didn’t know when our next source of income was going to be in the near future. It could be a month, it could be three, four, six months – who knows?
“We got some checks out to guys as quickly as we could,” he added. “We have Valspar, another wonderful sponsor for the caddies. We have a good relationship with the folks at Valspar, so we spoke to them and asked if it was possible to get those checks out early instead of the end of the year. The fact is that in our job, we went from income to zero, like a lot of folks out there in all walks of life. We went from making a paycheck to nothing. So, that’s what this board worked on pretty quickly for the first few weeks.”
Sajtinac – like many other caddies – is looking forward to getting back to work soon. But, if plans change, the APTC – with the help of Kuchar and sponsors – is better prepared now than ever.