McCalmont: Caddie spending an entire season with same player a rarity on LPGA Tour

Pornanong Phatlum
Pornanong Phatlum had veteran caddie Chris McCalmont on her bag for all of 2018 and will begin 2019 with him as well. McCalmont says that spending an entire season with the same player is a rarity on the LPGA Tour. Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s note: Chris McCalmont is a caddie on the LPGA Tour and has traveled all over the world in that capacity. In this series on The Caddie Network, McCalmont details what life is like as a caddie on the LPGA. This is his first entry.

I’ll come right out and say it: life as a caddie on the LPGA Tour is nothing like it is on the PGA Tour.

There’s significantly less money on the LPGA and much smaller crowds.

For perspective, consider this fact: players between Nos. 1-114 on the PGA Tour’s money list in 2018 made more than $1 million in on-course earnings. By comparison, only the top 14 players on the LPGA money list made a million bucks, led by Ariya Jutanugarn with $2,743,949. Brooks Koepka was No. 1 on the PGA Tour and his haul was $8,694,821.

Martin Laird was 114th on the PGA Tour money list with $1,017,580.

And 114th on the LPGA money list? That would be Cindy LaCrosse with $70,740. On top of that, only the top 100 on the LPGA keep their card, as opposed to the top 125 on the PGA Tour.

MORE: ‘Once a caddie, always a caddie’ | McCalmont on the biggest difference between LPGA, PGA Tours

None of this is whining, they’re simply facts. In other words, I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t love it.

So, about me… I’m 44 years old, born in Pittsburgh, live in Canton, Ohio, now, and just completed my 10th season as a professional women’s golf tour caddie.

My current loop is with Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum. We had a solid 2018 season together (43rd on the money list and, earnings-wise, my most successful to date), highlighted by a runner-up finish at the Ricoh’s Women’s British Open and a T7 at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

Going into my 11th season as a caddie, Pornanong will mark just the third player I’ve gone an entire season with and then started a new season intact.

I learned early you can’t burn bridges and take things personally, because it’s just business, as I have worked again for players who fired me previously (I have been let go by 10 different golfers in 10 years of professional caddying).

Other players I have worked for include Sung Hyun Park, Katherine Kirk, Haru Nomura, Jennifer Song, Sydnee Michaels, Candy Hannemann and Wendy Doolan.

I’ve never had a win on the LPGA, yet I did have two wins in 2005 with Virada Nirapathpongporn on what was then the Futures Tour, but is now the Symetra Tour, the women’s equivalent of the Tour. I also was part of two wins in 2003 with Candy on the Futures Tour.

The week of my first win, I was told before the tournament started by Candy that it would be our third and last event together because a veteran caddie was going to finish the season with her. I said, ‘that’s fine, let’s just win then.’

READ: How to overcome a caddie/player language barrier

Of course, as fate would have it and often times happens when players make a change or plan on switching things up, we went on to win – both Candy and my first professional wins.

The post-win celebration was strange because we were supposed to go our separate ways. However, she oddly told me to take her clubs with me to the next tour stop, like I had previously, because I had a big car, a brand new Volkswagen Euro Van, with a roof that popped up into a bed, and which I used most weeks to sleep in the tournament course parking lot, showering in the men’s locker room, as it saved me money on hotels.

So, on Monday I stopped at an outlet mall to spend some of my winnings ($1,000 percentage check; 10 percent of the $10,000 first-place check), leaving my cell phone in the car. Upon returning to my car and looking at my phone, Candy had called me numerous times. Her new caddie’s parents had been in a car accident, so she now needed me to caddie for her the last two events, which I agreed to.

But it was not all good news on the way from Maryland to our next event in West Virginia. In the middle of the night, the transmission blew on my less-than-a-year-old car. I had to get a tow to the closest mechanic and sleep in my car, waiting for the auto shop to open. Once the shop opened, I then had to get a minivan rental, which I used for the next two weeks, before returning to get my car, because I still had two tournaments to work.

In the end, it was all worth it, because Candy won the last tournament of the year, by one shot, birdieing the last hole as darkness fell, to finish third on the money list and earn full status on the LPGA Tour.

And that is how I made the jump from caddying on the Futures Tour to the LPGA — although it didn’t last long. Despite making three of our first four cuts the following year, Candy let me go. A veteran caddie friend of mine told me I was officially a tour caddie now because I had been fired. In fact, I was fired two more times in the next two months, both after missing two straight cuts during a three-week stretch with two different players.

Fed up, I returned to the Futures Tour, where I was a big fish in a small pond, to caddie for Thai sensation Virada — a four-time All-American from Duke and the 2003 U.S. Amateur champion — on the recommendation of Candy, a former teammate of Virada’s at Duke

I learned early you can’t burn bridges and take things personally, because it’s just business, as I have worked again for players who fired me previously (I have been let go by 10 different golfers in 10 years of professional caddying).

RELATED: Taylor Ford with the detailed story on how he came to be a PGA Tour caddie

But before returning to the Futures Tour, Virada was in the U.S. Open at the Orchards (Massachusetts). So, for my first ever U.S. Open, and my first event with Virada, I was paired with none other than Annika Sorenstam and Cristie Kerr.

Despite missing the cut at the U.S. Open, as well as in our first Futures event together, I went on to work for Virada the rest of 2004, which concluded by missing the cut at LPGA Q School. Returning to the Futures Tour in 2005, Virada won twice, earning her LPGA Tour card by finishing second on the money list. The following year Virada had her most successful season of her career, finishing 72nd on the money list, including a fifth at the Corning Classic.

Nonetheless, like all successful caddie partnerships at some point (because in the end, all caddies are hired to be fired), the road ended at the beginning of 2007, as Virada decided, for personal reasons, to make a change. So, I decided to leave caddying to pursue my masters in sport psychology.

To this day, Virada is the longest caddie-player relationship I have had, a breakup that took me almost four years to get over. I took it as hard as a serious couple breaking up, because despite it being a business relationship, you still cannot help but become invested in and close to this person who you spend more time with than anyone else in your life (working a full season for the same player is a major accomplishment and rarity on tour, let alone two and a half years, which is like dog years).

And it all started based on a recommendation from a player who had fired me just two months before.

That, in a nutshell, is the life of a caddie.


  1. Thanks for the perspective Chris, I recently volunteered in caddie services at the Founders tournament in Scottsdale and was very interested in a “Caddies Life”. Best of luck.

  2. Really enjoyed your article. I know several LPGA caddies (I even caddied twice on the LPGA for friends on the tour).
    Do you remember if you caddied for Virada in 2005 at Beaver Meadow in Concord, N H? I remember a couple days before the event started I ran into a caddy who was out measuring the course. When I asked him who he was working for he said “Virada.” Back then I had no idea who she was but I quickly learned.
    All of my pro caddy friends have been fired by various players several times over the years. You are right, if you don’t love what you’re doing it can be a very frustrating occupation.
    I remember meeting Pornanong when she was a rookie on the Futures Tour, probably 17 or 18 years old at the time. She looked about 13 and I thought she must have been some player’s younger sister. She is a sweetheart and I’m happy that she has had a nice career on the LPGA.
    Almost all of the players I have met have been very nice. I admire them all for their skills and determination in what can be a brutal game. I was inspired to write a novel and a screenplay about a young player trying to make it from the Symetra Tour to the LPGA. A producer friend in Hollywood is still pitching the screenplay, but it’s a long shot
    Best of luck this year in what has become a very unusual season, to say the least.
    Keep her in the short grass!!

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