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 third entry.
What’s the biggest difference between caddying on the LPGA versus the PGA Tour, besides the money?
That’s probably the one question I’m most often asked. Well, aside from the obvious — caddying for women versus men, which I could write an entire column about — it’s the amount of international travel, Asia specifically.
The LPGA Tour is truly a global tour, with 34 of the top 50 players in the world rankings coming from outside the United States. As a result, the tour played 13 of its 32 tournaments this past season in different countries, because in places like Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and Japan, women’s golf is more popular than men’s golf. Many of the top Asian players are like rock stars in their native countries, with their faces plastered across billboards, all over TV ads and they’re often mobbed like top PGA Tour players for autographs and selfies.
As a result, LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan, being a smart leader, has decided to bring the tour where the money and interest is.
And that’s how we get to what I consider a big perk of being a LPGA caddie: the travel.
If you like traveling, seeing the world and racking up the frequent-flier miles, it doesn’t get any better than experiencing those cultures on your player’s dime. Most players pay for your international flights because we get paid significantly less than PGA Tour caddies.
In my 10 years of caddying, I have traveled to the following countries:
- Canada (8 times)
- Korea (5)
- Bahamas (4)
- France (4)
- China (4)
- Australia (3)
- Japan (3)
- England (2)
- Thailand (2)
- Singapore (2)
- Mexico (1)
- Scotland (1)
- Taiwan (1)
- New Zealand (1)
I recently returned from the tour’s Asia Swing, spending six consecutive weeks in the following countries, before returning to Naples, Fla., for the CME Tour Championship:
- Korea (2 weeks)
- China (1 week)
- Thailand (1 week; off week because my player did not play the Taiwan event, so it was easier to stay in Asia versus flying to the United States and then back to Japan six days later)
- Japan (1 week)
- China (1 week)
Just writing that list made me think: I can’t believe how many places I’ve been. It’s amazing to have experienced so many different countries and cultures.
In contrast, my brother is almost 50 and has only been to Canada.
Nevertheless, at the end of the day, caddying in a foreign country is still a job, so it is often very similar to the States in that the routine is the same: golf course-hotel, golf course-hotel, etc. It doesn’t matter that we’re halfway around the world, the job and expectations are still the same. Yeah, there’s a ton of travel, but it’s not a vacation.
Not being much of a sightseer, I pretty much just enjoy local restaurants and bars. In addition to enjoying foreign food, I also like foreign beer, as I do not drink American beer overseas. And just so you know, Fosters is not served — it’s simply an American marketing ploy. You would be laughed at ordering it Down Under.
Speaking of beer, a fun thing offered at the Evian Championship in France is a Heineken Beer Garden, adjacent to the putting and chipping green, which serves free beer pretty much all day, Monday-Sunday. Of course, many caddies — and even some players — can be found enjoying a beverage or five.
It’s not the ideal combination — free beer and caddies — but nonetheless, “most” are on their best behavior and a good time is had by all.
There are a lot of things that might surprise you about all that international travel. First, and foremost, is that most of these countries we visit are more English-friendly than you would think — especially with technology such as Google translate. Many signs are not only in the native language, but also English.
And, more people speak English than you’d think in other countries. Additionally, a majority of the countries are very warm, welcoming, friendly and helpful.
I know one big stumbling block for a lot of people when it comes to traveling outside their comfort zone is food.
I’m here to tell you – forget about it.
If you don’t like Asian cuisine – and don’t knock the authentic stuff until you’ve tried it, because chances are you’ve only experienced the Americanized versions – never fear, as many American staples, such as McDonald’s, Starbucks, Burger King, Subway and Kentucky Fried Chicken, among others, are available throughout most of the countries I have visited.
In fact the first thing I saw when I landed in the Seoul, Korea, airport in 2005 was a Dunkin’ Donuts.
Many places have a picture menu to order from, to help if there’s a language barrier. And yes, most taste just like they do in the States.
But if you’re like me and you enjoy trying different foods, you realize how much healthier most countries eat versus the United States. That really is eye-opening. And you can see the difference in the shape of the people overseas. Most of the food is made from scratch, freshly prepared and not fried. In countries like Korea and Japan, you can cook the fine cuts of meat right at your table on a small gas grill.
I haven’t eaten anything alive, moving or that stares back and smiles at me, if that’s what you’re wondering. Cooking yourself at your table is the most unique thing to me. It’s kind of a mini hibachi restaurant-like experience, like in the States.
One funny mistake I do remember making, though, came in a Korean McDonald’s, believe it or not. I can remember ordering a green milkshake, thinking it was a mint Shamrock Shake, like they have around St. Patrick’s Day in the States, only to discover it was green-tea flavored.
Definitely not the same.
Let me tell you this, too — international airlines put the American airline industry to shame. The service is top notch, most flights — even as short as 1-2 hours — serve some type of meal, and some airlines will even allow you to take an earlier flight… FOR FREE!
With all the international travel, there is one issue that no one enjoys and that’s jet lag. While I try and stay on the same sleep schedule weekly, based on the time zone, in the end, sleep is sleep. So, I recommend listening to your body and sleeping when tired — even if it means lying wide awake at 2 a.m. — because some sleep is better than no sleep.
During that recent six-week Asian Swing I mentioned earlier, my player (Pornanong Phatlum) asked if I missed home. My answer might surprise a lot of people.
No, I didn’t. And it was for a number of reasons: I liked the food; liked the people and cultures; did not feel foreign in most foreign lands, as many were very hospitable; and because of how divisive our country has become under the current administration, I felt more at peace and at ease overseas.