If a player makes it to the PGA Tour, they’re obviously gifted.
But talent and personality are two entirely different things. Just because someone is a great golfer doesn’t necessarily mean they’re an exemplary person.
On a recent ‘Under the Strap,’ podcast, caddie Don Donatello – of Big Break Season II: Las Vegas fame – shared the story of the greatest “person” he’s caddied for.
That person was Webb Simpson.
Donatello’s stint with the now a six-time PGA Tour winner and 2012 U.S. Open champion lasted only one week in 2010 at the Wyndham Championship (the same event Simpson would get his first career Tour win a year later).
If it weren’t for the person that Simpson is, Donatello explained, that weeklong stint may not have even lasted that long.
“I worked one week for Webb Simpson,” Donatello explained. “I’ll make this story really quick. Thursday (the day the first round started), I get a call in the morning from Webb asking where his clubs were. I’m thinking, ‘Oh, well, maybe he wants to get there early and practice before we tee off,’ and I say, ‘hey, they’re down in the bag room.’ We’re at Greensboro. Last tournament of the year. I said, ‘I’ll be there in about 30 minutes or so.’”
No big deal, Donatello thought…
… Until the words he heard Simpson utter next.
“He goes, ‘You know we go off in an hour, right?’ I go, ‘what are you talking about?’ He goes, ‘yeah, we go off in an hour.’ I go, ‘Oh, my God. I’ll be right there,’” Donatello said.
Talk about the dreaded words a caddie never wants to hear. No one would have knocked Simpson had he fired Donatello on the spot or – at the very least – given him a stern talking to for the tee time mix up.
That, however, just wasn’t Simpson’s style.
Instead, this is how he handled his new caddie…
“He goes, ‘Don’t worry. Take your time. I’m going to putt and be on the driving range,’” said Donatello, still sounding stunned about Simpson’s calm demeanor all these years later.
Even though Simpson didn’t give Donatello a hard time, the caddie still wasn’t looking forward to what he knew was awaiting him on the range upon arrival.
“I show up. Everybody is looking at me – ‘can’t believe you showed up late your first day ever working for somebody,’” Donatello remembered. Yet, it didn’t faze Simpson. “He said, ‘Don’t worry. I’m going to shoot 66 today. Everything’s OK.’ Damn if he didn’t shoot 66.”
It was a great start for Simpson, who needed a strong finish that week to advance to the PGA Tour Playoffs. The next three days he went 64-71-63 to tie for eighth – one of two top 10s that year – and made it to the playoffs.
“I only worked for Webb one week, but for a guy to be like that and the way he treated me every single day – knowing that I showed up late the first day and it was my first week – that’s a class act,” Donatello said.
In 2011, Simpson would link up with Paul Tesori who he has been with ever since.
You can listen to the complete podcast with Donatello and Kip Henley in the player at the top of the page, or find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and Stitcher by searching “Caddie Network.”