Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Inside the mind of a caddy: The bag men behind the world's top golfers

By Matt Majendie, for CNN
March 27, 2014 -- Updated 1300 GMT (2100 HKT)
The relationship between caddy and golfer is akin to a marriage, according to some. The relationship between caddy and golfer is akin to a marriage, according to some.
HIDE CAPTION
Love and marriage...
Kiwi caddy king
Bag switch
Major success
Together we stand
Euro stars
Taking a chance
Best buddies
Enjoying the spoils
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Steve Williams, former caddy of Tiger Woods, reveals secrets of being a great golfing bag man
  • Williams has helped win 150 tournaments, but retirement looms this year
  • Ian Poulter's bag man Terry Mundy only became a caddy after a conversation in a pub
  • Mundy says caddies can still sometimes be treated like second-class citizens at events

Follow us at @WorldSportCNN and like us on Facebook

(CNN) -- They carry a bag for a living but these men can bring home six-figure incomes. They often spend more time with their bosses than their wives, and their working "marriages" can end in a messy divorce.

Welcome to the world of a caddy -- the golf world's unsung heroes.

At the top of the pile is Steve Williams, arguably the one superstar caddy in global golf, a bag man who has earned well in excess of most professionals thanks predominantly to his past partnership with Tiger Woods.

His wealth is estimated at $20 million and he was once New Zealand's highest-paid sportsman.

It has been enough to pursue his other, admittedly expensive, sporting passion of saloon-car racing with his own team, appropriately titled Caddyshack. He also founded his own racing series, which he funds, and does about 25 events a year.

Golf mythbusters: Spinning with the wedge
Is Matt Fitzpatrick ready for the Masters?
Henrik Stenson's $20 million year

But how has he merited such big bucks? Well, 36 years into his career he has overseen 150 tournament wins -- more than any other caddy in golf history.

Now working for defending Masters champion Adam Scott, Williams argues that key to his job is the ability to understand people.

"You can teach someone to do the yardage and read the course but being a good caddy, it's not easy to explain," says the 50-year-old, who previously worked for major champions Greg Norman and Ray Floyd.

"It's almost like you have to stand in a player's shoes, see what they're seeing and feel what they're feeling, to be them."

Before Williams, caddies were very much behind the scenes -- but no longer.

When with Woods, he described his arch rival Phil Mickelson as a "pr***" and he was castigated for a racist barb against his former employer some time after the 14-time major champion had fired him. And then there was his over-the-top celebration and interview when Scott won the pair's first tournament together.

Other caddies have been the subject of controversy too.

En route to Matt Every's victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last weekend -- where Scott and Williams blew a winning position on the final day -- the American's caddy Derek Mason was caught on camera shouting "f***ing lay-up" after a particular shot.

Williams clams up when asked about his relationship with Woods but he will always be known for his time with the world No. 1 -- hardly surprising given the American won 13 of his 14 major wins with the Kiwi in tow.

Read: Woods - Don't rule me out of the Masters yet

"You almost have to teach yourself the psychology side of things," explains Williams, who is extremely affable in conversation. "I think I'm a good reader of people -- you have to be able to observe people over a long period of time.

"You need to see how they cope under pressure and you have to see them at both their best and worst to see how they tick."

In caddying terms, Williams is something of an anomaly.

Most admit to stumbling into the job, but for Williams it was different.

While friends at his stunning local course -- Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club -- dreamed of being the next Peter Thompson, the five-time British Open winner from Australia, the teenage Williams merely wanted to caddy for him ... and got his chance, the first time he ever carried the bag.

Now, with potential retirement looming, Williams plans to either give up altogether at the end of this season or else do the job part-time so he can spend more time with his eight-year-old son in New Zealand.

"You have to keep your enthusiasm and find ways to keep refreshed. You can get that by changing jobs or in one job by changing your goals," he says.

"I've been lucky that I've caddied for players that haven't played loads of tournaments in each year.

"And it's been interesting working with different players. I think it takes six to 12 months to adapt properly to a player, to learn their idiosyncrasies.

"It just doesn't happen overnight but, if you do it properly, that's when you can help best when the chips are down. And the other trick is that you're always trying to improve."

American golfer John Daly carded the worst round of his colorful pro career at the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship, signing for a 19-over-par 90. American golfer John Daly carded the worst round of his colorful pro career at the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship, signing for a 19-over-par 90.
Golf's 'Wild Thing'
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
Golf\'s \'Wild Thing\' Golf's 'Wild Thing'
Rory McIlroy watches a tee shot during his third round at the Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club. Rory McIlroy watches a tee shot during his third round at the Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club.
McIlroy chases Dubai title
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
McIlroy chases Dubai title McIlroy chases Dubai title
Olivia Prokopova is the young star of minigolf. The Czech 18-year-old has won two Masters titles -- giving her more green jackets than Tiger Woods had at the same age. Olivia Prokopova is the young star of minigolf. The Czech 18-year-old has won two Masters titles -- giving her more green jackets than Tiger Woods had at the same age.
Teen queen of crazy golf
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
The crazy world of minigolf The crazy world of minigolf

Terry Mundy may not have enjoyed the riches of Williams as a caddy but, having worked for former women's world No.1 Laura Davies and with his current partnership with 2012 European Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter, he has enjoyed the job's trappings.

He has also experienced the lot of many caddies scraping around to make ends meet on the global circuit.

"I remember it used to be four of us to a room sometimes sharing two towels or whatever," he says.

"It's tough. You go to those flyaway tournaments and you're easily spending $1,000 on a flight and then there's the hotel. If your player misses the cut, you're out of pocket for that week. That can be tough but I'm lucky with Ian."

The Briton's foray into the role was somewhat fortuitous. Drinking in his local pub by Woburn golf course one day, he was asked to stand in for a sick caddy. The round went well and he was invited back.

Not long afterwards he was offered voluntary redundancy in his printing industry job and he took the plunge to become a caddy full-time.

"It's a lot better but it's still not quite where it should be," says Mundy.

"At many of the American courses you get treated fantastically well but at others it's a case of 'what are you doing here?' and you're made to feel like you're getting in the way.

"It's odd as you'll get some caddies turning up in $80,000 to $100,000 cars and yet they're treated like idiots."

As for the trick to be a good caddy, Mundy argues he has to play many different roles.

"A caddy's a little bit of everything: you can be a coach, a psychologist, you're there to keep the good rounds going and to turn the bad ones around, you're there to offer advice, be a friend, a bit of everything. But at the end of the day I can't make him play."

Patrick Reed becomes youngest WGC winner
ASU's life lessons for budding golfers
Could there ever be a golf World Tour?

One key piece of caddy advice is not to fall out with your boss, which is understandable given Mundy says "we spend more time together than we do with our wives probably."

Chris Harmston is slightly lower down the caddying rung than Williams and Mundy in the relative infancy of his bag career, which began when his once promising playing days were curtailed by back and wrist injuries.

He caddies for Englishman Ross Fisher, for whom he was the best man at his wedding.

It is a fledgling partnership in its second full season that is clearly working, the pair having celebrated victory at the European Tour's Tshwane Open in South Africa this month.

"After Ross' win the other day, I heard him say that 'no one knows my game better than Chris,' and he's probably right as we've played for so long together," says Harmston. "As friends, it makes it even more special to win together.

"With Ross, I like to take a step back and think what's the worst can happen in a situation and, if I have something to say, Ross will listen.

"He knows at the end of the day I'm there to help and he's in charge so, if he doesn't like the decision, he won't listen to it.

"But there's the balance of knowing when to shut up and also knowing when to take a player's mind off things -- just to talk about anything, really, as you're going around. There's an element of being an amateur psychologist to it."

Caddies are, in essence, the ultimate multitaskers -- but with a shelf life, very much at the whim of the players they work for.

"Often if a player is in a slump, they think the answer is to switch caddies," says Mundy. "That's not usually the answer.

"You look at a lot of the top guys, like Phil Mickelson with his caddy Bones. Those players are pretty honest guys and they stick with their caddies, and usually see the benefits.

"The best players tend to have the longer caddy relationships."

It's those guys that are worth their weight in gold.

Read: Adam Scott wins Masters

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
It's a big dilemma: Be with your wife for the birth of your first child, or stay at work and try to earn $11 million. For Billy Horschel, it's a no-brainer.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1140 GMT (1940 HKT)
She's just 19 but Hyo Joo Kim is already showing she's ready for the big time after recording the lowest ever round at a major championship.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Masters champion Bubba Watson says winning the $10 million FedEx Cup jackpot would bring forward his retirement from the game.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1131 GMT (1931 HKT)
EVIAN-LES-BAINS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 15: A view of the 14th green during the third round of The Evian Championship at the Evian Resort Golf Club on September 15, 2013 in Evian-les-Bains, France. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
The world's top women golfers will be chasing a $3.25 million prize purse at one of the most stunning courses on the LPGA Tour.
September 3, 2014 -- Updated 1219 GMT (2019 HKT)
Tom Watson selects Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson as his wildcard picks for the Ryder Cup contest with Europe.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1352 GMT (2152 HKT)
Ian Poulter kept Europe clinging on in their Ryder Cup battle with the United States in Chicago.
Ian Poulter, who has constantly haunted the U.S. in Ryder Cup golf, is back after being chosen as a wildcard by European captain Paul McGinley.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1540 GMT (2340 HKT)
Tiger Woods has split with his longtime coach Sean Foley after not winning a major during their four-year tenure.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 1105 GMT (1905 HKT)
Success just keeps on coming for Rory McIlroy, but the world No. 1 is already targeting more titles following his second PGA Championship win.
August 8, 2014 -- Updated 1424 GMT (2224 HKT)
From Seve's "spine-shivering" moment to Jack Nicklaus' "perfect explosion," David Cannon has captured many of golf's defining images.
August 7, 2014 -- Updated 1320 GMT (2120 HKT)
They came home as casualties of war -- physically shattered and mentally broken. But golf is proving to be an unlikely salvation for U.S. veterans.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1231 GMT (2031 HKT)
You are the one hitting the shots, but the man standing over your shoulder could hold the key to your golfing destiny.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
PINEHURST, NC - JUNE 10: Rory McIlroy (R) of Northern Ireland talks with his dad Gerry McIlroy (L) during a practice round prior to the start of the 114th U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, Course No. 2 on June 10, 2014 in Pinehurst, North Carolina. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
He has been there for all three of his son's major wins, but the latest triumph may well have been the sweetest yet for Rory McIlroy's father.
ADVERTISEMENT