The relationship between golfer and caddie is one of sport’s most delicate balancing acts.
As well as providing guidance on how various courses play, helping with club selection and reading greens, caddies need to be psychologically perceptive in saying the right thing at the right time to their employer.
But when the relationship breaks down things can turn ugly – as US golfer Matt Kuchar is finding to his cost.
The American is ranked 10th on the PGA Tour’s all-time money list and has earned more than $46 million, but he’s been forced to defend his payment of a few thousand dollars to stand-in caddie David Ortiz after winning last year’s Mayakoba Classic in Mexico.
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The Mexican caddie, known locally as “El Tucan,” had accused the golfer of not paying him his fair share of the $1,296,000 winnings.
Ortiz believes he is entitled to at least $50,000 for helping Kuchar win his first PGA Tour title for more than four years.
Kuchar told GOLF.com Wednesday that he is “sad” and “disappointed” that the negativity surrounding the payment has overshadowed what was a great win.
“I kind of think someone got in his ear,” Kuchar said. “I was very clear and very upfront on Tuesday [the first day of the tournament] and he said ‘OK.’
“He had the ability, with bonuses, to make up to $4,000.”
Kuchar explained that he would pay Ortiz $4,000 if he came inside the top 10. “The extra $1,000 was, ‘Thank you, it was a great week,’” he said.
“Those were the terms. He was in agreement with those terms. That’s where I struggle. I don’t know what happened. Someone must have said: ‘You need much more.’”
The American’s regular tour caddie, John Wood, was unavailable due to Kuchar’s last-minute decision to play in the Mexican tournament.
The caddie of a winning golfer on the PGA Tour can expect to receive about 10% of his earnings, and although Ortiz knew he wouldn’t receive that much, he wants more than the $5,000 Kuchar paid him.
Ortiz told GOLF.com that Kuchar’s camp eventually offered him an extra $15,000 – taking his total to $20,000 – but turned it down as he felt it didn’t match his own valuation.
Ortiz typically makes up to $200 a day as a caddie at El Camaleon Golf Club, Playa del Carmen, where November’s Mayakoba Classic was held.
Kuchar’s agent Mark Steinberg wasn’t immediately available for comment.
The PGA Tour website lists Kuchar as supporting three charities and that he “focuses his charitable efforts on helping children with serious illnesses and other issues live fuller lives.”
Ortiz was also not immediately available for comment.