With a goal of raising the incomes of even low-profile caddies, the European Tour Caddies Association worked with the tour to build a caddie-specific sponsorship program starting this year.
Golf caddies work a job that’s simultaneously behind the scenes and in front of the cameras—supporting professional players who are often major stars, but never overwhelmingly attracting the spotlight themselves.
And the work, while often difficult, doesn’t pay much—certainly nowhere near as good as being a golfer, who not only wins prize money but gets access to sponsorships. (Caddies, generally, only get a small cut of the prize money.) But a new agreement worked out with one of their supporting associations could change all that.
The European Tour Caddies Association recently agreed to a deal with the European Tour that will allow the caddies to be paid, through ETCA, to have a logo on items associated with their trade, such as a hat, bag strap, towel, or other tools.
But the goal is not to benefit the caddies of major stars, says the association, but those working lower down the world rankings. Speaking to The New York Times, ETCA Chairman Sean Russell noted that when expenses are taken into account, the work doesn’t pay much.
“This is not for the guy who caddies for the seventh-ranked player in the world, since he does very nicely,” Russell, a professional caddie, told the newspaper. “This is for the guy who caddies for the 157th-ranked player. If you do the math, that caddie probably earned 12,000 euros (about $13,000) in bonus payments over the fixed fee for the week that covers expenses. If you’re earning a 12,000-euro bonus you’d be better off stacking shelves.”
In comments to Forbes, ETCA committee member Oliver Briggs noted the job comes with major challenges for caddies, who work as independent contractors for individual players, rather than for the tour.
“The inconsistency on the job can provide challenges for people who are married with kids and a mortgage,” Briggs said. “If you are working with a player who goes through a barren spell things can get a little bit tight.”
In efforts to fix this problem, the group worked with the association to set guidelines for sponsorship for its 130 members, which could provide more consistent income not affected by win-loss cycles.
“It has always been the idea of the association to provide a secondary source of income for caddies,” Briggs added.
Russell added that the dynamic for caddies has changed significantly in recent years, making sponsorship a viable option, as now caddies have social media followings they did not have in the past.
“The crucial way to earn more money is to exploit our presence, since we’re very visible,” he told the Times.