Who’s your caddie?

Mark McGowan
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Aaron Crawford (Photo by Marjie Callaghan/PGA TOUR)

It’s hard to get too excited about an opening round of two-under and a tie for 41st place on the PGA Tour. Even when you’ve beaten both Koepkas by one, Tommy Fleetwood by two, and Dustin Johnson by nine.

But Aaron Crawford is a name to watch out for this week for a couple of reasons. The 25-year-old Calgary native is making his first start on the PGA Tour having topped the field with a sublime 63 at the Monday qualifier in which he was required to birdie the final hole and duly delivered. But what’s more interesting is that Crawford already had a tee-time scheduled for Thursday at the 3M Open.

You see, despite being an incredibly talented player – nobody shoots 63 in a Monday qualifier otherwise – Crawford’s week-to-week employment is as caddie to fellow professional Martin Trainer, and he had travelled to Minneapolis as Trainer’s bagman. And Monday’s events threw a wrench into those plans.

Crawford estimates that he’s gone down the Monday route 10 or 11 times before, safe in the knowledge that a loop awaited him if he failed. But the entry fees to Monday qualifiers range from $200 to $400 and the quality fields that assemble regularly feature players with multiple PGA Tour victories. $400 is a sizeable outlay if you’re earning $1500 – generally regarded as standard for a week’s work on Tour – and are responsible for your own expenses. Caddies can earn great money, but they need their players to be successful first.

Unwritten rules dictate that most players will give a five percent cut of winnings to their caddie if they make the cut, seven percent if they finish in the top ten, and a ten percent cut if they win the tournament. But a missed cut means no pay cheque, and a five percent share of that is worth damn all.

Martin Trainer has been having a rough year. In 18 PGA Tour starts, he’s had a weekend tee-time on two occasions, with one of those coming in the 34-man field at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, where he finished in last place in the no-cut event. This amounts to on curse earnings of $89,482 of which his caddie could reasonably expect less than $5,000.

No wonder he’s keen to get in on the action himself.

Of course, Crawford’s golfing pedigree has been recognised on the mini-tours with several Outlaw Tour wins to his name, but this is his first time dining at the top table. And though the dynamic may be different this time, he’s unlikely to be star struck by the big names in the event as he’ll be relatively familiar with them all anyway.

And Crawford has never been a caddie who just carries a bag. A former Major Series of Putting champion, he reads every single putt for his employer who refers to him as “one of the best putters I’ve ever seen”.

In the late scramble for both players to hire new caddies, Trainer enlisted a golf.com reporter, while Crawford’s father has flown in to carry his son’s bag.

Sure to be a week he’ll never forget, perhaps Crawford’s biggest dilemma will be whether to shun his old mates in the caddyshack and peer down from the luxurious surroundings of the player dining and locker-room areas.

A big decision when you know you might be back on the bag next week.

Oh, and just for good measure, he beat his boss by six in round one.

 

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