Good caddies say the right things when the chips are down and ease the pressure on golfers. Stan Rayan on their vital role in the sport
Lugging heavy bags, some weighing nearly 25kg, they walk all over the course, from hole to hole, dripping sweat and taking in the hot sun. A caddie’s life can be tough but some break out of the shell and make it big as a golfer.
But for most of them, life is a monotonous circle with years of toil. However, a good caddie can be a golfer’s best friend, a man he can trust, somebody he can depend on in times of trouble.
“He’s definitely someone I trust a lot and one of the biggest reasons he travels with me on the tour is because of the trust factor,” says Delhi golfer Manav Jaini, who plays on the Asian Tour, about his long-time caddie Chandan Kumar. “He’s like a friend to me. I discuss a lot of my golfing problems that we are facing on a day-to-day basis with him. He probably has the most intricate details about my game than anybody else.”
Rajan Kumar, who has caddied for the seasoned Mukesh Kumar for more than 20 years and had played a major role in his 100 and more victories on the Indian tour, says that a good caddie can be a friend, advisor and also a motivator.
“When things get tough, a caddie can be of great help. He can read the mind of his golfer very well and ease the pressure on him,” says Rajan, from Mhow in Madhya Pradesh, who has also been a caddie for top stars like Ali Sher and Vijay Kumar.
When Rajan began as a caddie around 30 years ago, he used to get 25 paise for nine holes and 50 for 18 holes. Now, caddies often work on a commission basis and get around 10 per cent of what a golfer earns, apart from paid travel and stay while on tours. A successful golfer’s caddie earns something like Rs. 5 lakh every year.
“Chandan is worth a lot more than that 10 per cent,” says Manav. “I was a sub-junior when Chandan started caddying for me. As a young kid out on the golf course, there’s not much to look forward to. You look for some kind of entertainment that the caddie provides, some sort of jokes, some sort of anecdotes, info on other players and things like that. He was an entertaining character and one of his biggest positives is that he is very dependable. Ever since I was a kid, the minute I walk into the golf course, I could leave all my belongings with him, I never had to worry about anything. He used to pretty much take my golf bag till I got into the golf course, even till date, he has my car keys. The car is his little store room where he keeps everything and manages it.”
Golfer Anil Bajrang Mane, for whom Rajan now works, was a ball picker and a caddie himself before he turned a pro. But Rajan, despite his rich experience as a caddie, did not think of becoming a golfer.
“I could not afford it…and Mukesh also told me that my life would be good if I stayed with him. He has won a lot of titles,” says Rajan. Money was also the main reason that kept Chandan away from becoming a golfer.
But there are younger guys, like Bangalore caddie G.N. Basavaraju, who pick up a lot of lessons from top golfers.
“I’ve been a caddie for the last eight years and I’ve been playing golf for the last four years,” said Basavaraju, the caddie for India’s top golfer Anirban Lahiri at the Cochin Masters.
“That’s why I came here… for experience,” said Basavaraju who also caddies for S. Chikkarangappa at Bangalore’s Eagleton Golf Club. “They can inspire you. They have also taught me how to read the line and a lot of other things.”