Caddie stories: Good gifts, epic walk-offs and firing by text

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The relationship between caddies and players has never gotten more attention. You can thank Matt Kuchar and the controversy surrounding his initial payment of $5,000 to fill-in caddie David “El Tucan” Ortiz after Kuchar won the Mayakoba Classic in November. Kuchar, who took home $1,296,000, eventually got around to giving Ortiz a bigger cut by sending him a check for $50,000.

You think that’s the only crazy story about players and caddies? Well, get comfortable because here come some great caddie-player stories — some good (gifts), some bad (quitting), some you won’t believe (firings). While I usually give the player and caddie anonymity — that’s why we call our regular feature “Caddie Confidential” — we’re coming here with real names and faces. Well, there might be one anonymous tale in the bunch.

Generous gifts

What happened with Kuchar and Oritz is more exception than rule. Plenty of caddies told me of players gifting them Rolex or Omega watches. The caddies held onto those even after parting ways with their bosses. But here are the best gifts PGA Tour pros have bestowed upon the guys lugging their bags:

Ladden “Laddie” Cline
“Arjun Atwal bought me a really nice 1999 Lexus G300. It was sweet. My ex-girlfriend totaled it. I miss that car.”

Duane “The Calves” Bock
“Kevin Kisner gave me a fully decked-out Ford F-150! It was his, so he had it customized with all the bells and whistles. He knew I was driving this older car, so he just gave it to me. So cool.”

Ted Scott
“Bubba Watson bought both my wife and me a car!”
Bubba: “Yeah, two Lexus, but he [Scott] made me buy used ones!”
Scott (smiling, nodding): “Yeah, my wife wasn’t crazy about that, but it’s true.”

Mark “Fooch” Fulcher
Note: Fulcher is recovering from surgery, so this one comes from the guy who gave the gift — Justin Rose
“It’s true [when asked if he bought Fulcher a BMW M5]. We won a tournament a few years back, and I had acted like a complete [jerk] on the course that week, so I wanted to do something nice for him. You want [to] hear something funny? I’m driving his car to and from the [the Arnold Palmer Invitational].”

Brian Reed
In 2010, Troy Merritt and caddie Brian Reed won the season-long $1 million Kodak Challenge in a playoff after the Disney tournament finished. Merritt made the cut and finished T-30. That might seem insignificant, but that result at the final event of the year meant Merritt finished 125th on the money list, making him the last man to keep his full playing privileges for the 2011 PGA Tour season. That, plus the $1 million from the Kodak Challenge, gave Merritt the idea to do something extra special for Reed.

“Troy says to me at the car late on Sunday eve, ‘I’ve been talking to my uncle who’s in money management. I want to give you $50,000 in cash and then set up two $25,000 college funds for your daughters.’ How could a 23-year-old pro golfer think of that? But that’s just how great a guy Troy is.”

The anonymous caddie
“My guy says to me, ‘What’s your mortgage payment every month?’ I thought that was strange, but I told him. Then he goes, ‘Send me your payment book so I can see something.’ Next thing I know I get a letter from the bank saying the house is paid off completely!”

The caddie wouldn’t tell me the exact number, but when I asked if there were five zeros behind the first number, he blushed and nodded yes.

Side note: It was not Y.E. Yang and AJ Montecinos. Yang never paid AJ’s house off as promised. Yang was also never heard from again after beating Tiger Woods at the 2009 PGA Championship. Karma?

That’s it — I’m done

There are two epic walk-offs that have become the stories of caddie lore. Both are true. One has a sad beginning because unfortunately the caddie, Randy Phelps, who was a friend, committed suicide in January 2010. The second, for now, has a sad ending because the player and caddie have yet to sit and have a laugh about it.

Brenden Pappas and Randy Phelps
On Friday, June 11, 2004, at the Buick Classic, Pappas and caddie Phelps had been working together for 18 months. The relationship had become strained, to say the least. It came to a head on the 15th green, where Pappas asked Phelps to read the putt. Phelps misread the putt. It was not his first misread of the round. Pappas made an offhand remark about the caddie’s green-reading skills.

Phelps snapped back, angrily strode to the golf bag, took his caddie bib off, hung it on the gallery rope and stormed off. That was it. He quit right there while uttering some choice words for his now-former boss on the way out.

That wasn’t the end of it because Phelps got to his car in the caddie parking area and had another small meltdown. Why? He had left his car keys in the golf bag.

I texted Pappas just to make sure this was actually how this all went down.

“Yes. I gave him keys and a two-week severance paycheck.”

(Full disclosure: I also caddied for Pappas — before Phelps — and he was a groomsman in my wedding. We remain close to this day.)

Jay Williamson and Mike “Buddha” Mollet

These two names will be linked forever because this is how fast things can go south.

Williamson and Mollet make a Sunday charge at the 2007 Travelers Championship. Williamson, with Mollet on the bag, birdies three of the last four holes to get into a playoff with Hunter Mahan, which Mahan wins. But Williamson and Mollet proceed to finish T-20, T-67 and T-28 the next three weeks. By the fifth straight week together, though, the nerves are frayed, and the water is boiling.

This all leads to the first round of the Canadian Open at Angus Glen Golf Club’s North Course and the par 3, 151-yard 14th hole.

Now, let’s let Mollet tell the story: “[Jay] blamed me on the wind direction. I pointed at the flag on the last hole. He wouldn’t turn and look at it because he knew he was wrong. It was a trap-pull 9 iron is really what it was. He had hit the shot a little long. He was standing in the bunker, but his ball was out of [the bunker]. So he had to squeeze the steel [grip down to the shaft]. So he chips it up there, and he’s got, like, a 20-footer for par.

“I put the towel out, and he slaps the ball in my hand, and he says to me, ‘Can you get me and my bag to the clubhouse, please?’ I looked at him and said, ‘Bro, if you didn’t still owe me $4,800 from the John Deere [Classic], I’d be throwing your bag in the water on the next tee.’

“If I throw his bag in the water, [the PGA Tour] is going to ban me. Then, on the next hole, I decided that I’d had enough. And I threw all his [golf] balls in the water. He kind of made a couple of fists, and I was like, ‘Let’s go, man!’

“When I threw his balls in the water on the 15th tee box, I started to walk in. I had gotten about 20 yards toward the clubhouse, but I wasn’t done yet. I hadn’t given him my parting shot. So I turned around and told him he was a double-bogey away from being in a straitjacket and that he was right up there with [another former PGA Tour pro known to be a bit off].

“I walked right in to the rules officials trailer and said, ‘I want you to know that Jay Williamson and I have just parted ways on the 15th tee box.’

“He goes ‘Well, is there anything else I should know about?’

“I said, ‘Well, I did throw his balls in the water.’

“He kind of looked at me and goes, ‘Well, how many does he have left?’

“I go … ‘Just the one in his hand. I couldn’t get that one from him!’

“He just started laughing. When Jay finished [he made it the last four holes with that one golf ball], we had a three-way pow-wow.”

Did Williamson and Mollet make up?

Again, here’s Mollet: “I did try and shake his hand the next week in Reno. I walked up to him on the putting green in front of everybody and said, ‘Hey, me and you, we’re still going to have the same office. We’re gonna see each other every day. So we might as well just do this and get it over with now.’

“I stuck my hand out, and he didn’t want to shake my hand. I said, ‘This is the last time. I’m not sticking it out again.’ He said, ‘I’m not ready for this.’ I walked away from him.”

The two ended up shaking hands the following year at the Sony Open. A couple years ago, Mollet reached out to Williamson when they were both in St. Louis.

“I text him,” Mollet said. “I said, ‘Hey, man, what do you say you and me go have a burger and a beer, hash it out and have some laughs?’ He said the same thing to me: ‘I just don’t think that would be good.’ I said, ‘It’s been seven years, Jay!’ He was like, ‘Yeah, probably not a great thing.’ I said, ‘All right, man, well I tried.'”

All these years later, Mollet still gets emotional about all this.

“I want that [meeting] to happen. You don’t understand. I really wanted that to happen,” Mollet says, his voice cracking a little. “And I don’t care if somebody writes a story about it or whatever. I just think it’d be a great ending to it.”

This week, Williamson said he’s ready to laugh about it and would happily go for a burger and beer with Mollet.

So about that text …

D.A. Points and Mike Darby
After missing the cut at the last event of the 2017 season, D.A. Points and his caddie Mike Darby are in the scoring trailer at The RSM Classic when Points tells his caddie that he wants to hit a few balls because he felt something in his swing.

Now, from Darby: “He had just made [eagle]. It doesn’t matter. We had missed the cut by a [lot]. But he’s like, ‘I just want to hit a few balls.’ And I’m like, ‘Sure, D.A., of course!’ He never practiced too, too much. He’s smart [about practice].”

Caddie and player get to the driving range. Everything gets set up. D.A. hands his caddie his cellphone and asks that Darby video a few swings.

As the caddie is filming, a text from Points’ wife, Lori, appears on the screen.

Now, there are two versions of what the text said, but neither is good for Darby.

According to Points: “Did you fire Darby yet?” According to Darby: “Have you talked to Darby yet?”

“Just because of the situation, I knew exactly what that meant,” Darby said. “The one-line question. We all know what that means, and things had been tense for a while.

“So I saw the message, and I said, ‘Oh hey, D.A., you got a text message from your wife, and it says, “Have you talked to Darby yet?”‘ And you could tell by his reaction, he gets kind of antsy and kind of dodges the subject. The we pack up and he says, ‘OK, well I’m going to go unpack my locker, and I’ll meet you at the car.’

“It was a very quick practice session. Luckily, I handled it very well. I thought I was going to flip out or throw a tantrum. But nothing good ever comes from that. One caddie walked by as we started to have the conversation, and I think I barked at him ‘not now’ and looked at him with the killer eyes. He walked away.

“[At the car], we had the conversation. So I’m like, ‘All right, what’d you want to talk about?’ And, you know, they give you the speech. I was shaking I was so mad, but I said, ‘You know what? Fair enough. We’ve known each other a long time. We’re not getting results.

“‘How about this — you and I earned Maui [Tournament of Champions, a no-cut event in which last place gets $75,000, and it’s a great paycheck for the caddie]. Let’s go to that tournament as friends, and after that, we’ll go our separate ways.’ And he goes, “Ah, Darbs, I’m sorry. I already promised that week to [another caddie]. We’re going use it as a warm-up week.’

“So my Tournament of Champions week, which for some caddies they never get to go there in their whole life. I kept saying, ‘That’s not right. That’s not right. You’re wrong, D.A. You’re wrong.’

“Then my mind is racing, thinking, wait a minute! I was replaced before that week even started!”

When Points was first asked about the legend of Darby’s firing, he initially denied it.

“No, it’s not true. Not at all,” he said when I asked him about it last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Zach Johnson, standing nearby during this conversation, just shook his head and started to walk away.

“I don’t think I want to be here for this,” Johnson said.

So the story of the text message isn’t true?

“Oh, wait, no. That’s true,” Points said, and he called Johnson back and told the entire story, including the text on the range.

Darby can’t get mad.

“It’s such a great story because we can all laugh about it. At the time, I was just livid. But now, I could go for a glass of wine with D.A. any time.”

Points agrees.

“Absolutely, Darby and I could share some wine and laugh about it now,” he said.

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