In this week's Tour Chatter we speak to Sean Russell, the chairman of the European Tour Caddies Association, to hear how they can supplement their earnings
When Jon Rahm and co were filling their boots in Dubai it’s worth noting that the majority of the 130-plus members of the European Tour Caddies Association weren’t working.
With no cut in the closing events of the season it’s a very nice little earner with a guaranteed percentage of any winnings but nearly half of them didn’t caddie at all in the Final Series.
“When I was chatting to the Tour I said it’s not about the guy who is caddying for the player ranked 7th, it’s about the guy caddying for the guy who is 157th,” explains Sean Russell, chairman of the European Tour Caddies Association.
Last week it was announced that the Tour and the ETCA had agreed a ground-breaking deal to allow caddies to benefit from sponsorship, starting next year.
It’s as welcome as it is probably overdue given the uncertain nature of the profession and, often, the poor returns – even on the main tour. The player who did finish 157th earned around €160,000, so if you go by the old adage percentages of five for making the cut, seven for a top 10, and 10 for a win then his regular caddie would have earned something like €12,000 less all the usual expenses.
Russell, who worked with Chris Paisley for over four years, comes across as the perfect front man given his eloquence and common sense. He’s in no doubt as to whom the stars of the show are but he also, quite rightly, wants to look after the best interests of the caddies.
“One thing is to give it a bit of an agenda and stand up without sounding like a 70s union leader,” he says. “I always think of something Ken Ferrie told me when he got his card in the States and he got a laptop and his life was on it. There was a page for a tournament and you could then pick your rental car, your hotel with preferable rates, your flights and air miles and private jets and limo hire. It got me thinking why not have something for a caddie experience?
“We’re definitely not the most important people and never will be but we do the same things every week so we’re trying to make things a little bit better. We’re lugging 25 kilogram bags around hilly courses in sometimes extreme temperatures so we’d like to be able to get a sports massage to stop injuries and bad health. And we’re making sure there is access to pension and financial advice and proper insurance, these might not seem important when you’re young but they will be when you stop caddying.”
As for the sponsorship potential, a deal that Russell is quick to praise the efforts of Rocket Yard Sports, hopefully there are plenty of ways that the caddies can make some additional money.
“We want our guys to be wearing branded hats, towels, clothing and yardage books but also do something with suntan cream, nutrition snack or trainer companies. And we’ll set some ground rules so we’re not wearing a Skoda hat at a BMW event or Omega hat at a Rolex event.”
All of this is just a start and, although a very welcome move, Russell hopes that there are plenty of routes forward to help the members.
“I’d really like to find an airline partner that gives us free changes to flights. You might be on a five-week run and then it might be £300 to change a flight if you miss the cut. The sponsorship is an enabler of what we can do for our members and we’re really trying to look after the physical, mental and financial wellbeing of all European Tour caddies.
“We’re here to take away the hassle, to help and to be heard.”