By Andrew Both
(Reuters) - Iced coffee company founder, Christmas tree salesman, carpenter, broadcaster.
PGA Tour caddies have come a long way from the days when they scratched out a meager living and their vagabond lifestyles were more of a hobby than a profession.
These days, a few lucky ones or those good enough to work for a very top player rake in close to seven figures annually, while perhaps half of the 200-odd full-time caddies on tour make a decent living.
But there are plenty of caddies, even on the mega-wealthy PGA Tour, who barely make enough to cover expenses.
Fortunately, most players compete in only 20-to-30 tournaments a year, which gives their caddies plenty of free time to pursue other lines of income.
Steve Hulka, who has caddied for a series of journeymen, more than 15 years ago came up with the idea to transport players’ clubs and luggage from event to event in a truck and trailer.
Not only does that allow players to travel unencumbered, but it also ensures the clubs will not get lost or damaged during airline travel.
Martin Laird's caddie Shawn Segars uses his down time in November-December to sell Christmas trees from a street stall in Charleston, South Carolina.
Matthew Tritton, Curtis Luck's caddie, is a part-time carpenter in San Diego, while Rickie Fowler's caddie Joe Skovron marketed a golf clothing line until he realized there was more money to be made working for Fowler.
Then there are those who branch into the media, most recently Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay, who has parlayed his name as Phil Mickelson’s long-time bagman into an on-course commentary role at NBC.
But no tour caddie can hold a candle to Cayce Kerr, an indefatigable 57-year-old who has worked for a string of world class players in a three decade-long career.
Kerr, a born salesman, was the man who introduced Rangefinders to the professional game in 1996, selling, he says, about 350 at $3,300 each to tour players.
Some 15 years later, he has dabbled in chocolate wine, before tweaking ingredients at the urging of his current boss, Ernie Els.
“When he wanted to market this chocolate wine, I said ‘No, this is too good to be wine, it’s got to go as a drink,'” four-times major winner Els told Reuters.
“And then he absolutely went to town and changed the drink a little bit. Now it’s become this (alcoholic) iced coffee with three different flavors."
It does not hurt that Els’ name is on the label, and it certainly helps that he is enthusiastically helping promote it.
“Ernie had a sip of the iced coffee and said ‘I want to put my name on this label’,” said Texas-born Kerr.
The product is being sold in five states.
But as big a buzz as Kerr gets closing a business deal, and the high hopes he has of turning the iced coffee into a nine-figure business, he still loves caddying more than anything.
“There’s nothing like being inside the ropes, just you and your player,” said Kerr, who has worked with a long list of major winners over the years, including Fuzzy Zoeller, Fred Couples and Vijay Singh.
But he is cognizant that job security is non-existent.
“You’ve always got to remember you’re only one bad yardage or untimely remark from being fired," Kerr said." A good caddie can help a player, to an extent, and you’ll only have a job as long as you are bringing value.”
But it’s important never to think you are responsible for your player’s success.
“You know what makes a great caddie?” Kerr said.
“A great player.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Gene Cherry)