Hawaiian paradise no picnic for Tour caddies

Tue Jan 18, 2011 2:03am EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Starting the PGA Tour each year with two weeks on the beautiful Hawaiian islands sounds like paradise for the players fortunate enough to be there but for their caddies it is hard work.

While the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club is played on a flat, par-70 layout, the season-opening Tournament of Champions at the Kapalua Resort on Maui takes place in hilly terrain on the 7,411-yard, par-73 Plantation Course.

Spectacular though the ocean views can be at Kapalua, the caddies have to lug 35-pound golf bags up and down the side of a mountain with elevation changes of 160 feet, roughly the equivalent of a 16-storey building.

American Jimmy Johnson, one of the most experienced 'loopers' on the PGA Tour, rates Kapalua's Plantation Course as the most daunting he has tackled since he began working as a caddie in 1995.

"It's brutal, and it's long," Johnson told Reuters. "It's the first tournament of the year and everybody has been home for the holidays. I'm surprised some of the caddies even make it.

"I have a hard time out there and there are plenty of guys a lot older than me. It's really, really tough. The first couple of days it really gets you and you wake up in the morning with aches and pains."

The challenge becomes even tougher for caddies at Kapalua in rainy weather.

"When you put rain suits in the golf bag, it gets really heavy," said Johnson, who caddies for American world number six Steve Stricker. "And rain suits are the heaviest items of all that we have to carry.   Continued...