PGA Tour officials have banned caddie races at events where they occur, including the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. The crowd-pleasing races also have been popular at the Phoenix Open.
Andy Pazder, the tour’s executive vice president and chief of operations, confirmed the edict today in a phone interview with the Star-Telegram after the issue surfaced during a report on the Golf Channel.
The primary issue, said Pazder, is caddie safety. Plus, some caddies told him they felt “humiliated” by the races at Colonial’s 13th hole.
“From my standpoint, fans enjoyed the caddie races,” Pazder said. “But as we looked at it with each passing year, safety became an issue. For somebody to legitimately run with a bag on his shoulder, I’m concerned about him tripping and falling and injuring himself. I didn’t want that to become a factor. We want the caddies to be safe.”
In addition, Pazder said: “I’ve had caddies come to me and say they feel humiliated by the caddie races, as if they’re a carnival sideshow. A number of them also liked it because it was their moment in the spotlight.”
It is worth noting that caddies, who work for individual golfers, do not receive health-care benefits from the PGA Tour. That makes liability issues a concern in the event a caddie would be injured while participating in one of the voluntary races to see which caddie is first to arrive at Colonial’s 13th green.
Colonial officials confirmed this morning that they will abide by the edict, ending a popular practice at Fort Worth’s annual PGA Tour stop.
“Whatever the tour needs, we’re 100 percent supportive,” Colonial tournament director Michael Tothe said. “It’s really up to them.”
In a statement confirming the end of the caddie races, Tothe playfully referenced Crowne Plaza, the hotel chain that is the tournament’s title sponsor. It said: “In keeping on brand with our title sponsor … and to support the PGA Tour’s wishes, we are putting the caddie races to bed. Good night caddie races, it’s been fun.”
Tothe said tournament officials intend to huddle about a possible replacement activity to entertain fans who congregate at the 13th green. But he acknowledged it will be tough to match the popularity of the caddie races, which became “an organic element the fans embraced” on their own.
“You’d rather let it happen naturally,” Tothe said of a fresh initiative at No. 13. “We haven’t brainstormed about it yet. But we will.”
_ Jimmy Burch