The job of golf caddie isn’t just for the grizzled old guy in the white jumpsuit anymore. Three women share the perks and pitfalls of the job, and how to be a caddie (not caddy) guests will ask for again and again.
ANNIE BOWLSBY, PEBBLE BEACH
Annie Bowlsby grew up in what I call “Golf Heaven,” the Monterey Peninsula region that is home to many glorious golf courses. Pebble Beach is the most famous of them, and Annie’s mom, Tina Marie, has been a marshal there for 11 years or so. After school, Annie would go to Pebble and practice at the driving range, alongside golfers paying $500 to play the course. She’d putt on the green in front of the famous Lodge, and sometimes she’d play the nine-hole par-3 courses most golfers miss, the Peter Hay. Her index eventually dipped to as low as .8, and she received a golf scholarship to the University of Delaware.
Meanwhile, she befriended some Pebble Beach Resort caddies, who told her she ought to try their craft. When the caddie master did his once-a-year recruitment, they urged her to apply.
“I had never thought of it as a thing that I could do,” she said. “I don’t know a lot of female golfers in this area that would be interested in caddying. I think women don’t think of being a caddie.”
Bowlsby, then 19, started her caddying career in 2012 at the Nature Valley First Tee Open, and soon began caddying on her summer and winter breaks. She loved the workout, the interaction with people from all over the world, and the challenge of caddying in the PGA Tour’s annual pro-am tournament in February on the Peninsula. In 2017, she caddied for TV personality Carson Daly and his team won the pro-am portion of the event. Of course, he asks for Bowlsby now whenever possible.
He’s not the only one. Bowlsby says only once in her six years did she have a group that did not like having a female caddie. “I’m surprised I haven’t experienced more sexism,” she said. “The sexism I’ve experienced is the positive kind, in that the players may be nicer to me. A lot of my fellow caddies have had more negative rounds than I have. I feel it’s a positive thing that I’m a woman out there.”
On the other hand, caddying at Pebble Beach, which also staffs neighboring Spyglass Hill and Spanish Bay, generally means carrying two bags. At first that intimidated Bowlsby, who is 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds. But other caddies (only four of about 300 are women) like doubling their pay for the same walk, and now she does too. “I feel it evens me out,” she said. “Now it’s more difficult to carry one bag.”
After six years, Bowlsby has tapered off on her caddying schedule. She’s taken a position as events manager for a local winery but hasn’t completely let go of looping. “I still love caddying,” she said. “I just didn’t see it as a lifetime career.”
REBECCA GOLDMAN, CHAMPIONS RETREAT
Rebecca Goldman must have typed “golf” into the search form on Indeed.com, because up popped a caddie job at Champions Retreat, an Augusta, Georgia, golf club that is private 51 weeks of the year.
“I didn’t really know what it entailed,” said Goldman, who was on the women’s golf team at Armstrong Atlantic State University and earned a degree in exercise science. “You see caddies on TV and that was my knowledge of it.”
Goldman had carried her own bag in college, but at Champions Retreat she was expected to carry two, and often to forecaddie. Forecaddying looks easier than caddying because there are no bags to carry, but the forecaddie sprints ahead of the player to track their shots. Sprinting in the summertime in Georgia requires fitness, and a lot of hydration.
“The physicality is the biggest challenge of the job,” said Goldman, who is 5-7 and 140 pounds. “You have to have good endurance, especially in the summer. And these courses are not that flat out here.”
Working in the South means Goldman does hear the occasional “Sweetheart” from guests, but no one’s ever told her they didn’t want a “girl” for a caddie. “There are times when I might get picked because I’m a girl and the guys want a girl around,” she said. “That might be the case at the beginning, but at the end of the round I think they respect the skills I brought to the table.”
At Champions Retreat, Goldman rarely caddies for women. But in that 52nd week every year, Master’s Week, the club opens its doors to the public and she caddies for guests who have included country singer Cole Swindell. A big thrill this year was meeting Gary Player, one of the course designers.
Now that Rebecca knows all about caddying, she’s thought about applying to that more famous course down the road, Augusta National. “This isn’t really a career here, and the Augusta National guys work five to seven days each week,” she said. “But I think that might be too male dominated for me to break in. And I’m pretty happy to be where I am. Nobody has a reason to be upset at this beautiful place.”
KRIS VALENCIA, FROM BANDON DUNES TO SAND VALLEY
Kris Valencia rode a full golf scholarship at Southwestern Community College in Coos Bay, Oregon, and in her freshman year her head coach suggested that players try out the caddie program at neighboring Bandon Dunes.
Kris went through the training program and, she said, “The rest is basically history. I fell in love with doing it, and it became a full-time job for me.”
The resort requires players to walk, so caddies are in demand. Valencia and her whole 123 pounds embraced the opportunity to carry two bags (about 50 pounds) for two rounds a day in high season, to offset the shorter, wetter days of winter. She, like other caddies, is an independent contractor who is paid by her guests. “It’s well worth it from a business standpoint, because I’m able to make cash quickly,” she said. “The winters can be brutal because of the wind and sideways rain, but I have to just mentally be tough for it and to stay with the grind.”
Kris caddied for me in sunshine when I visited Bandon Dunes in 2010, when she was still a little bit shy and intimidated. But that could not last if she was going to be successful.
“I just needed to be myself, to have confidence and carry myself strongly around these male golfers,” said Valencia, a low single-digit handicapper. “I have to be firm with how I advise them to hit golf shots, and to not take any crap from anyone. With that being said, there have been a few occasions where I’ve run into sexism from male golfers, but for the most part my clients have been pretty respectful and a lot of fun to work for.”
Like Annie and Rebecca, Kris has found that some men request having a female caddie. But, she notes, “Not every guy wants to listen to a female voice.” There are only 10-15 female caddies of 300 or so at Bandon, said a resort spokesman.
IF YOU WANT TO BE A CADDIE: THE TAKEAWAYS
These three different stories, set in different regions of the country, yield a consensus of advice for anyone, man or woman, who wants to be a caddie.
Notice that all three women have long histories with golf. Their resumes showed college golf and their indexes were single digits.
Each relished the relationship-building component of the job, an area at which women are raised to excel, and managed to put the guest experience before her own.
Each was fit and accepted the challenge of carrying two bags. So much for “the weaker sex.”
Yet, each of these women had higher aspirations than a life of caddying. For Annie, Rebecca and Kris, caddying has provided good income, fun and a steppingstone — but not the ultimate career.
Annie, 26, and Rebecca, 27, are both going part-time as they head full-time into the businesses in which they got their degrees, Bowlsby in events management and Goldman in physical therapy. Only Kris, 30, is continuing on in the business of golf hospitality, in her new job as Caddie Manager/Mentor at Wisconsin’s Sand Valley Golf Resort. Now she’ll be advising those carrying the bags, instead of carrying them herself.
None of these women will ever become the grizzled old guy in the white jumpsuit. But they had fun while it lasted.
Editor’s Note: If you’re more interested in having a caddie than in being one, don’t miss the companion piece on the LPGA Women’s Network, How to Make the Most of Your Day With a Caddie.