ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. –– More than 85 PGA Tour caddies met Tuesday during the McGladrey Classic to discuss their recent creation of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies. They have organized in an attempt to improve working conditions and deal with myriad issues, most notably the lack of a group healthcare plan.
The caddies first met in September at the BMW Championship near Chicago, and more than 100 are interested in the venture, said Lance Bennett, caddie for Matt Kuchar and APTC vice president.
Association president James Edmondson and his boss, golfer Ryan Palmer, are set to meet with Tour operations chief Andy Pazder on Tuesday in Mexico at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, the last official tournament of 2013.
“We feel we can get more done as a group with one voice,” Bennett said. “We don’t want the Tour to think we’re going in with any demands. We’re just trying to better ourselves for the future. This is a long time coming because the Tour is big business and the (caddie) profession has changed a lot in the last 30 years. Guys out here are educated and have families.”
Group health insurance is the primary objective. The self-employed caddies currently pay for health insurance individually. The Tour currently reimburses each caddie a taxable $2,000 for insurance, Bennett said, but that is not a large amount in the grand scheme.
He said he pays $750 a month for a family plan, and some loopers pay more than $12,000 a year.
“We want a group plan to bring down costs,” he said.
The organization also wants to explore the creation of a group retirement plan and deal with workplace issues such as clubhouse access, parking and a proper hospitality area. They have hired Fort Worth, Texas, lawyer Christian Dennie of the firm Barlow, Garsek and Simon, and their Tuesday meeting at the King and Prince Hotel was attended by a Wells Fargo financial advisor from Fort Worth.
The catalyst to organize was an incident during a weather delay at The Barclays in late August, Bennett said.
A security guard asked caddie family members to leave the caddie area located in a cart barn beneath the clubhouse. The problem was remedied about an hour later after Bennett informed the Tour and said, “You guys wouldn’t be in player hospitality asking wives and parents to leave.”
Besides Edmondson and Bennett, elected APTC leaders include treasurer Jimmy Johnson (who caddies for Steve Stricker), secretary Adam Hayes (Russell Henley) and board members Joe LaCava (Tiger Woods), Brennan Little (Camilo Villegas) and Kenny Harms (Kevin Na).
The group also aims to have an advisory council consisting of Tour players.