Roughly two weeks ago, we learned that the legendary quarter-century pairing of Phil Mickelson and Jim “Bones” Mackay had split up.
As it turns out, one of the two is completely changing careers.
Golf Digest reported and then Golf Channel announced Thursday that Mackay has signed a multi-year deal to became an on-course reporter for Golf Channel and NBC. Mackay’s tenure will start in earnest, as his first assignment will come in two weeks at the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
“During my years as a caddie, I had the opportunity to watch (NBC lead producer of golf coverage) Tommy Roy work his magic in the production truck, and walk the fairways with Notah Begay, Roger Maltbie and Mark Rolfing,” Mackay said, via GolfChannel.com. “To join them and be a part of the coverage of some of golf’s biggest events – starting with the Open – is an opportunity I’m grateful for, and I’m eager to add my take to help illustrate the strategic decisions golfers face inside the ropes.”
The move is a bit of a surprise in one way, as Mackay is renowned in the caddie yard. In 25 years working with Mickelson, Mackay earned distinction as one of the most respected loopers in the game.
It was fair to assume then that several players would be asking for Mackay’s services after the split with Mickelson. His former boss said so himself, noting that “a lot of the top players are going to want him on their bag.”
Indeed, Mackay did get interest on this front. As Golf Digest reports, Mackay got calls from several golfers about continuing his career as a caddie.
Mackay, 52, also told Golf Digest he and Mickelson – who plays his first round of competitive golf since the split Thursday at the Greenbrier Classic and will have younger brother Tim on the bag the remainder of the season – didn’t discuss the idea of him being a broadcaster when they split.
While he was intrigued by the caddie opportunities post-Lefty, though, Mackay was starting to get calls for possibly working on the television front.
The overheard conversations via microphone on broadcasts between Mickelson and Mackay have been a delight over the years, and the renowned caddie has been thought of as someone who would flourish on a golf broadcast.
In fact, Mackay (as well as Matt Kuchar’s caddie John Wood) worked as part of the NBC/Golf Channel team at the 2015 RSM Classic.
It was his first experience as an on-course reporter, but it will now be far from his last. And while it wasn’t something in his head at the time of his split with Mickelson, Mackay has harbored television ambitions for some time.
“People have been nice enough over the years to say something to me about how they thought (broadcasting) was something maybe I could do at some point in my life,” Mackay told Golf Digest. “It was always something I’d say thank you to, and personally thought about. When Phil and I split, I got several phone calls, and it became a bigger opportunity, really seriously, the last few weeks.”
As Golf Channel announced, Mackay will work several big events right away. In addition to the Open, he’ll also be part of the team for the Presidents Cup and several postseason events culminating with the Tour Championship. The idea will be for him to move to a full schedule starting in 2018.
Mackay may have earned praise as a great future broadcaster, but he is the first full-time PGA Tour caddie to earn this type of role.
He’s expecting that he will need time to find his comfort zone in his new profession.
“The first thing I’ll say is, I obviously have a ton to learn,” Mackay told Golf Digest. “Early on, my only goal is to get comfortable and get better. But for what I could bring is a caddie perspective, I may have something more to say about the dynamic of player and caddie going on out there. But again I have a lot to learn. Right now, it’s just a question of jumping in with both feet and learning as much as I possibly can, as quickly as I can.”
Jumping right in. His caddie tenure may be over (for now), but welcome to the golfing media, Bones!