Your caddie is an essential partner who does a lot more than lug your clubs around the course. They not only tell you how far to the hit the ball, but where, at what trajectory, and why. They read the line of your putts by the contour of the green but also by the grain of the grass and by the tendencies of your putting style (do you die it into the hole or jam it in at top speed?).
Perhaps most important, your caddie is your coach, your cheerleader, your companion, and your shrink, ready to boost your spirits after you dump a ball into the drink or slap you a high-five when you drain a putt to win your match.
To get the most out of your caddie’s assistance, keep a few things in mind:
• Your caddie will offer distance information and targets but usually not suggest which club you should hit unless they have worked with you before and know your game.
• Knowing the greens is only part of the equation for reading a putt. How hard you stroke the putt will affect the line the ball follows, so let your caddie know your intentions and preferences.
• Your caddie will often walk ahead of you, especially when you’re teeing off, in order to both spot where your ball lands and to be ready with the information you need to hit your next shot.
It should go without saying, but remember that your caddie can give you advice but can’t hit the ball for you. Good players give their caddies plenty of credit for success, but only jerks blame them for failure.
Caddying is sort of a family business for Anthony Contey, whose father, Frank, was caddie manager of the Tuxedo Club for 25 years before retiring and turning to looping at Quaker Ridge on weekends. “My dad brought me here in 2017,” Anthony says, “and I went full-time in 2018. I like being outside and meeting new people.”
Anthony hopes to qualify for a Westchester Caddie Scholarship, to study business and economics in college. “Studying business is easy for me,” he explains. “One thing always connects to another. Golf kind of works the same way: If you hit a bad drive, your second shot is affected.”
Frank observes that, for now at least, Anthony prefers looping to studying. “Every morning he caddies, he gets up and is ready to go. School days, I have to drag him out of bed.”
Who would ever hire a caddie named Blind J? A golfer who wants a looper with deep experience and an aggressive, can-do attitude, that’s who. The nickname, it turns out, came about because DiNunzio was one of four Jasons at Winged Foot GC, and caddie manager David Zona needed a way to distinguish them. DiNunzio had come from Blind Brook CC, so “Blind J” became his moniker.
DiNunzio, now 44, started as a 12-year-old at Pelham CC, and his 32-year career has included stints at Siwanoy, Golf Club of Purchase, GlenArbor, Deepdale, Blind Brook, and now Winged Foot.
He’s honed his skills and seen many changes over the years. “When I first started caddying in the ’80s, the motto was ‘show up’; ‘keep up’; ‘shut up’,” he says. “You were just spotting balls and raking bunkers. Caddies weren’t treated well. But everyone wants to feel needed and appreciated.”
Today, DiNunzio prides himself on several things, but first on the list is his 4-year-old daughter. Close behind is his knowledge of the game, the golf course, and his golfers. “From the moment the caddie picks up your bag, it’s a trust system,” he says. “The last thing I want is for you to have a bad day. You’re probably a weekend player, so when you get to the golf course, you just want to relax and have a nice round.”
Jamie Goldberg, 28, got started as a caddie for a good reason. “I come from a pretty big family. I have six siblings, so if I wanted spending money, I had to earn it.”
He’s been earning it at Scarsdale’s Fenway GC for 15 seasons, but now his motivations are more complex. “I love golf, but I’m not good enough to make a living playing or teaching, so this lets me stay around the game. It’s my favorite thing in the world.”
And, while he gets a great deal of satisfaction helping his clients enjoy their games at Fenway, Goldberg says there’s a drawback. “Working six or seven days a week means I don’t get much time to play as much as I want.”
Caddies are typically independent contractors who work for the golfer, not the club, so there is no standard caddie fee. Minimum fees in Westchester range anywhere from $80 to $150, depending on the club, and exceptionally good caddies deserve a generous tip. If you’re riding a cart and the caddie doesn’t carry your clubs, the fee will be somewhat lower.
If you’re a guest at a club, it’s always a good idea to check with the caddie manager or starter and ask what’s expected. They’re used to answering the question!
There are few places Julian Thur would rather be than on a golf course. “I love the game,” he says, “and I always wanted to work around it.” He knew a member at Trump in Briarcliff Manor who helped him get a job in the bag room as soon as he was old enough. He’s been caddying for two years.
During that time, the 17-year-old has learned a lot. “The hardest part of the job is when a player gets frustrated,” Thur says. “But golf is a hard game. It’s part of my job to keep them in good spirits.”
How does he accomplish that? “I try to help them manage their misses,” he explains. “Communication with your caddie is key. Sure, I can give you the yardage and let you make your club choice, but I can also point out where to hit it and where not to hit it. If you trust me, it will work better.”
This marks Rob Millen’s eighth year at Westchester Hills. “I love it,” he says. “The members are great; the course is nice, and it’s an easygoing atmosphere.”
Millen, 36, grew up in Croton and started playing golf when he was 10 years old at Mohansic, Garrison, and Beekman. “I played baseball in high school but made the jump to the golf team,” he says. He went to Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach about the same time as Dustin Johnson and earned his degree not in golf but in business.
During the winter months, Millen loops in Houston, where he works the PGA TOUR’s Houston Open pro-am. “In 2017, I caddied for NY Jets’ coach Herm Edwards, Roger Clemens, JJ Watt from the Houston Texans, and Bruce Culpepper, the president of Shell Oil. Our pro was Jordan Spieth. It was a dream day.”
Asked about his approach to the job, Millen says, “I like players who interact a lot with the caddie. You should pick the caddie’s brain. If I can’t take three or four strokes off your game, I’m not doing my job.”
Want a Great Job?
There’s a real need for young men and women in the caddie yards in Westchester, and it’s a good way to earn an honest buck (or two or three) in the great outdoors. You don’t need to be an expert in the game, either!
The best way to get started is to enroll in the MGA Foundation’s Caddie Academies, which are held at several places in the spring. They’re free and cover all the basics with solid hands-on instruction from MGA and club staffers. For more info, go to mgagolf.org.
While you’re there, look for information about the Westchester Caddie Scholarship Fund. It’s enabled more than 2,800 young men and women to go to college.