Caddies Deserve a Cut

Sponsor bibs like the one Kevin Na's caddy Kenny Harms is wearing here at the HSBC Champions reportedly earned the PGA Tour $50 million last season.
Sponsor bibs like the one caddie Kenny Harms is wearing reportedly earned the PGA Tour $50 million last season.

Several years ago, while I was up in Cary, North Carolina, covering the Champions Tour’s SAS Championship, I ran into a guy at Prestonwood Country Club who was literally running from hole to hole walking off yardages and making notes in what appeared to be a primitive yardage book. I had to ask him who he was and what he was doing. Turns out it was Kenny Harms, who at the time was caddying for Hale Irwin. We exchanged contact info, and Kenny has been gracious enough to allow me to keep in touch with him over the years.

Kenny is currently on the bag of Kevin Na. I really felt for both of them a couple years of ago when at the 2012 Players Championship, Na took a one-shot lead over Matt Kuchar on Saturday only to succumb to the effects of performance anxiety, blow-up, and lose to Kuchar by five shots.

I ran into Kenny again last week while working the driving range at the Phoenix Open. As always, he was very gracious with his time, and we talked about how we were doing. So you can imagine my surprise when, less than a week later, Kenny’s picture was featured prominently in an article titled, “Caddies Sue PGA Tour Over Bibs.” Turns out Kenny, who is now serving as a board member for the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, is one of two class representatives in the class-action lawsuit demanding compensation for wearing bibs displaying sponsor logos during competition.

In the 39-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in California, the 82 caddies named as plaintiffs claim they “are made to serve as billboards to advertise, at the direction of the PGA Tour, for some of the most profitable companies in the world without compensation.”

The total damages the caddies are seeking could be in the range of “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Before you cry foul, get this: the lawsuit claims the PGA Tour made $50 million on the bibs alone during the 2013-2014 Tour season. Because the statute of limitations in some states goes back up to six years, that could mean upwards of $300 million.

The caddies also are asking for punitive damages, which could put the monetary figures even higher, with the argument that the PGA Tour’s “conduct was intentional, reckless, and malicious.” The lawsuit says the evidence in the case “will reveal a method of determining actual loss” for the caddies.

They also are seeking statutory damages of $750 per violation, although the definition of a violation isn’t spelled out in the court documents.

Kenny is quoted in the article saying, “There are players that are drinking the Kool-Aid of the PGA Tour. There have been a number of guys that were on the lawsuit originally that are no longer on the lawsuit because their player said it was not in their best interest to be on the suit.”

I texted Kenny this week. He told me he’s been jammed with the lawsuit, but I told him that I’m pulling for him. If the PGA Tour is in fact benefiting from the logo bibs that caddies wear, then they deserve a part of the cut. Since wearing those bibs is mandatory during tournament week, the caddies are essentially walking billboards, and that’s not right.

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