No one can pinpoint exactly when it started, but Wednesday of the Players Championship is host to a wonderful tradition. Wednesday is the day the caddies take their games to the famed island green at TPC Sawgrass.
What started as school-yard style dare has evolved into the official Caddy Competition, complete with a leaderboard and prizes. If he or she chooses, each caddy can take a turn on the tee at the 17th hole. There are no mulligans, there is no drop zone. The caddy closest to the hole wins.
Click here to view a few images from the famed 17th hole at Sawgrass:
Pete Dye's most fearsome creation - the Island Green at 17
For a long time, the Tour players would toss some money into a kitty on the tee box. It was winner take all, with the caddy closest to the pin assuredly buying the first round that night.
Several years ago, it was proposed that the kitty be split 50/50. Half of the purse would go to veteran Tour caddy Bruce Edwards who was suffering from ALS. Of course the winning caddy immediately donated his half to Bruce’s care as well, and a new tradition was born. Since then 100% of the money donated on 17 tee is donated to the Bruce Edwards Foundation.
That doesn’t mean the most accurate caddy has to settle for mere bragging rights. This year CDW donated a new laptop computer and an iPod touch to the looper who would be lining up the shortest birdie putt.
The spoils went to Gareth Lord, long time caddy for Titleist Brand Ambassador Robert Karlsson. He stiffed his own pitching wedge to 6’1” and, for the record, he made the putt.
This tradition is no longer a secret of PGA Tour insiders. The scoreboards on hole 17 scrolled through the closet to the pin leaderboard, the “balls in water” stats, and posted each caddy’s name as he teed up his only shot of the day.
The competition has gained such a reputation that former President George H. Bush spent a couple of hours taking in the action on the 17th tee box. While he didn’t attempt the shot, it was clear to all who spoke to him that “41” wished he too was out playing a round with friends.