Golfer Matt Kuchar defends $5,000 caddie pay after $1.3M victory

by Samuel Abasi Posted on February 14th, 2019

Matt Kuchar has defended his decision to pay his caddie $5,000 following a victory that earned him $1.3m in the Mayakoba Golf Classic.

Kuchar ended a four-year winless drought in November with David “El Tucan” Ortiz acting as his temporary caddie in place of John Wood, who usually carries his bag. Caddies can usually expect to receive up to 10% of a player’s winnings depending on their arrangement. However, Kuchar has confirmed that he paid Ortiz $5,000 and that he subsequently offered an additional $15,000, which Ortiz refused, after the story became public.

“It’s kind of too bad that it’s turned into a story. I really didn’t think it was a story because we had an arrangement when I started,” Kuchar told GolfChannel.com. “I’ve done enough tournaments and had enough weekly caddies and I’m very clear about what the payment will be. And we had an arrangement Tuesday that David was OK with, and I thought Sunday he was very much okay with it.

“I kind of feel like unfortunately some other people have got it in his head that he’s deserving something different than what we agreed upon. And it’s just too bad that it’s turned into a story, because it doesn’t need to be. We had a great week.”

According to Kuchar, he and Ortiz originally agreed to a bonus structure which would have allowed Ortiz to make up to $4,000 for the week. “I ended up paying him $5,000 and I thought that was more than what we agreed upon,” added Kuchar, who has been criticised on social media for his decision.

“I kind of think if he had the chance to do it over again, same exact deal, that he’d say ‘yes’ again. You’re not going to buy people’s ability to be OK with you, and this seems to be a social media issue more than anything. I think it shouldn’t be, knowing that there was a complete, agreed-upon deal that not only did I meet, but exceeded.

“So I certainly don’t lose sleep over this. This is something that I’m quite happy with, and I was really happy for him to have a great week and make a good sum of money. Making $5,000 is a great week.”

I don’t know this guy Kuchar, and for all I know maybe Ortiz was entirely remiss in his caddy duties throughout the Mayakoba Classic and should be thrilled he even walked away with five grand. But I have worked for tips. And while part of me thinks the recent trend toward publicly shaming or celebrating celebrities for how they tip feels like a violation of privacy – I know many bar owners would never want their employees publicizing a famous person’s visit – I can’t help but appreciate people way more once I learn they tip well, because I know the way a good tip can make you feel when you’re having a lousy day at the lobster market.

Former NFL wideout Chad Johnson né Ochocinco né Johnson, for example, seems to be a very generous tipper. He appears to enjoy sharing this information, but that’s cool: He’s setting a good example for the rest of the world. Maybe he inspired quarterback Josh Rosen to leave a $300 tip at a sushi place, or maybe Rosen’s just a generous dude who wanted to do something nice for someone.

Where some sports figures have caught criticism for poor tips (and deserve the right to explain themselves, undoubtedly), others, like Spurs coach and civic hero Gregg Popovic earn praise for big tips left with no intention of their becoming public.

But the patron saint of sports generosity, in this author’s eyes, is the legendary Hall of Fame leadoff man Rickey Henderson. Though Henderson, for speaking of himself in the third person and daring to transparently enjoy himself on the baseball field, developed a reputation for arrogance, a snippet from Mike Piazza’s autobiography reveals Rickey to be empathic and awesome to his fellow man.

Baseball teams that reach the postseason meet to determine which in the organization will get playoff bonuses, and what size bonuses they’ll get. Piazza describes Henderson’s role in the process:

“Whenever the discussion came around to one of the fringe people – whether it was a minor leaguer that came up for a few days or the parking lot attendant,” Piazza wrote in Long Shot, “Rickey would shout out, ‘Full share!’ We’d argue for a while and he’d say, ‘(Expletive) that! You can change somebody’s life!'”

And he’s right, you know. We should all be a little more like Rickey Henderson, I think, in so many ways.

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