By Andrew Both
(Reuters) – Fresh from working for winner Webb Simpson at the Players Championship last week, Paul Tesori will swap roles and swing for himself at the PGA Tour caddie tournament in Dallas on Monday.
Tesori played the tour for two seasons in the late 1990s, but says he was too stressed on the course to give a good account of himself. A shoulder injury did not help his cause.
His solution was to trade in his clubs for a bib and make a very good living working for players who were better at coping with the pressure of playing for pay.
“My game and mind wasn’t ready for the tour, I never felt comfortable,” he told Reuters while enjoying a few days at home in Florida before heading to Texas.
Tesori says he sleeps much better now during tournaments, even when his boss is in contention, though it is fair to say that caddies also are under pressure to think clearly and make good decisions on the course.
Those who work for top players are well rewarded. Tesori made nearly $200,000 at the Players Championship, based on the 10 percent cut of the prize money a winning caddie typically gets.
He is looking forward to giving his competitive juices a workout, albeit without too much pressure, when he tees it up against a 100 or so fellow caddies at Trinity Forest, the day after the PGA Tour’s Byron Nelson is completed.
The caddies will play the course in the same condition as the pros – same Sunday pin positions and green speeds – which should give the bag men an idea of how their games stack up with their bosses.
Tesori shot 68 in last year’s caddie tournament to finish a stroke behind winner Mark Urbaneck, a part-time marathon runner who can break par and still finds time to work for James Hahn.
Tesori says that even a scratch player like himself with a negative handicap — meaning he breaks par regularly — is about six strokes inferior per round to a leading tour player such as Simpson.
“It’s a pretty amazing difference,” said the Florida resident.
Tesori named half a dozen caddies with pretty mean games, though there are many more who struggle, judging by the results last Wednesday at the 17th hole at the TPC Sawgrass, where about 60 percent found the water.
In what has become a tournament-eve tradition at the Players Championship, caddies are allowed to have a hit at the island green, and the tour keeps a count of how many balls find the water.
Monday’s caddie tournament, sponsored by AT&T, will offer a first prize of $1,500 in two categories – one for scratch golfers and the other for those with handicaps three and higher.
And $30,000 will also be donated to charity, including $20,000 to the Maximum Chances charity started by tour player Greg Chalmers and his wife Nicole. The couple have an autistic son.
Tesori, meanwhile, has never regretted his decision to relinquish his erstwhile dream of being a world-class player.
“My playing mind is weak,” he said self-deprecatingly. “That’s why I’m caddying.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Ed Osmond)