Dennis Cone thought it was his big chance when invited to caddie on a Professional Golf Association Tour about 10 years ago.
He was disappointed by the poor conditions. Out of that disillusionment grew the PCA (Professional Caddie Association) Worldwide with headquarters at Bunnell.
Cone, 55, member of a fourth-generation Orlando family, found that a few caddies who toted bags for top golfers were raking in six-figure salaries, but most barely earned a living. Many had no health insurance. They were paying through the nose for their own transportation and sometimes sleeping four or five too a room. Also, very few had any retirement benefits.
Almost obsessively since that experience he has pursued the growth of the association, providing benefits, training, certification and endorsement opportunities.
He started in 1997, with 43 members. Among the current 2800 plus PCA members Worldwide are four previously established tour professionals who live in Volusia County: two from DeLand on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour; one from New Smyrna Beach on the LPGA tour; and one from DeBary on the Senior Tour.
In addition, seven newer caddies trained and certified by Cone’s organization are now working for golfers on the professional tours.
In 1999, the non-profit organization, which began in Orlando, added a Caddies Hall of Fame, recognizing past great caddies and tapping new inductees annually.
The organization also offers such benefits as travel and lodging discount packages, and a caddie apprenticeship program, which is gaining recognition at resort golf courses around the country, Drumm said.
The training program is staffed with professional and volunteer trainers, like Dick Smith, 70, of Ormond Beach.
“The person I caddied for was Grant Simmons, owner of the Simmons Mattress Factory, when I was 13, in about the eighth grade. An announcement came over the loud speaker at school that said anybody interested in caddying should come to the gym,” Smith said. He was hired, trained and given a hat by the local country club.
“I learned a lot. Sometimes I would get $4 a day — a lot of money in 1943. I stayed there and worked until I was a junior in high school and then got a job in the pro shop,” said the retiree who later ended up owning an off-shoot of the Simmons Company.
Smith said he training caddies for resort courses here and around the world is a good idea. Also, Cone is looking for more experienced trainers, along with signing on trainees, and has developed a national job bank, which will, premier on the association’s Web site by June. He said he hoped in the future to add international contacts to the site. The Web address is: www.PCAworldwide.com
Cone, a former underground utility salesman, originally got involved in golf when his son showed an interest in a structured youth golf program nearly 20 years ago.
“I took over the Junior Golf Program in 1982. I got a cardboard box with the names of about 100 kids and grew it to over 800. I ran the program as a volunteer until 1989, when I went into business with a PGA tour player, Donnie Hammond, who was from Volusia County, and had started a nutrition company, using a product from Germany. In 1990 and ’91, he asked me to caddie for him as his friend.”
Cone discovered a love for the “500-year-old-profession” that began in Scotland.
He added that Ouimet was a caddie for an American player, but the tournament had been dominated by Europeans. The tournament that year did not have enough players, so Ouimet was asked to play.
“Eddie Lowery, a 10-year-old, lived across the street, so he caddied for the caddie. Ouimet won,” Cone added.
Ouimet was named to the PCA Hall of Fame along with other notables in the first wave of inductees in 1999.
In 2000, seven notable Hall of Fame caddies were inducted at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, including Alfred “Rabbit” Dyer, who assisted Gary Player with more than 30 wins and Ernest “Creamy” Carolan, who worked for 50 years on the PGA tour for such greats as Hogan, Snead and Floyd.
The 2001 event is planned to take place at a New Jersey site, and in 2002 the induction party will return to the World Golf Village.
After Cone established his association in Orlando in 1991, it grew slowly until it was incorporated in 1997. He then sought to open a branch at Hilton Head, S.C. and advertised for staff. Drumm was hired in 1998.
She played golf during high school and continued it as an avid hobby during her career in the financial world.
Drumm, 41, retired young to Hilton Head “to golf,” but a severe neck injury prevented her from playing the game. The opportunity to join the PCA staff was a perfect alternative. The Hilton Head office was eventually closed and Drumm relocated to Orlando. The two came to Bunnell and moved ahead with establishing the Hall of Fame and the Educational and Training Center.
“We were able to provide caddies and their families with benefits they would never be able to get on the own. We have been three years in the process here. I have found out they need insurance, since it’s not a hazard-proof job,” Drumm said.
She said the average PGA TOUR caddie earns between $30,000 to $40,000, “but they have to pay all their own expenses.”
She explained that the PCA is the “first really true organization offering membership to all the tours, including the Senior Tour, the LPGA and the PGA.” “PCA is the Worldwide Caddie Headquarters”
The PCA, she said, is the first organization to bring travel solutions, hotel/motel reservation and discount services, car rental pro grams and other caddie benefits, in addition to fund raising caddie tournaments which provide charity contributions to such organizations as Flagler Teen Center and local junior golf.
While many golf facilities have eliminated caddies and gone to carts, Cone said caddies and carts could work together to “improve the quality of the game, enhance a round of golf, speed up play and preserve the tradition of the game.” The training program has been tailored to encourage this, he added.
One of the needs the association has found is that facilities find training youngsters is expensive and time consuming, Drumm said.
The apprenticeship program is the first level of a three-tier program and covers the history and perspective of golf, an introduction to the teamwork and responsibilities of a caddie. Detailed information on yardage, pin sheets, signals, course management and maintenance, golf terms and rules and health and nutrition on the road.
The second stage of the program is certification, which includes evaluation of on the course performance by a minimum of 50 golfers, additional reading and an exam.
The final stage of training is the Masters Caddie Program.
“A caddie basically keeps the player organized and focused on the game. He carries the pack, tells him where the ball sits, how far the shot is, weather conditions, the conditions of the turf. He must learn about the facilities, the rules, the regulations that apply to caddies, who pulls the pin, rakes the bunkers, and maintain a good personality and attitude,” Drumm explained.
"What we are doing now is developing a data base in order to facilitate caddie placement. We will start with Flagler and Volusia counties and expand the program nationally and internationally,” Cone said.
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