Those new service sector jobs — the world of the caddy

by on April 16, 2014 at 3:49 am in Economics, Education, Sports | Permalink

I enjoyed this piece by Sarah Turcotte:

Tour caddies are well-compensated. The winning looper this week will pocket a nice $144,000. But they earn that 10 percent. A long-running joke among caddies is that there are only three rules: Show up, keep up and shut up. Truth is, their jobs might be tougher than the players’. Well maybe not quite, but it’s close. Caddies are part pack mule, part meteorologist, part psychologist (BIG part), part mathematician, part scapegoat, part psychic and sometimes even part bartender. When I played in the LPGA’s Michelob Ultra Open a few years back, a veteran caddie suggested to the man on my bag a little Drambuie and Sprite to calm my nerves. (Full disclosure: He did have a water bottle filled with Chardonnay available at all times. We never used it, but it was a comfort knowing it was there.)

Caddies do not appear to do very much, yet most people could not hold a job as an effective caddy for a good golf professional.  This, in a nutshell, is why the transition toward the new service sector jobs will not run smoothly for everybody.

And even if you really do make the grade, “…job security for caddies is non-existent.”

Steve Sailer April 16, 2014 at 4:14 am

At the old money National Golf Links of America in the Hamptons of Long Island, Duke U. students fly in to caddy for members on weekends in spring and fall. The money at the ultra-high end courses for competent caddies can be really good.

Being a caddie used to be a largely black trade in America, but now it’s almost all white:

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2003/04/12/Analysis-Decline-of-the-black-caddie/UPI-46061050194559/

Rahul April 16, 2014 at 4:39 am

Does a good butler make a good caddie? The job profiles sound somewhat similar.

BC April 16, 2014 at 5:31 am

Caddies at the tour professional level are quite different from caddies at the local country club. Tour caddies are more like on-course coaches, responsible for knowing the course and helping in club selection and reading greens for putts. Most of them are good golfers themselves although, obviously, not at the tour player level.

Job security is indeed non-existent, as is the case for almost every job in professional sports, including player.

Andrew' April 16, 2014 at 7:08 am

In fact, many caddies are professional golfers…to some definition of “many”.

Steve Sailer April 16, 2014 at 4:29 pm

I’ve seen veteran tour pros in their later 40s who are too old to stay on the tour carrying bags while waiting to turn 50 and try their luck on the senior Champions tour. The more famous ones have plenty of money, of course, but more marginal ones will do it. I recall a guy who had won three tournaments at his peak in his 30s carrying a bag in his late 40s.

Steve Sailer April 16, 2014 at 4:36 pm

It’s also common for stars to employ a buddy from his college golf team as his caddie. Relatives and in-laws are probably the most common type of caddie on Tour these days.

In general, you can learn a lot about the modern class system from studying the evolution of caddieing.

There used to be a lot more star golfers from working class backgrounds: Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Walter Hagen, Lee Trevino, etc. That’s because they started out as adolescents working at golf courses as caddies or maintenance workers and learned to play on Mondays when the course was closed to members.

But golf shifted from labor-intensive to capital-intensive, so star golfers are almost uniformly today from upper middle class backgrounds. That helps explain the striking decline in black golf stars. From 1961-1986, five different blacks won 23 PGA tournaments, but over the last 27 years, only the 1/4th black Tiger has won anything.

Finch April 16, 2014 at 10:05 am

> Job security is indeed non-existent, as is the case for almost every job in professional sports, including player.

Finch April 16, 2014 at 10:06 am

Hit enter at the wrong time…

Players often have guaranteed contracts that span several years. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that in my job.

sort_of_knowledgeable April 16, 2014 at 11:18 am

Only major league players might get guaranteed contracts over several years. There are several times as many minor league players.

Finch April 16, 2014 at 11:22 am

That depends on the league, and my point was just that the statement “pro athletes have it bad because they have little job security” is wrong. Pro athletes generally have no worse job security than the rest of us, and sometimes have it quite a bit better.

You can argue they have it bad because they don’t have much career longevity, but that’s a different point.

Steve Sailer April 16, 2014 at 4:17 pm

I believe Jeeves caddies for Bertie Wooster in the 1990s TV version of the Wodehouse stories with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, although I don’t believe that’s true in the books: caddies would be a distinct trade in 1920s Britain. But, yes, Jeeves would be an outstanding caddie.

Rahul April 16, 2014 at 7:50 am

What are other erstwhile black trades in America that have become white?

dangerman April 16, 2014 at 9:07 am

rock n roll guitarist

Steve-O April 16, 2014 at 9:28 am

Baseball player (white/hispanic).

MD2 April 16, 2014 at 11:49 am

Just because fewer blacks are baseball players now than in the 70s, doesn’t mean it was a “black trade.” You don’t get a sense from this article whether it was the maximum, but the high point it mentions is 27% of players being black: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/story/2012-04-15/baseball-jackie-robinson/54302108/1.

Steve Sailer April 16, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Basically, black males (and to a lesser extent black females) won’t do anything subservient anymore, such as be a waiter. (The exceptions tend to be immigrant blacks or gay male blacks.)

For example, the very first thing that happens in the entire 7-year “Mad Men” series is that Don Draper asks a black servitor to light his cigarette. That shocking moment set the entire tone for the series.

And white people today are extremely uncomfortable with American blacks in servile roles. In contrast, straight Mexican men don’t see being a waiter at a Mexican restaurant as an insult to their masculinity, and white folks aren’t weirded out about it either.

Of course, our vast increase in sensitivity comes at the cost of a huge increase in unemployment among less educated black men, but who pays attention to cause and effect anymore?

Brett April 16, 2014 at 4:25 am

It sounds like a job that requires you to both be good at ingratiation and disciplined in saving your money, since you could be dismissed more or less at any time regardless of how friendly you are with your player (and barring another caddy position, what are the odds you’ll walk into a job that pays anything as close as good as what you were making?). Good thing for unemployment insurance.

This, in a nutshell, is why the transition toward the new service sector jobs will not run smoothly for everybody.

I assume most people will just be stagnant in incomes if they aren’t coming off of a higher-paying job, with that and the minimal job security unless we’ve got tight labor markets to drive wages up. The worst would be cases where it’s a difficult service that lots of people can do with cheap training, and where having a particular person doing it isn’t important. You get all kinds of fun labor staffing contractors and temps with that kind of work, for everything from cleaning to warehouse stuff.

The lack of job security is the difficult part, more so than the potentially stagnant pay – you can plan around pay that doesn’t rise much beyond the COLA amount even if you’re not particularly happy about it. But job instability and fluctuations tend to be toxic – that’s the type of stuff that could invite unions back in certain sectors.

BC April 16, 2014 at 6:16 am

Almost by definition, jobs that provide employment for lots of lower middle and working class people will be jobs that “lots of people can do with cheap training, and where having a particular person doing it isn’t important”.

Job security and ease of finding work are conflicting goals, as demonstrated by the higher levels of European structural unemployment relative to American structural unemployment. If it is easier for incumbents to keep their jobs, then it is simultaneously more difficult for newcomers or unemployed to find jobs. One can plan for job instability through savings more easily than one can deal with unemployment, when one has zero income. Also, incumbents have many natural advantages over newcomers, the obvious one being that, while employers may evaluate newcomers for open positions, employers usually don’t allow newcomers to compete for positions that are already occupied by an incumbent. The less obvious advantage is that, while unions represent incumbents in many sectors, I am unaware of any unions representing the interests of the unemployed. Unions for the unemployed would probably advocate against many of the policies traditionally favored by incumbents’ unions, including seniority-based tenure and restrictions on the use of temporary and contract workers.

Steve Sailer April 16, 2014 at 4:24 pm

These days, caddieing is an upper middle class occupation for restless young men of personable disposition. A classic example is President Obama’s “body man” Marvin Nicholson, the 6′-8″ half-Canadian guy whom John Kerry met when Nicholson worked at a windsurfing shop. Kerry quickly tried to hire him as a Senate staffer, but Nicholson chose instead to go caddie at Augusta National (home of The Masters) for a year. Nicholson mostly plays 18 holes with Obama these days (he’s played more rounds of golf with the President than anybody else) , but I think he may sometimes carry the Presidential bag at some walking-only courses.

prior_approval April 16, 2014 at 5:19 am

‘Caddies do not appear to do very much, yet most people could not hold a job as an effective caddy for a good golf professional’

Heads of policy thinktanks do not appear to do very much either, yet most people could not hold a job as an effective tool for those able to pay the thinktank’s bills.

‘And even if you really do make the grade, “…job security for caddies is non-existent.”’

This is why truly clever thinktank heads try to be associated with an institution that grants tenure. Especially a taxpayer supported institution, which ensures a reliable stream of income for tenured faculty members regardless of what disfavor they fall into in their other job.

ummm April 16, 2014 at 6:47 am

another subtle jab at Tyler’s profession

sunbomb April 16, 2014 at 8:51 am

So why does he continue to take these jabs? He does contribute other content to MR, so he is not just a troll. Is being associated with Mercatus such a terrible thing? I do ask in ignorance.

Andrew' April 16, 2014 at 10:12 am

Because they have tenure almost exactly backwards.

Claire April 16, 2014 at 5:49 am

One aspect of the job of a caddie is a massive amount of location-specific human capital–knowing that the seventh green breaks in a counterintuitive direction, or knowing how to play a particular 500-yard dogleg. There is a bit of match-specific human capital as well–how to play that dogleg would differ quite a bit depending on how much power, backspin, etc., someone would have. Finally, personality matters–a goofy, talkative type might get on fine with a bunch of derivatives traders or mobsters (who tip well), while a more serious, quieter type like myself might get on fine with an engineer or commercial banker.

Plus, there really is a golf caddie scholarship (think “Caddyshack”–actually based on this real scholarship) that put me through college at a second-string elite school. Altogether, not a bad summer job, pesticides aside. It was horrible living in a golf caddie fraternity house, but the price was right, and the educational opportunities were outstanding.

Steve-O April 16, 2014 at 9:31 am

Is living in the house a requirement if you’re awarded the scholarship, and if so, for how long?

Claire April 17, 2014 at 4:32 am

Yes, group living is a requirement for the duration of the scholarship. On the plus side, it leads to a unique sense of cohesion. On the minus side, it really isn’t my thing to have to live with 30-odd guys and 2 or 3 women, during what turned out to be one of the worst periods of my life. Personally, I would have done better hanging out with the artsy kids in a quieter environment, while studying economics.

The scholarship students had originally been mostly upwardly-mobile kids from poorer families–think of talkers like Danny Noonan, who is supposedly based on a real Chicago judge– although during my time there, they started giving scholarships to people from better-off backgrounds as well. Because of this class thing, there was a strong us-vs-them mentality with respect to the rest of the campus which I found unhealthy. At the same time, there was an instant support network of sorts. I would have personally designed the system differently for all kinds of reasons, but I’m still very grateful for the opportunities that I had.

Andrew' April 16, 2014 at 7:07 am

“Caddies do not appear to do very much, yet most people could not hold a job as an effective caddy for a good golf professional”

That is an elite job, though. The problem is I can’t get an assistant. The problem with the ZMP is the M part.

Andrew' April 16, 2014 at 7:46 am

(and if we helped fix the M part, not only would that help the service transition, but maybe the manufacturing wouldn’t have to leave so fast)

For example, we seem to have a manufacturing labor policy that (1) hurts manufacturing to begin with and (2) REALLY hurts service-style jobs.

I keep getting e-mails from my “human resources” warning us to make sure people are labeled at part-time. These are people who want to work 50+ hours a week. I.e., not “voluntarily” underemployed, they. Can someone demonstrate ONE TIME Obama said something true about NSA and ONE THING positive for ACA?

Anon April 16, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Amazing how all topics under the sun have to come down to Obama and ACA.
ONE THING positive for ACA : Those of us who were earlier rejected for Insurance and got it only because of ACA are quite grateful to it . But of course my positive may be your negative.

Andrew' April 16, 2014 at 3:14 pm

I stuck that in there because to you folks it is always because we are anti-ACA, which I suppose is an upgrade from “must be racist to oppose Obama” and because one HUGE knock on ACA is the opportunity cost of pursuing it during the secular shifts that argue against entitlement expansions and the cyclical recession that argues for doing anything other than wanking around with labor costs and meaningless homilies.

And, while you are virtually required to assume I want to see people uninsured and sad, that of course isn’t the case. It is not that your assumed positive is my negative, it is that (aside from being mostly assumed at this point) it doesn’t really count because “you can always sell insurance.” What would count would be an actual improvement such that, for example, we are doing less non-essential medical services that are now going to the previously uninsured at a lower cost. That hasn’t happened.

Andrew' April 16, 2014 at 3:16 pm

“But of course my positive may be your negative.”

On the other hand, that is an excellent summary of the problem. Take out the “may.”

jerseycityjoan April 17, 2014 at 12:29 am

“What would count would be an actual improvement such that, for example, we are doing less non-essential medical services”

Surely you must realize that the American people are still not willing to open their eyes and their ears to the truth about this.

If the uninsured — the small slice of the American public who gets no coverage or coverage that is “affordable” but full of holes while the rest of America overspends on healthcare to the tune of hundreds of billions a year — wait for Americans to finally wake up, many if not most would qualify for Medicare.

The low income people who just got Medicaid probably think the ACA is a great improvement.

I can see why people who already have employer insurance disagree. But we’ve seen tens of millions of households undergo surprises and upheavals since 2008. IHaving a way to get subsidized healthcare could really come in handy. There’s a lot of people who don’t approve of it who may need it someday.

Mike April 16, 2014 at 8:03 am

$144,000 is nothing compared to total consciousness.

Which is nice.

Z April 16, 2014 at 8:41 am

>>>This, in a nutshell, is why the transition toward the new service sector jobs will not run smoothly for everybody. <<<

I'm surprised everyone has missed the key line in Tyler's post. The important questions being noodled over in the halls of power are 1) how many people get thrown into the street and 2) how do they react.

You can't have feudalism is the peasants are storming the castle.

Andrew' April 16, 2014 at 9:54 am

Why do people always think we missed stuff?

This part just isn’t up for debate…except what I’ve been saying over and over and over to no interest.

Robert McGregor April 18, 2014 at 8:42 pm

@Steve Sailer
“Basically, black males (and to a lesser extent black females) won’t do anything subservient anymore, such as be a waiter. (The exceptions tend to be immigrant blacks or gay male blacks.)” . . . Steve, You have a very insidious form of racism–whatever your race–which I haven’t yet fully analyzed. I have owned a Moving & Storage company for 21 years, and most of the moving employees are black. I can assure you the good ones are able to present with a very service-oriented attitude. True, this is the South, and these employees are mostly “lower black working-class.” Perhaps the blacks you are talking about are Mason University Libertarian Economics Graduate Students who turn up their noses at waiter jobs–I don’t know.

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