The financial fortunes of a full-time PGA Tour caddie are intertwined with the success of the golfer whose bag he’s holding. Their typical fee usually starts at 5 percent of a player’s winnings, plus more for a top 10 finish and 10 percent of the winning purse for a victory. For caddies of successful golfers, this can turn into a fairly lucrative career: The lowest winner’s share on the PGA Tour last year was $540,000, the highest $2.16 million.
Matt Kuchar’s usual caddie, John Wood, did not make the trip to Mexico for the Mayakoba Golf Classic in November (Kuchar made a late decision to play in the tournament and Wood already had made a prior commitment). Instead, the longtime pro relied upon David Giral Ortiz, who works as a caddie at El Camaleon Golf Club in Playa del Carmen, where the tournament was played. It turned out to be a good pairing: Kuchar finished at 22 under par to score his first PGA Tour win in four years.
“He was definitely my lucky charm,” Kuchar said of Ortiz after the win. “He brought me good luck and certainly some extra crowd support and did a great job as well. He did just what I was hoping for and looking for.”
Everyone was all smiles after the win, after which Kuchar took home $1.26 million. But according to Ortiz, all Kuchar gave him was an envelope filled with $5,000 in cash, well below the approximately $126,000 Wood would have earned.
Ortiz, who goes by “El Tucan,” told Golf.com’s Michael Bamberger that as a local caddie he understands he was not going to make the same amount as Kuchar’s usual caddie and that he had agreed with Kuchar on a somewhat nebulous figure before the tournament: $3,000, plus an unspecified cut of his winnings. Eventually, Ortiz said, Kuchar’s camp offered him another $15,000 to bring his total to $20,000, a nice payday for a guy who told Bamberger he makes $200 on a good day during his usual caddie rounds, but still short of the $50,000 bonus Ortiz believes his help was worth.
“I am a humble man, who takes care of his family, and works hard. I am reaching out to you to see if you can facilitate me receiving a fair amount for my help with Matt winning $1,296,000,” Ortiz wrote to Kuchar’s agent, Mark Steinberg, in a Jan. 24 email. “I am not looking to disparage Matt or give him a bad name. Fair is fair, and I feel like I was taken advantage of by placing my trust in Matt.”
It was one of three emails to Steinberg that Ortiz showed Bamberger. The agent responded to one of them, saying: “I am out of the country. What Matt has offered is fair.”
As for Kuchar, he was asked by reporters about how much he had paid Ortiz at the Sony Open in January.
“That’s not a story. It wasn’t 10 percent. It wasn’t $3,000,” he said.
Back in November, Ortiz told Bamberger he “cried” when Kuchar handed him the winning trophy and that he hoped to be on Kuchar’s bag again when he came back to defend his title. But now?
“Matt is a good person and a great player,” he said. “He treated me very well. I am only disappointed by how it all finished.”
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