US Caddies’ writ could hit the fan

The Honda Classic 2014THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN a history of strange lawsuits in the USA. A Richard Overton sued Anheuser-Busch, creators of Budweiser beer, claiming emotional distress, mental and financial loss because drinking lots of Budweiser did not make his fantasies of beautiful women in tropical settings come to life as he claimed Budweiser advertised. Unsurprisingly he lost.

The US caddies are the latest to instruct m’learned friends and are claiming what could turn into hundreds of millions of dollars for being used as an advertising hoarding. The case revolves around the advertisements carried on the coloured bibs the caddies wear during PGA tournaments.

The lawsuit, originally filed by 82 caddies led by Mike Hicks, a 35-year tour veteran who carried for the late Payne Stewart and Steve Stricker, claims that PGA Tour officials threatened to prohibit caddies from appearing in events if they fail to wear the bibs. The caddies claim that the advertising is worth $50m to the PGA and that they should be entitled to the money that, in a number of cases, could be back dated.

Caddies are employed by the players and each caddy’s salary is by arrangement with the player they carry for. Typically this ranges from $1,000 to $1,500 a week plus bonuses which are generally reckoned to be 5% for places outside the top 10, 7% for a top 10 finish and 10% for a win.

According to the lawyer acting for them the lawsuit is intended to protect their rights. Speaking to ESPN, lawyer Gene Egdorf, said, ‘There may be a battle as to what the limitations period is that applies, but it’ll go back several years. If the value of the bib is what we suspect it might be, we’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars at stake in the case.’

Steve Williams, Tiger Woods’s former bag-man, is the latest caddy to join the burgeoning throng of litigants. Williams is unhappy that in 2010 he was fined $500 for ripping his bib off on the 18th green rather than waiting until he got back to the caddies’ changing area.

‘They (the PGA) treat the caddies like second class citizens,’ he said, although, having earned over $1m from Woods in 2006, 2007 and 2009 and reckoned to be worth some $20m, golf fans may not sympathise with Williams as much as they would the other bag-men.

Unless the dispute is resolved there is the distinct possibility of caddies going on strike by refusing to appear in PGA tournaments.

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