The IX: Golf Thursday with Sarah Kellam, March 18, 2021
A brief history of female caddies — Interview with Lydia Gumm — Must-click women's golf links
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A brief history of female caddies
With all eyes on The Players Championship last week, you may have noticed something about Lee Westwood that’s different from 95% of his counterparts. He has a female caddie.
And not just any female caddie — his fiancee, Helen Storey. Helen picked up Lee’s bag in 2018 and has looped for him in some of his notable performances in recent years, including his win in Abu Dhabi earlier this season, his 2020 Race to Dubai title, and the stellar play we have seen from him the last two weeks.
While it is somewhat of a novel concept to have a significant other on your bag, I think it’s often forgotten that although uncommon, female caddies have been around for quite some time. You tend to see it happening more on the LPGA Tour, but both the PGA and European Tours have had players choose female caddies over their male counterparts.
The most famous example of a woman in this position has to be Fanny Sunesson. She got her start with Howard Clark, an English pro that had eleven wins on the European Tour over the course of his career, but her big break came in 1989 when Sir Nick Faldo reached out to her about working for him.
The Swede took the job and the pair went on to have a storied career together, with the duo collecting four major wins making Fanny the first-ever female caddie to win a major golf championship and also boasting numerous other victories over the course of their partnership. Faldo also became the number one player in the world during the 1990s, holding the honor for 97 weeks throughout the decade with Fanny on the bag.
Over the course of her career as a caddie, Sunesson also worked for Sergio Garcia, Notah Begay III, and Fred Funk. She then came out of retirement to loop for Adam Scott in 2018 and Henrik Stenson in 2019, just for a single event though. Despite having moved on from looping and turning to mental coaching, Fanny is still considered to be one of the more iconic caddies to ever have worked in golf, and for very good reason.
Another well-known female looper is Nicki Stricker, wife of and caddie for husband Steve Stricker. According to an article from The Caddie Network from 2019, Nicki started carrying for Steve in 1994 when he had first set out on the PGA Tour having been an accomplished player at the University in her own right and coming from the highest of golf pedigrees.
They worked together until 1998, when the couple began having kids and, while she stepped back into it briefly in 2001, it wasn’t until 2015 that Nicki got back into caddying consistently.
Considering she’s a mother of two, there are weeks that Nicki takes off. But it’s not very often and you won’t miss her toting around Steve’s golf bag on both the PGA Tour and the PGA Tour Champions like it’s nothing.
On the LPGA Tour, you see female caddies being utilized much more often. One of the more notable partnerships is that of Brooke Henderson and her sister and caddie Brittany. While you see a lot of sister acts in terms of playing together on the women’s circuit like the Kordas and Jutanugarns, it’s not often that you see a pair of siblings like the Hendersons working together on the golf course.
Brooke has won nine times on the LPGA Tour, including the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and her national championship, the CP Women’s Open, all with Brittany on the bag. The pair are fun to watch work together and it’s obvious that they enjoy each other’s company both on and off the course.
In addition to Brittany, you have Taneka Mackey, Amy Olson’s caddie, who is the only Black and Bahamian woman to caddie full-time on the LPGA Tour. You’ll remember Amy’s emotional final round at the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open after the tragic passing of her father-in-law, but something you may not know is that Taneka actually suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. She was diagnosed with the disease a few years ago.
Until ESPN featured her story back in February, I’m not sure that Taneka having MS would’ve made many headlines. However, despite her illness, she continues to loop for Amy and her resiliency and strength cannot be ignored.
There are so many more female caddies to talk about that work across all of golf like Sarah Bowman and Missy Pederson, but these four women, in particular, are great examples of the impact that lady loopers have had on the careers of their counterparts through the years.
While it is still an uncommon thing to see a professional player using a female caddie, it’s becoming less and less of a rarity. I really hope that we see more and more women looping in the coming years because, just like everything else in both golf and sport in general, women are just as qualified and just as capable of caddying as men.
This week in women’s golf
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Beth Ann Nichols makes the case that LPGA Tour courses need to be more scorable and it’s a great argument. (via Golfweek)
March 16th was the 20 year anniversary of Annika’s 59. Her caddie relives the day, shot by shot. (via Golfweek)
20 years ago this month, Annika Sorenstam shot the only 59 ever to be shot in women’s golf. (via Golfweek)
Michelle Wie West staging a comeback and is in the field at the Kia Classic and the ANA Inspiration. (via Golfweek)
Michelle Wie West is committed to play at the ANA Inspiration and Kia Classic. (via GolfDigest.com)
There will be no fans at the ANA Inspiration. (via Golfweek)
If you’ve never heard of Alexa Stirling, you HAVE to read this incredible piece by Steve Eubanks chronicling the life of a golfer who very significant to the history of women’s golf. (via LPGA.com)
There have been plenty of women paving the way for future generations in golf. Amy Rogers takes you through each decade, highlighting those women who fought to make a difference. (via GolfChannel.com)
Albane Valenzuela has faced so much adversity over the last year but still is able to be competitive on the LPGA Tour. Check out this article detailing the second-year rookie’s strength and determination in spite of recent tough times. (via Golfweek)
The relationship that Suzy Whaley and her daughter Kelly have had throughout their lives and because of golf is what is helping Kelly to pursue her dream of making it to the LPGA Tour. (via SymetraTour.com)
Danielle Kang and Hannah Green recently took part in a seminar for the PGA of Australia, explaining to young golfers what it’s like to be an LPGA Tour professional. (via LPGA.com)
Despite limitations due to COVID-19, Morgan Pressel’s charity event raising awareness about and money for breast cancer screenings still generated $400,000 for her foundation. (via LPGA.com)
This LET rookie won in her first start as a professional on the Tour. She reflects on that experience one year later. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
Here’s the story of one woman who is making golf more inclusive for those with disabilities. (via GolfChannel.com)
The Ladies European Tour has released the 2021 Access Series schedule, with six LET cards to be played for. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
The Symetra Tour season gets underway this week in Arizona. (via SymetraTour.com)
Here’s a preview of the second event on the 2021 Symetra Tour schedule. (via SymetraTour.com)
Featured groups for the Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic that starts on the 18th. (via SymetraTour.com)
Ron Sirak takes a look at the Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic field. (via SymetraTour.com)
LPGA International is for sale by auction happening in the middle of April. (via Golfweek)
Golfweek’s women’s college golf team of the week is Texas. (via Golfweek)
Dallas Baptist still sits atop the WCGA Division II poll. (via Golfweek)
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Lydia Gumm, Assistant Women’s Golf Coach at the University of Houston
Who got you started in golf and what have been some of your favorite experiences within the game?
My dad is the person who got me started in golf. He started taking me with him to the golf course in my hometown when I was 3 years old, and I started picking it up around that time. He coached me my entire life.
I have so many great experiences in the game of golf. I loved being able to play golf with my dad every day growing up. We were usually at the golf course until dark most nights.
High school golf in Kentucky was a lot of fun. I was fortunate to start playing on the high school team in the 3rd grade, so I was able to put an impressive high school career together. After high school, I was blessed with a full ride to play golf at Florida State University. I loved every minute of it. One of the best experiences was being a part of the #1 team in the country my senior season, and winning 7 events that year.
Looking back on my playing career, these are some of the experiences and accomplishments I am most proud of:
Making the cut at state in 3rd grade
5 time KY Miss Golf
Shooting 61 twice in the KIT
Holding the Kentucky high school record for most rounds in the 60s
KY Junior Amateur, Women’s KY State Amateur, and Women’s Kentucky Open Champion
Finishing 2nd in Women’s Western AM
3-time captain at FSU
Ranked 41 in WAGR junior year of college
Being on the #1 ranked team
Also, all the incredible people you meet along the way and the great places I get to go are some of the best things about golf!
You were a very decorated junior player and were incredibly successful during your time at Florida State. What led you to choose coaching over trying to play professionally?
Unfortunately, in college, I had 3 wrist surgeries. Luckily, I didn’t have to miss any tournaments for FSU, but I knew after my third surgery I wouldn’t be able to prepare the way I needed to if I wanted to play professionally. I was only able to hit 40 balls max a day, and to play professionally I knew that wasn’t enough. I have always enjoyed teaching and I enjoy helping people so by my junior year I knew coaching could be a good option. My college coaches played a huge role in my life, and I wanted to do the same for others.
How did you become an assistant women’s golf coach at the University of Houston? What are some of your favorite memories from your time there so far?
I knew the Houston women’s head coach when I was a player at FSU, and would always talk with him at tournaments. By my senior year, I tried to put the word out to other coaches that I would be interested in coaching after college. Luckily, The University of Louisville hired me as their volunteer assistant for a semester, and that allowed me to get my feet wet in coaching. I really enjoyed that experience, and ultimately it led to a phone call from Houston in the spring of 2018. I moved to Houston in May of 2018 and have been here ever since. Some of my favorite memories from coaching are:
Making it to the NCAA National Championship with Louisville in 2018
Winning AAC Championship by a record 30 shots in 2019
Winning The Vanderbilt Mason Rudolph Invitational in 2020
Hosting an event in Nassau, Bahamas in Fall 2020
Is it more gratifying to win as a player or as a coach? What does it feel like to watch your team succeed?
I feel like it is very gratifying to win as a player because only you know all the hours and time put in, both on and off the course. Every player and coach wants to win but a coach can’t make a player “want it.” So for me, I am more proud, than anything, when my players win. I can push them and make plans for them to succeed, but ultimately it is up to them. It is a great feeling watching my girls achieve their goals. We work very hard, and we have a very good group of girls. In golf, it is rare to win (compared to sports like basketball) so when we do, it is a great feeling. I would say one of the hardest things in coaching is we can tell the player what to do, strategy, etc., but after that, it is completely out of our control.
Having been a collegiate athlete, you know firsthand how important a coach-player relationship is to a student-athlete’s success. How do you support your athletes and empower the young women that you coach both on and off the course?
One thing that I enjoy about coaching my players is that I can say I have literally been in their shoes. I know what it takes, and I know how hard it can be at times. Trust is key for me. I try to make it a priority of mine to build relationships with each player, which in return builds trust. With trust, it is easy to help them on the golf course because I have taken the time to get to know their games and tend to each player’s needs differently. It is about more than golf. I like to know about my players’ lives too and help guide them down the road. I don’t only want to be their coach, but also a role model and someone that they know will always be there for them, long after college golf.