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Mar 21

Players and Caddies

Players, Caddies: What’s the Story on Burnout?

Maybe it’s nothing, but I noticed that Yani Tseng was dropped from the field of the Kia Classic for missing her Wednesday tee time. It was pro-am day, and thCALJ34DDwe’re inclined to think that it wasn’t really the tournament yet. Still, she signed up for the “event,” the “whole event.” Shane Bacon of Devil Golf gave a pretty good account of both sides of the question, and suggested a case-by-case response rather than an all-the-time ruling. I largely agree with that, but Yani’s snafu, after which she pleaded “not feeling well” led me to wonder if she’s got a touch more burnout than I originally thought.

Tseng, who got off to such a fast start, culminating with seven wins in the 2011 year, has been known as one of the calmest people on the course, at least by any signs on her exterior. She’s displayed  little in the way of fragile nerves, and although she hasn’t won in a while, she hasn’t always played badly, either. She doesn’t look like someone in a tailspin, just a slightly lost edge in search of a sharpening.

Coming from a high public pressure profession myself, I wondered at all the personality types out there putting themselves under the media’s microscope. There are some who thrive on riding the big wave as long as it will stay underneath them. There are those who blossom best in anonymity, and there are those who have a little of each, needing periods of highly charged energy expenditure followed by a period of calm. The LPGA tour doesn’t give one too much of the latter, and you pretty much have to come with it every week. There is another group that gets a ways into the career that they worked so hard for, then decide it wasn’t quite as much fun after all in certain ways. They get tired – they need a rest, but the merry-go-round won’t stop. There’s a tournament next week, whether they’re ready for it or not.
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thCAKTQ4GSThen I thought of Travis Wilson, the caddie for Stacy Lewis. How do caddies feel about their place as the wizards behind the curtain? I actually happened on a medical study that shed some light on how caddies who work for players in the top 75 respond to things, inwardly. In 2010, this study of LPGA caddies focused on 44 males and 5 females, and searched for signs of Emotional Exhaustion, Depersonalization and a sense of Personal Accomplishment.

All in all, the caddies turned out to be as tough a group as the players. Gender was irrelevant, and the results were favorable for these supporters handling stress very well. The demands of crunch time were a little higher with those caddying for the top 75, but that was neutralized by the personality type required to hang around a top 75er being present in these strong personalities. In fact, the player personality profiles tended to match those of the caddies with a fair amount of consistency.
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There was a discrepancy, however, in the category of Personal Accomplishment. Many of the top 75er caddies felt that their sense of personal accomplishment was sagging, as they felt no longer a part of the more famous player’s path of development. In short, they didn’t feel as needed, but whether that translates into being “burned out,” I wouldn’t know.

My impression is that Travis Wilson is, in the end, a hardy sort, and will continue to do an astronomical amount of good compared to his miniscule amount of harm. Yani, however, is a greater mystery.  Perhaps this is a silly question, but did anyone think to ask for a wake-up call? Has anyone asked her how she’s really feeling about things, or is that a hush-hush in her environment? Is missing the tee time just an “oops” or a hint at the real wake-up call to come – or nothing at all?

 

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.