Steve Williams has become the first big-name caddie to acknowledge joining a lawsuit by the Association of Professional Tour Caddies against the PGA Tour, according to a Golfchannel.com report Tuesday morning.
“I don’t think the Tour has treated the caddies in a correct manner for a long time,” Williams told GolfChannel.com from his home in New Zealand. “I think this is a good starting point to get the Tour and the caddies in a better stead.”
At issue is whether or not caddies should be paid for sponsor names and logos displayed on their bibs. Lawyers for the caddies have estimated that such prominent advertising is worth roughly $50 million a year.
The addition of Williams is a big get for the caddies, but not all of the Tour’s most recognized bagmen have joined the feisty Kiwi. Contacted by Golf.com Tuesday morning, three prominent caddies said they are not part of the lawsuit and asked that their names be kept confidential.
Texas lawyer Gene Egdorf, attorney for the caddies, tells Golf.com Williams is one of “more than 60” additional caddies who have come forward to join the suit, which Egdorf says will be amended in U.S. District Court in San Francisco in the next two weeks. All told, Egdorf said, there will be “somewhere around 150 plaintiffs” lining up against the Tour.
According to one longtime caddie who is part of the suit, the legal wrangling began over the caddies’ attempt to self-fund a retirement and health-care benefits program by selling advertising on a small patch affixed to their bibs. When the Tour balked at the idea, this caddie says, “We didn’t really have a choice” but to take the Tour to court.
Williams has chosen to step away from the Tour this year but he is perhaps the most famous caddie in golf. He was part of 13 of Tiger Woods’ 14 major victories and most recently worked for Adam Scott. Williams told Golfchannel.com he has been fined $500 several times for taking off his bib prior to the conclusion of a round. He said it was part of a pattern of behavior by the Tour that made him feel like a “second-class citizen.”
The Tour is expected to try to move the case to Florida, but Egdorf said the plaintiffs will fight to keep it in the Northern District of California, where the Tour has an office and where recent history would seem to favor the caddies. The district is where a judge ruled last August in the landmark O’Bannon v. NCAA case, ordering the NCAA not to prohibit student-athletes from sharing revenue generated by their names, images and likenesses.
“That court and that appellate court have more experience with this issue than any other in the country,” Egdorf told Golf.com.
The attorney said the amended lawsuit will include other instances of the caddies being mistreated by the Tour, including being forced to wait out a dangerous storm in a metal shelter at last week’s Honda Classic in West Palm Beach, Fla., and cancelling a caddie dinner that was to take place during next week’s Valspar Championship outside Tampa.
“It was an opportunity to interact with Tour folks,” Egdorf said. “Caddies are upset. There’s certainly no reason for this to take place just because of the lawsuit. It strikes me as rather petty, quite frankly.”
Reached by phone, Ty Votaw, executive vice president of the PGA Tour, told Golf.com, “We aren’t going to make any comment on those allegations or the case itself because we are in pending litigation.”