LPGA tournaments have a family atmosphere to them, and nowhere is that more evident than among some of the players and caddies on tour. At any event, you will find husbands, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters carrying the bag for family members, hoping to make a difference and get their players into the winner’s circle!
At the recent Manulife LPGA Classic I spoke with three of the four players who employ their siblings as caddies on a regular basis: Austin Ernst, Brittany Lang, and Brooke Henderson. (Jaye Marie Green also works with her brother, Matthew.) What was common among the three is that their siblings are all accomplished golfers themselves. The players all suggested that having caddies who have played competitive golf is a huge asset when they are under pressure and the stakes are high.
“He is very calming,” Ernst said of her brother, Drew. “He knows how I am, where and when I want to talk, and when I don’t want to talk.” Drew, a former South Carolina state amateur champion, played Division I golf at Coastal Carolina University.
Lang echoed the same sentiment about her brother, Luke, saying, “He is very, very calm.” Luke played college golf at Arkansas Tech University.
Also common among the players is their feeling that it’s beneficial to have family with them while they’re out on tour. The LPGA season can be a long one, with many weeks in a row on the road. But can it be too much time together?
“I stay with the caddies; I have a group of guys I hang with, so it’s kind of nice,” Drew said. “We have learned that we can spend a little too much time together.”
Lang and her brother go about it differently. “I stay with her,” Luke said. “We’re together most of the time.”
Whether together a lot or a little, there’s no doubt the sibling caddies play a big part in the players’ success. So, do they think they would have the same success with other caddies?
“Maybe eventually,” said Ernst, “but I think Drew is the best caddie for me. I don’t want to play without him!”
Lang was even surer: “No. Definitely not.”
Every player and caddie team will at some point disagree on the golf course. Having a sibling as your caddie would make these moments interesting. Do disagreements happen more when working with a sibling?
“Not terribly often,” Ernst. “Every now and then—I’d say once every three tournaments.”
Said Lang, “Not that often, really. Probably only a few times a tournament.” Sounds about the same as any player-caddie relationship.
Having your family there, traveling the world with you, is going to make special moments even better. Ernst said the biggest moment for her and her brother was when they won in Portland in 2014. For Lang, it was winning the U.S. Open in ’16. “That was really special, and I know it was really cool for him too because he loves the U.S. Open,” said Lang.
One of the newest sibling duos on tour is Henderson and her sister, Brittany, now in their second full season. They enjoyed immediate success, winning the LPGA Championship in Henderson’s rookie year and rising as high as No. 2 in the world rankings. As with the other two caddies, Brittany is an accomplished golfer, having played at Coastal Carolina University. She has also taken a run at playing professionally, winning a Sun Coast Tour event in 2014.
When Henderson made the tour full-time in 2016, the sisters had a decision to make: Should Brittany continue to pursue playing professionally, or transition to being a full-time caddie? “I think it was kind of a mutual decision,” said Henderson. “I was looking for a caddie, and she had caddied for me in the past and done a great job. She was looking to take a little break, so it seemed like the perfect fit!”
Plus, having such a good golfer as your caddie has to mean that he or she is right on what to do most of the time. “I would say it’s 50/50,” Henderson said with a laugh. Brittany described her relationship with her sister as “24/7 sister time! We’re best friends, so it’s good!”
These player-caddie siblings have had a lot of success while having fun doing it. It’s clear how much having family on tour means to these players when each was asked to finish the following sentence: Your caddie is…?
“The best!” said Ernst.
“Amazing!” said Lang.
“Awesome!” said Henderson.
These are descriptions that a lot of siblings might use for each other, but it’s even cooler when you’re describing your caddie who is so important to your success on the LPGA tour.
Photographs by Darren Carroll/Getty Images (Henderson sisters); Abigail Dove (author and Ernst)