We caught up with top PGA Tour caddy, Connecticut’s own Joe LaCava. Joe, who has been Freddie Couples’ long time caddy, is now “officially’ the choice to take over the bag of rising superstar Dustin Johnson.
What’s your favorite course in the Connecticut area?
I think Waterbury is the nicest layout in the area. Hartford and Stanwich, they’re not close by, but I like to play both of them.
So you like a Donald Ross layout?
What’s not to like?
What’s your favorite course that you’ve ever been to?
I’d have to say Muirfield in Scotland and Muirfield in Ohio are my top two. I’ve never played St. Andrews but I’d like to. I’ve caddied it enough and I think it’s an interesting golf course. But if I was in Scotland I’d pick Muirfield before I’d pick St. Andrews. I’d love to play Augusta, but being spoiled I’d love to play it the week after they play it. I’m sure it’s good day in and day out, but if you’re gonna play it you want to play it with those conditions.
Have you ever taken a shot on Augusta?
No, that’s a no-no down there. Fred goes by the rules ‘cause he loves the place. He doesn’t want to jeopardize anything there and I wouldn’t do that to him anyway. Plus you’ve got five thousand people watching you, why would I want to take a shot?
How did you first get started as a caddy?
Like everything else it’s who you know. Ken Green and I are cousins. Long story short, I would always take a week off during my summer job from the time I was 16 through college and work Westchester for him. After getting out of Western Connecticut University I said to Ken, “I’d like to come out to the West Coast and watch you play golf. Up until then I had never been further than New Jersey. So, in December of ’86 he asked me if I was still planning on coming out and would I like to caddy a little bit. At the same time, his sister Shelly, who had been caddying for him was looking to settle down with Slugger White and wanted to raise a family and not caddy anymore. I caddied for him at the Tournament of Champions and the second week at the Bob Hope he asked me if I wanted to do it full-time. I purposely didn’t put any resumes out or look for a job because I knew I wanted to travel for awhile. Almost 24 years later I’m here at Pomperaug Golf Club (Southbury, Ct.) hanging out with you!
How long did you work for Ken and how did you get hooked up with Fred?
I worked three years, ’87 thru ’89, for Ken. We had a good three-year run. He played great. In 1988, he won twice, back to back, lost two others in playoffs and won a tournament in Japan. He won another tournament and made a Ryder Cup team in ‘89. He taught me a lot about the game and caddying. What to do. What not to do. He was very helpful. Then at the end of ’89, he said he was going to bring his brother out. I respected that. I was a single guy at the time. I had no obligations. So I said, well maybe it’s time to go back and get a real job. Then, I said, well Fred and his caddy split up in May of that year, maybe I should at least talk to him. The scuttlebutt around the caddy yard was that Fred was getting ready to hire someone full-time starting in 1990 but he was gonna try different guys out the rest of ’89. There were no more tournaments left when Ken told me. So I approached Fred and asked if there was any chance of getting a shot next year. I said I know there are a lot of guys with plenty of experience but I have been out here three years and I’d love a shot at working for you. So he said, “Here’s my number, call me over the winter.” I call him three or four times and I don’t hear back from him. So I figure I’ll call him one more time, leave a message and say, “I don’t need a yes or no, I just need to know if there is any interest. If not, I need to contact other people or go back to Connecticut and get a job.” With that he called me back and I said, “I’m a big boy, if the answer is no, that’s ok.” And he says, “I’m gonna play four tournaments on the West Coast. Let’s see how it goes, what happens, etc.” I said, “Ok, great.” I worked the four tournaments. He wins one of them, the L.A. Open, which is his favorite tournament. I never asked him to this day why he chose me over a lot of guys that had been out there longer or why after four weeks he decided to hire me full-time. Fred will always remain a great friend !
Since our conversation, Joe has been rumored to be Tiger Woods’ choice to take over for his long time caddy, Steve Williams. If these rumors are true, it would be a tough decision for Joe after being an instrumental part in Dustin Johnson’s career best Major finish, a T2 at this year’s British Open.