A feel-good story involving a local caddie in Mexico who worked for Matt Kuchar during his victory last fall at the Mayakoba Classic has turned into a dispute over how much the temporary caddie should have been paid.
David Giral Ortiz told Golf.com that he was paid $5,000 by Kuchar, who won for the first time in four years and earned $1,296,000 for the victory.
Social media reports began surfacing last month when Kuchar was in contention — and eventually won — the Sony Open in Hawaii that suggested Kuchar had paid the caddie, who goes by the name El Tucan, $3,000 — well below what a regular caddie would make for being on the winning bag.
Approached by reporters from Golf Digest and Golf Channel following the third round of the Sony Open, Kuchar said there was “no story” and suggested that the caddie had been paid more but well below the 10 percent bonus that a regular caddie would receive under such circumstances.
But in a recent interview with Golf.com, Ortiz told the website that he had agreed to a $3,000 fee for the week with an undetermined bonus to be paid based on prize money and was surprised when the total — paid in U.S. cash — amounted to just $5,000.
Kuchar was a last-minute entrant in the event and his regular caddie, John Wood, had previous plans.
Ortiz, 40, is a regular caddie at the Mayakoba Resort near Cancun where the tournament is played and said he can make up to $200 per day.
“Matt is a good person and a great player,” he told Golf.com through a translator. “He treated me very well. I am only disappointed by how it all finished.”
Ortiz told the website that he had been offered an additional $15,000 but turned it down, feeling he deserved another $45,000. “No thank you. They can keep their money.”
The caddie told Golf.com that last month he reached out to Kuchar’s agent, Mark Steinberg, via email with the help of locals. He did so, he said, because he did not have Kuchar’s contact information.
The “reports on what Matt’s caddie was offered are wildly inaccurate,” Steinberg told the website. “However, it is inappropriate to discuss those amounts publicly.”
Approached Tuesday, Steinberg said he would not be saying any more.
Complicating the situation is what is considered proper compensation for a caddie. Ortiz acknowledged he did not expect to be paid what a regular caddie would make; typically he would not be expected to know the player’s game in the same way. Nor did he have travel expenses, or the week-to-week existence of a tour caddie.
Caddie deals on the PGA Tour vary greatly, but there is usually a base amount to cover minimal travel, with a commission based on prize money. That percentage can vary, but there is often an extra amount thrown in for top-10 finishes and typically a 10 percent bonus for a win.
In this case, that would mean a payment of nearly $130,000. Ortiz said he was hoping for $50,000. Kuchar, 40, has made more than $46 million in his PGA Tour career and has had two $1-million-plus paydays in the last four months.
“He was definitely my lucky charm,” Kuchar said in the aftermath of the victory. “He brought me good luck and certainly some extra crowd support and did a great job as well. He did just what I was hoping for and looking for.”