The drama continues for Matt Kuchar and his fill-in caddie from Mexico “El Tucan”. Filling in for his regular caddie, El Tucan jumped on the bag of Kuchar for the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico, where Kuchar went on to win. According to Kuchar and El Tucan, on Tuesday of the tournament week, they had an agreed upon work price of $3,000, with a possible bonus according to his finish. Sunday after the win, Kuchar walked away with $1.3 million and handed El Tucan an evelope filled with cash, only adding up to $5,000. Just a mere 0.05% of his total winnings.
Playing The Genesis Open this week at Riviera, Kuchar was interviewed and kept his strong stance on the situation. Kuchar said things like, “I won’t lose sleep over it” or “for a guy who makes $200 a day, a $5,000 week is a really big week.” Kuchar also had a really big week. “Kuch” did also say that he was sad that this had become a story, because him and El Tucan did have a great week out there.
It’s typical for a PGA Tour caddie to have an agreed upon price at the start of the week, and then take bonuses depending on the finish the pro has and sometimes take up to 10% of the earnings in the event of a win. I don’t believe this situation is about Kuchar being a bad guy, but the total self-awareness during the situation seems to be unfathomable. Neither Kuchar or his agent, Mark Steinberg, have been able to remedy the situation publicly and they seemingly continue to make things look worse.
If Kuchar would have called up Jim “Bones” Mackay, does he only throw him $5,000 for the week? Probably not, but I get it and understand that Bones is incredibly more experienced as a caddie on Tour than El Tucan. The fact remains that he did not give El Tucan the respect he deserved in the win. Whether El Tucan makes $200 in a day or not, Kuchar had the opportunity to do something special for the man and his family. Kuchar ranks top 10 all-time in career earnings, so I doubt throwing $50,000 was going to sting much. Maybe $5,000 was all the cash he could gather on hand and wanted to take the easy route out? Maybe.
At this point in the saga, it seems that if Kuchar pays El Tucan more money it is going to be to save his own reputation and not out of the kindness of his own heart. I don’t disagree with El Tucan for not taking the extra $15,000 offered by Mark Steinberg, as he felt he deserved more, and rightfully so. As a former caddie at an exclusive club in Los Angeles, I know for a fact when you receive an above and beyond tip it’s something special and makes you feel rewarded in the fact that you did a great job. I believe that El Tucan feels Kuchar wasn’t appreciative of his help, and therefore took advantage of him for only being a caddie at a local club and that he didn’t have to “pay up.”
I believe the right thing to do would be to give El Tucan more money, and not just a lowball offer to make things go away. I agree that it doesn’t have to be the typical 10% of winnings, but an amount that shows the gratitude of the work he did for Kuchar in getting his first win in more than 4 years. As a former caddie, I know the struggle and grind of the life, and I know that El Tucan was crushed at what his earnings could have done for his family. Unfortunately, I don’t think Kuchar’s reputation will recover from this, and it is sad that he continues to dig it deeper.