Publish date:

My Caddies And Me

Golfer and caddie--it's a relationship. You hope it works out,
but you never know. This has been the best year of my 15-year
career, with a win at Milwaukee and more than $1.1 million in
earnings, and I've used six caddies. Five were pros. One was my
next-door neighbor. The win came with my neighbor on my bag.

I had asked around for a caddie before the Milwaukee Open, but
nobody was available. Rather than grab someone in the parking
lot, I gave Rick Bruder, a Chicago options trader and my
neighbor, a crash course on tending pins and raking traps. Rick
was a nervous wreck all week. When I chipped in twice on Sunday
to take the lead, I thought he'd hyperventilate. I told a doctor
friend of ours in the gallery, "Be ready. Rick might not make
it." Keeping Rick calm helped me stay loose, and we hung on for
my third Tour win.

The key to my season, though, was Tony Navarro. After caddying
for Raymond Floyd and Ben Crenshaw, Tony worked for me from 1990
through '92. Then Greg Norman let his caddie go, and I
recommended Tony. It was a huge opportunity for Tony, but he
said, "No, no, Jeff, I can't. You and I are friends." I
practically had to push him toward Greg, but he went, and they

When Greg hurt his shoulder this year, Tony came back to me for
nine weeks. On the first day, he assessed my game. "You need to
work on your chipping and pitching," he said. I took Tony's
advice and haven't missed a cut since.

With Tony rejoining Greg for '99, I looked up Mark Chaney (on
the bag, above), Curtis Strange's former caddie. First, of
course, we asked Curtis. He was great about it. "I'm doing a lot
of TV and not playing much," he said. "Go ahead--I wish you both
the best."

Mark is an experienced winner. He's relaxed and quiet and has a
good sense of humor. I have never seen him hyperventilate. Maybe
this is the start of a good run for both of us.

Jeff Sluman finished 21st on the 1998 money list.

COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK [Mark Chaney and Jeff Sluman on course]