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By Scott Kauffman of The Sentinel Staff
     Visit the Winter Park home of Dennis Cone and a 1978 Winnebago sits next to the house. Inside the motorhome, it's a trip down memory lane. An 8-track tape player sits in the console and a tape of Neil Diamond lies on the dashboard. Though Cone appears to be living in the past inside his aging RV, the native Orlandoan and his Pro Caddies Association is certainly moving forward outside the rig. ``I call it caddie central,'' Cone said, referring to the motorhome he recently bought after selling his prized 1988 Trans Am and a boat. ``Now I have a traveling office. We'll start out on the road when the [PGA) Tour starts its Florida swing. I'm like John Madden.'' And like Madden, Cone is pumped up about his calling.
     Three years after Cone founded the PCA, and almost seven years since he started dreaming about it, the Caddies Association finally is starting to receive some of the recognition Cone long has sought. ``It's exciting, the world is starting to recognize the caddies,'' Cone said. ``When Tiger [Woods) told the world how important Fluff [caddie Mike Cowan) was, I think that accelerated us a couple years.'' ``When [caddie Jerry) Higgi [Higgin-Botham) said he won the British Open for Mark O'Meara 'cause he found Mark's ball, I think that accelerated it, too,'' new PCA president Laura Drumm added. Whatever the case, the PCA, which provides health and financial benefits to touring pro and club caddies around the world, has made serious inroads in 1999. Consider some of the recent developments: - Renowned fine jewelry artist and sculptor Malcolm DeMille recently designed the organization's new logo, which features a caddy circa the 1500s. The logo will be unveiled to the industry at the PGA Merchandise Show Jan.29. - The PCA will start co-branding merchandise with the PGA Tour, another development to be announced at the PGA Show. It marks the first time the golfer and caddy will be represented on the same merchandise. - The World Golf Village's Tour Stop pro shop will sponsor Caddie Appreciation Night during the TPC in March. Scheduled for March 24, PCA Worldwide will induct 10 caddies into the PCA Caddie Hall of Fame. - The PCA is introducing the junior and professional caddie apprenticeship program in the coming year. Cone is most excited about the co-branding merchandise opportunity with the PGA Tour. If anything, it gives the PCA instant credibility. ``It's incredible ... the relationship with the Tour,'' said Cone, whose organization currently is talking to several manufacturers about selling licensed PCA apparel with the Tour logo. ``It was something I was working on for six years. For the first time, the team is truly represented on one garment - meaning the Tour logo and the PCA logo. The caddie is part of the team. It's a team sport now.'' Cone turned down a potential ``six-figure'' contract with B.U.M. clothing to strike a deal with the Tour. All proceeds from PCA apparel sales will go to the organization and the PCA Foundation. So what makes Cone think the caddie apparel will fly?
     ``The caddie is the sizzle,'' said Cone, whose Grouper Marketing Worldwide represents the PCA as its main client. ``People want to help the caddie. Now they have the way to do that.'' Cone first recognized the need to champion caddies' causes when he carried a bag at a few tournament for Donnie Hammond in 1990 and 1991. ``When I was out there, I got to know some caddies,'' said Cone, who grew up around Dubsdread Golf Course, where he later became active in the Central Florida junior golf scene. ``I stayed with 'em and drank with 'em. I saw them and they didn't have much.'' For instance, Cone recalls the death from leukemia in 1997 of Nick Price's caddie, Jeff ``Squeeky'' Medlin. Or the plight of Billy Mayfair's caddie, Montana Thompson, whose son recently underwent a $100,000 skull surgery. Cone knows the toll such costly illnesses can take on a family, having taken care of his own mother at the time she was dying of cancer. It was then Cone became committed to the caddie cause.
     ``Just knowing they have nothing out there if something happens,'' he said. ``There's no turning back now. If it means selling my house. ... I just sold my car and boat to buy the motorhome. Whatever it takes.'' Even if it means driving down the road to the ancient sounds of 8-track music. Copyright 1999, Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.
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