THE CADDIE CAUSE
ORLANDO NATIVE DENNIS CONE IS FIGHTING TO HELP
CADDIES EARN BENEFITS AND RECOGNITION AROUND THE WORLD OF GOLF.
By Scott Kauffman of The Sentinel Staff
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.