Williams’ journey takes him from Durham to PGA caddie
Barry Williams traveled from Charlotte to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., last week. The Durham native fished on Tuesday with Boo Weekley. He was on the TPC Sawgrass golf course on Wednesday for a practice round.
Ahh … the life of a PGA Tour caddie.
“All it took was one week, and I fell in love with it,” Williams said in the shadow of the sprawling TPC Sawgrass clubhouse.
But it isn’t that simple or all luxury toting a golf bag for the world’s best golfers, a job the 39-year-old Northern High and UNC Wilmington graduate has held for 11 years. Williams must serve just as much as an unofficial psychologist, butler and sounding board, all the while being concerned about job security around the bend, preparing for rain, cold and heat and enduring the rigors of the road.
Since taking what then was scheduled as a one-year hiatus from his father Rick’s Durham construction business in 2002 to caddie for lifelong friend John Maginnes, Williams has seen the world while carrying a 50-pound golf bag for nine players.
He currently carries for Weekley, one of the game’s most colorful characters as they prepare to tee it up this week at the HP Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas.
“I told him the day I hired him that it was going to ruin his life,” said Maginnes, 44, now a radio/television analyst and the host of “Maginnes On Tap” weekdays on XM/Sirius radio. “Once you join the circus, you don’t go back. And Barry never went home.”
Williams’ boyhood home was on the 17th and then 18th holes at Willowhaven Country Club in northern Durham County where he befriended Maginnes. Williams graduated from Northern in 1992 and from UNCW in 1997 before moving back home to work for his father to build homes in the Durham area.
He kept a close watch on Maginnes’ professional career, which included a second place at the 1996 Buick Challenge on the PGA Tour and three victories on the Web.com Tour. In 2002, Maginnes needed a caddie, and Williams took his construction sabbatical.
The first tournament, the Greater Richmond Open on the Web.com Tour (the Class AAA of PGA Tour golf), came 11 years ago this past week. Maginnes shot 64 in the second round and closed with four birdies on the back nine of the final round. Pat Moore, a former North Carolina golfer, eagled the final hole to knock Maginnes to second place.
Maginnes earned $49,500 and Williams pocketed almost $5,000.
“It was awesome,” Williams said. “It was so good that I was hooked. John was a good friend who took great care of me and really taught me how to caddie. He taught me what he wanted, as a player, in a caddie. It would have taken me several months to make that in my previous job.”
That week set up a nationwide road trip with Williams at the wheel of his SUV with Maginnes in the passenger seat. The stops included making the cut at the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black on Long Island and qualifying for the 2003 PGA Tour.
The 2003 season highlight was a tie for 28th at the U.S. Open in Chicago at Olympia Fields, a tournament where Maginnes sent a limo to the Chicago airport to pick up Williams’ parents as they dined daily in the clubhouse, a final selling point for their sons’ new vocation.
By the end of 2004, Maginnes had a bum right elbow and needed surgery, essentially ending his playing career. Williams was forced to look for a new boss. In succession, he moved on to Todd Fischer, John Rollins, Bob Tway, Daniel Chopra, Vaughn Taylor, Brian Gay, Blake Adams in 2012 and now Weekley.
In late January in San Diego, Adams informed Williams that he needed season-ending hip replacement surgery. It was time to find a new bag. But there stood Weekley, a frequent Adams practice round partner.
“I didn’t get a wink of sleep on Thursday night after Blake told me about his surgery,” Williams said. “I was so nervous, because now I’ve got to find a job. And then Boo asked me on Friday morning if I wanted to work for him. I slept like a baby that Friday night.”
Since developing their partnership, Weekley has won more than $1.1 million in 11 tournaments without missing a cut, including a second-place finish in Tampa and a sixth in New Orleans.
Weekley finished tied for 48th last week at The Players. If you do the math for the standards of caddie pay on the PGA Tour, this is a good place for Williams. Normally, caddies are paid 10 percent of the player earnings for a win, seven percent for a top 10 and five percent for anything else after the cut.
Weekley pays a bit better, offering 10 percent for a top-20 finish and seven percent for everything else. Additionally, there’s a ballpark minimum salary per week, which is at least $1,500.
“If you’ve got a top-70 bag on the PGA Tour, you’re gonna make six figures as a caddie out here,” Williams said.
The attributes that make the Weekley-Williams team work are rooted in their easygoing Southern demeanors. Williams carries the yardage book and reads putts when asked. He also gets Weekley’s mind off a poor shot, which has been a weakness in recent years.
“We are jiving out here right now, singing songs going down the fairway,” Weekley said. “We are always making something up.”
The fishing connection comes easily because Williams, a Wilmington resident, loves salt-water fishing and Weekley is a devoted outdoorsman who often can be found fishing the water hazards on the golf course during his down time.
Three weeks ago, they went on a fishing excursion outside New Orleans. Last week, they were in search of redfish in the Atlantic Ocean at Jacksonville Beach.
“Caddies spend more time with these players than their wives do,” Williams said. “Fishing takes Boo’s mind completely off golf, and that’s a good thing.”
The Dallas event marks a fifth consecutive start for Weekley and Williams, from Hilton Head to New Orleans, Charlotte, Ponte Vedra and Dallas. But when a player is rolling, a caddie is happy. And that’s where Williams is in his career.
“I’ll probably do this until my body starts showing signs it’s time to stop — maybe another good 10 to 15 years,” he said. “Every week, my goal is to save my player a shot or two every day. At the end of the week, it adds up. That will make for a good week.”