Caddies File $50 Million Lawsuit Against PGA Tour

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Caddies are often overlooked in golf. That is about to change.

On Tuesday Mike Hicks, who has caddied for Payne Stewart and Greg Norman, and 80 other professional caddies filed a multi-million dollar federal lawsuit against the PGA Tour. They argue that the Tour unlawfully compels caddies to wear logos and other insignia of corporate sponsors on bibs. The tour also allegedly prevents caddies from sharing in tens of millions of dollars in annual advertising revenue. Put bluntly, the caddies contend that the PGA forces them to become unpaid human billboards for the advertisement of companies sponsoring the Tour.

The caddies have filed their lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California—the same court where Ed O’Bannon v. NCAA was tried and where Martin Jenkins v. NCAA and Cung Le v. UFC are in litigation. Like O’Bannon and other athletes who are using law to address alleged exploitation in sports, the caddies raise claims under antitrust law, intellectual property law and contract law.

The caddies have petitioned the court to certify Hicks v. PGA Tour as a class action on behalf of all caddies residing in the United States who, without pay, wear or have worn bibs bearing the logos of the Tour’s sponsors during tournaments. This proposed class would include about 1,000 caddies and potentially threaten the PGA Tour with hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

Understanding the employment of a caddie during a PGA tournament and the role of the bib

From the vantage point of a fan, caddies often blend into the background of PGA tournaments. Television cameras understandably focus on the stars of the show: the golfers. Broadcasters and journalists similarly devote most of their commentary to describing the golfers, as well as sharing anecdotes about golfers’ backgrounds, personality traits, families, hobbies—you name it. To these golfers’ right or left stand their caddies who receive much less fanfare and at times seem inconsequential. The caddies, however, are visible on-screen, an important point in Hicks v. PGA Tour.

From the vantage point of a golfer, caddies are instrumental. Golfers rely on caddies for their expertise on clubs, swing techniques and course topography, among other crucial aspects of competitive golf. Caddies are also famously known for lending emotional support and counsel. It would be reasonable to conclude that caddies enhance the overall quality and accompanying marketability of PGA tournaments. Caddies do so by improving the play of their respective golfers.

While caddies play a crucial role in PGA tournaments, their relationship to those tournaments is indirect. Golfers, rather than the Tour, employ caddies. Caddies nonetheless must adhere to Tour regulations as a contractual condition of participating in tournaments. In many respects these regulations are permissive. Most significantly, caddies can wear sponsored logos on their clothing. This means that caddies can freely sign sponsorship deals with apparel companies, like New Balance and Nike, and wear those companies’ clothing in front of TV cameras.

On the other hand, caddies are expected to wear bibs, which bear logos of companies paying the PGA Tour but not paying the caddies. These bibs are seen during television broadcasts of tournaments and are captured in photographs used in magazines and on websites. These bibs lie at the heart of Hicks v. PGA Tour. The legal question is whether caddies should be paid for wearing them.

Caddies suing the PGA Tour assign a considerable value to these bibs. “The bib,” the caddies insist, “provides the most valuable marketing medium between commercials during tournament broadcasts …[with] the annual value of the bib exceeds $50 million.” While there is no specific Tour rule that caddies “must” wear the bibs, caddies are thought to be contractually required to wear them as part of an agreed-upon “uniform.” Hicks and the other caddies in the lawsuit also contend the Tour compels the wearing of bibs through coercion and retribution. They charge the Tour threatens caddies with exclusion from tournaments if they won’t wear the bibs, encourages golfers to fire caddies who refuse to wear the bibs and admonishes caddies against receiving endorsement money from sponsors that are competition with bibs’ sponsors.

The caddies' lead attorney, Eugene Egdorf, believes Hicks v. PGA Tour is about treating the caddies fairly and recognizing the value they bring to the Tour. “Over the years,” Egdorf tells, “the PGA Tour and its sponsors have received literally hundreds of millions of dollars in value from endorsements from the bibs the caddies are forced to wear without any compensation whatsoever.” Egdorf, who is the Managing Attorney at the Lanier Law Firm (where he’s in charge of the firm’s Commercial Litigation and Sports Law Practice Groups) adds, “The PGA Tour imposes all sorts of restrictions on caddies for its benefit, yet refuses to provide the most basic of benefits. Just like the athletes that sued NCAA in O'Bannon v. NCAA, Hart v. NCAA and Keller v. NCAA, the caddies want their fair share of the value they provide."

The caddies’ core legal arguments

The caddies plead several causes of action that should provide the Tour’s lawyers with many billable hours in the months ahead. Antitrust law is a key source of law cited by the caddies and is especially threatening given that antitrust damages are normally trebled (multiplied by three) if the plaintiffs prevail.

The caddies contend that the bib policy is an unlawful restraint of trade under the Sherman Antitrust Act. This policy, according to the caddies, is anticompetitive since it prevents caddies from negotiating their own sponsorship contracts for bibs. As an alleged result, caddies are denied earnings they would otherwise obtain. Also, the marketplace for bib sponsorships is less competitive since only the Tour—and not caddies—can negotiate bid sponsorship contracts. At least in theory, this arrangement raises the price sponsors must pay for bib endorsements since the only seller is the Tour. Any associated earnings from this practice then go to the PGA Tour. The caddies also contend that the Tour has monopoly control over employment opportunities for caddies in the U.S. and has conspired with local tournament organizers to force caddies to wear bibs. These local tournament organizers, according to the caddies, selfishly stand to profit by enforcing the Tour’s rules.

In addition to antitrust arguments, the caddies assert intellectual property claims. Specifically, they contend that the Tour misappropriates the images and likenesses of caddies for marketing purposes without the caddies’ consent. The caddies insist they never permitted the Tour to use their likenesses and images for commercial purposes, and never agreed to marketing companies on bibs to potential consumers. The caddies, moreover, charge they receive less in sponsorship agreements for their sponsorships since the prominence of bibs’ size and colors covers or overshadows other pieces of clothing.

The caddies raise yet other claims, including those for breach of contract (the Tour allegedly breached the caddies registration agreement by barring caddies from wearing clothing of sponsors), violation of the Lanham Act (the Tour allegedly causes consumers to be confused into thinking caddies endorse the companies sponsoring the bibs) and interference between caddies and their own sponsors.

Likely defenses by the PGA Tour

In the coming weeks, the PGA Tour will answer the caddies’ complaint. The Tour’s answer and subsequent legal filings will surely deny much of what the plaintiffs contend and also repudiate the caddies’ legal theories.

For instance, the Tour might object to the caddies’ assertion that caddies are obligated to wear bibs. The Tour’s registration agreement with caddies noticeably does not refer to a requirement that caddies wear bibs. Instead, caddies are more generically required to adhere to a “uniform,” a term the caddies contend includes bibs. The Tour might have a very different reading of this term. This seems particularly the case given that “uniform” is defined by the Tour to include such specific features as “Khaki-style pants, which touch the top of the shoe, or solid-colored, knee-length, tailored shorts and a collared shirt,” and “smooth rubber-sole shoes,” yet this definition fails to mention bibs.

The Tour could also contend that no caddie has refused to wear a bib. If this is true, it could suggest that the caddies’ harm is imaginary: if caddies are so disadvantaged by bibs, why hasn’t one refused to wear a bib? This defense might not hold up well. The plaintiffs are prepared to cite the experience of James Edmondson, who while caddying for Ryan Palmer at the Honda Classic last year reportedly removed his bib at the end the round and didn’t wear his bib during a one-hole playoff. Although he faced no punishment because of the unique playoff circumstance, Edmondson still had to explain his decision to Tour officials. Nonetheless the Tour would stress that caddies have behaved as if bibs are acceptable to them.

Along those lines, Tour will highlight that caddies contractually assent to follow the rules. Caddies are not obligated to participate in Tour competitions and their choice to do so is made freely. Anticipating this type of defense, the caddies frame the Tour as a monopoly for the highest level of professional male golf. The Tour will need to establish how there is competition for the services of caddies that go beyond Tour-sponsored events.

The Tour is also poised to argue that bibs improve the presentation and marketability of tournaments. This is a potentially important point in antitrust analysis, which often balances the “pro competitive” virtues of a restraint (here the restraint is an alleged Tour rule that caddies wear bibs) and its “anti-competitive” harms. While imposing bibs on caddies might harm those caddies, the Tour could portray tournaments are more profitable due to the bib policy and thus the overall tournament product is improved. Perhaps the Tour will also express that caddies could face unintended consequences if they succeed. After all, if caddies extract too much revenue from the Tour, the Tour might need to promulgate more exclusive conditions to become a caddie. New conditions might cause some caddies to lose their line of work.

One challenge for the Tour in raising these types of defenses would be the caddies’ contention that there are less-restrictive means of standardizing the appearance of caddies than forcing them to wear bibs. In antitrust law, the possibility of less-restrictive means for the defendant to achieve the same ends is often a strong argument for the plaintiffs.

Next steps

This is a transformative era for caddies. They have become more organized and vocal through trade associations like the Association of Professional Tour Cadies (formed in 2013) and the United States Caddie Association (formed in 2014). Now many of them have filed a potentially game-changing federal lawsuit. If the caddies succeed in their lawsuit, a court will enjoin the PGA Tour from requiring caddies to use bibs and will compel the Tour to pay many millions in damages.

But keep in mind that antitrust and intellectual property litigation often takes years to play out and that plaintiffs often fail in these cases. The Tour obviously has deep financial resources to wage a strong legal defense and as explained above, the Tour might raise powerful defenses. The filing of a lawsuit is only the first step in a long process where the defendant—here the Tour—has multiple moments to defeat the lawsuit.

Still, Hicks v. PGA Tour does not necessarily have to prevail in order to lead to changes. If the caddies’ lawsuit advances past a motion to dismiss, the caddies would be in a position to compel “pretrial discovery.” Attorneys for the caddies could then demand sensitive documents from the Tour and depose Tour officials under oath. At that point the Tour might be interested in settling the lawsuit rather than participating in pretrial discovery. A settlement would likely lead to changes in the bib policy and perhaps compensation to caddies. It could also encourage other groups, such as female caddies, to consider filing similar litigation.

Big changes could be ahead in the world of caddies, whether or not the world of golf welcomes them.

Michael McCann is a Massachusetts attorney and the founding director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. He is also the distinguished visiting Hall of Fame Professor of Law at Mississippi College School of Law.


Lydia Ko become World N.1 CaddiePlayer was there

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What an intense 2 weeks it was here in Florida USA, first as #IamCaddiePlayer promoting "Science Findings", second as #IamConsultant at the PGA Show Orlando launching “FrankiegoestoHollyGolf” ladies fashion brand and third at the inaugural LPGA Coates Championship Ocala as #IamCorrespondent reporting for Swiss Mag “Golf and Country”, at last I had to run to the Dentist for an emergency Tooth extraction N.19. Thanks God they had good Anesthesia! Did you know that in the USA they do not use same Teeth numbers measurement as in Europe? Now you know.

Speaking about the PGAShow my Highlight was certainly my Public Intervention on the GameGolf presentation with Guest Speaker Graeme McDowell when CEO publicly said that Putting recording was their biggest Challenge… then I had 10 minutes to explain to their Mathematical Engineer how they could solve it using CaddiePlayer Putting Zones System Research findings. The PGAShow was a total success! On the side line they hosted as well:  The #PGASummit where they presented the most experiences Panel of Golf Master Coaches ever, I Tweeted @stephanebarras : Best of the Best Coach combine 400 years of Knowledge #Leadbetter #McLean #Harmon #Hardy #Adams #Cook and the #DemoDay where I could introduce CaddiePlayer to Blair O Neal the Most Beautiful Golfer in the World now aiming to play LPGA.

Highlight is one things making history is another… I would never imagine that Golf History would have been made in OCALA Florida. OCALA is more famous for Horse and Equestrian Club with beautiful farms than Golf, but History rarely decide time and places, it just happen and then you will remember for the rest of your life where you were that day. Actually history was not made in one day but over two! It all started on Friday with Tiger Woods scoring 82 finishing last at the Waste Management and ended on Saturday with Lydia Ko becoming World Youngest Number One. Thanks to the Golf Channel, on Friday I could witness the 82 shots of Tiger nightmare followed by probably the biggest controversial TV Golf Channel Debate of all time: “Tiger Woods need to re-learn to play golf”

But now let’s finish in style and style shocking it was for Lydia Ko who went from Eden (after sinking a 60 footer on 15th ) and lead by one to Hell (after making double on 17th )to finally lose by one over Choi. More interestingly all that happen within the footstep of David Leadbetter her coach who was following at Golden Ocala… and me just behind.

If you thought Tiger was too technical I can testimony that Lydia was too and Thanks to her impressive long putts performance she could save her Score and Leadbetter his one more time fame. Lydia SwingGame was not what you would expect from a new comer Golf World Number One, but As we say: GOLF IS A NOT A GAME OF PERFECTION!

Cheers #IamCaddiePlayer #IamStéphaneBarras on my way to eat a soup! I never eat so many soups since last week tooth extraction… the good part you find great soup out there! Next time have a soup too :-)


LydiaKo N.1

More Comments about Lydia Ko 

On Lydia Ko, T2 at -15 and becoming the youngest player – male or female – to claim World. No. 1 ranking

Rankin – “She didn’t meet one challenge, but she met the other.” Gannon – “There it is Judy, a new number one and there has never been one this young.” Rankin – “To be a player to be able to do this at such a young age, you have to have the desire and the demeanor.  She has both.  Nothing seems to faze her.”

 On Ko’s 60-foot birdie putt on 15 that moved her into the lead to -17 for the championship with two holes to play

Tom Abbott (@TomAbbottGC) – “It’s game on for young Ko.” Terry Gannon – What a turn of events at 15.  Just when you think she is slipping away, she moves back on top.  Unbelievable.” Rankin – “Slam Dunk.” Rankin – “She hasn’t had any bad times, down times or a slump.  For the most part she has stayed well and always has played well.”

 Lydia Ko’s double bogey on 17 to move her to -15

Abbott – “This is a huge turn of events.” Rankin – “I don’t care who you are, you are rattled at this moment.” Rankin – “If you drive the ball well, it is a hole you can manage.  If you don’t drive the ball well on this hole, it is very difficult to get the ball on the green.  It proved very difficult for this final group today.”

Na Yeon Choi Wins Inaugural LPGA Coates

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By Libby Peacock,

OCALA, Fla. Na Yeon Choi overcame Friday’s two shot deficit to win the inaugural Coates Golf Championship presented by R+L Carriers with a 16 under par score this evening in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club in Ocala, Fla. This is the eighth career victory for the South Korean.

“It wasn't easy to stay calm on the last hole because I was so nervous out there,” said Na Yeon Choi. “I was waiting for this moment [for a long time], but finally [I’m here] and I'm so happy. I'm really looking forward this season.  I can see my game improving so much from the last year.” In its inaugural year, the Coates Golf Championship presented by R+L Carriers saw considerable attendance throughout the week. Tens of thousands of spectators attended the event to watch 120 of the world’s best female golfers compete in the first LPGA tournament of the year. In addition to the players and spectators, over 850 volunteers supported the event in various roles throughout the week.

“This week has been an impressive start to our 2015 season,” said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan. “We could not be happier with the response we have received from the communities of Ocala, Marion County and Central Florida. The spectator support here has been among the best on the LPGA Tour.” Choi trailed Lydia Ko by one stroke going into hole #17. She was able to par #17 under pressure as Ko double bogeyed, giving Choi a one shot lead going into the final hole. Ko played aggressive going for the green in two, while Choi laid up and played safe; Ko pared the hole, leaving Choi with a tap-in putt for the victory.

Ko’s second place finish awarded her with the projected #1 in the Rolex World Ranking, making her the youngest male or female golfer to earn #1 in the world.

“Congratulations to Na Yeon Choi—our first Coates Golf Champion,” said Mollie Coates, President of Coates Golf. “We could sense from day one that this would be an exceptional week in golf. Congratulations also to Lydia Ko, the youngest golfer in the history of men's and women's golf to be projected as number one in the world. We can't wait to see what the rest of 2015 holds for women's golf.”

To stay up to date with tournament news and information, please visit, and

less drama more birdies

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My tribute to the CharlieHebdo Terrorist attack

On my way to the PGA Show I happen to Stop over to « France ma douce France ». As snow ski is part of my roots I went to Mégève, one of a kind lifestyle Ski resort, when the “Charlie Hebdo” drama happen. Then the #IamCharlie avalanche went down on me and after January 11th 2014 the unity rally Paris world leaders changed modern world forever. Beeing that week under France Media influence was such an introspection as who we are, who we thing we are and why we are who we are. #IamCharlie and you?

#IamCaddiePlayer…. well if you read this blog I guess you might be one and I hope you understand why I have edit the logo below “less drama more birdies” in fact this is my way (sorry, I am not good drawer) of expressing my respond to violence, racism and discrimination.

Think for a second how you feel when you make a birdie > happiness? Delivering birdies is what all golfers aim for… Delivering happiness is what all people should aim for. So let’s try to be happy now, let’s leave the drama in the locker room and FOCUS on what really counts.

Be happy to be Free, Enjoy the moment, the nature, The game, Your friends. You go Out of Bound play another ball, You miss the green play a nice approach, you miss the approach have a good putt, you miss the putt smile to it and at the end of your round do not forget your comments, do not forget your introspect. Be positive, Be patient, Be happy. I wish you lots of birdies now … Until next time

#IamStephane #IamCaddiePlayer  



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