Heath Holt, ’96, caddying for player on the LIV Golf tour
Having stopped in the pro shop to pick up keys for a golf cart, Heath Holt is heading for the door when he’s stopped by another member of the Millwood Golf and Racket Club in Ozark, Mo.
“I just saw you on TV the other day,” the man says.
“Did the camera add 10 pounds?” Holt replies with a laugh. “I hope not.”
A ’96 graduate of Missouri Southern who was a member of the golf team as a student, Holt has made a living as a caddy for professional golfers for the last 25 years. He’s currently caddying for South African golfer Charl Schwartzel on the LIV Golf Invitational Series.
In June, Schwartzel won the first LIV event at the Centurion Club near London, collecting $4.75 million in what was the largest purse in the history of the sport.
‘HE’LL TAKE IT’
Holt first picked up a golf club at the age of 8.
“I was hooked from the very beginning,” he says. “I took lessons at a driving range. I really liked it, and I’ve always liked being outside as much as possible.”
He was awarded a scholarship to play for Missouri Southern by the late Bill Cox, former golf coach, and says he made lifelong friends on the team.
“We had a great group of guys on the team. I won a tournament but never did anything that would blow anyone’s hair back. But it was a great experience. A lot of it was just spending time together on the road and growing up that way.”
He says several of his teammates landed caddying gigs the summer after they graduated.
“We all jumped in my car after graduation and worked the rest of the Nike Tour back then,” he says. “A friend later called me out of the blue and asked if I’d like to caddy on the PGA Tour starting the following year.
“I had interviewed for one job after I graduated … an insurance company in Springfield. I called the guy up and told him I had the opportunity to caddy for the PGA and he told me, ‘You should take it. You’ve got the rest of your life to sell insurance.’”
‘A TRUE PROFESSIONAL’
Over the years, Holt has worked with nearly 30 professional golfers. The role of a caddy is different for each one.
“It’s not set in stone what you do,” says Holt. “For a lot of them you do yardage, talk about wind direction, club selection and whether you should take on rise – like taking on a Par 5 in two. You wear a lot of hats as a caddy.
“I’ve always heard that golf is 90 percent mental, and that’s really true at the top level. You learn strategy – when to take a risk and when not to – and the smaller nuances of the game. You learn to stay in the moment.”
His pairing with Schwartzel came from the recommendation of a friend who was working with the golfer on his putting game.
“Charl was between caddies at the time, and I was told I should throw my name in the hat,” says Holt. “A few weeks went by, and I got an opportunity to meet with Charl and here we are.
“He is great … a true professional. He saw an opportunity with the LIV league and decided joining was the best thing for him and his family. Getting a win right away was a blessing for my family, too.”
The Saudi-backed LIV series has not been without controversy, with groups criticizing Saudi Arabia’s human-rights violations, and the PGA Tour banning players for participating in events. But Holt says his commitment is to his player in the game.
“Politics in sports is a big no-no,” he says. “I try not to focus on it.”
Living in Springfield, he says he appreciates the spacing of the LIV events, which allows him to be home more and spend time with his family … and out on the golf course.
“Being around world-class players makes you step up your own game,” he says. “But to be honest, when I play it’s to have fun, a few laughs with friends and just enjoy the game.”