ORLANDO – Sometimes it can be difficult to determine the role of a caddie in winning. While some caddies simply carry the bag, others are able to do a wide range of tasks that keep them from hitting the shot. Kurt Kitayama won the Arnold Palmer Invitational his first PGA Tour title. Veteran looper Tim Tucker was there to calm Kitayama down when he needed him.
Let’s go back to last month at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Kitayama claimed that he was feigning inner turmoil. Bryan Martin, his caddie at that time at Pebble Beach Golf Links misclubbed him on hole two and his shot airmailed green, leading to a double-bogey. After shooting 76 (T-29) he fell 27 spots on payday. Another chance at winning the first time was lost.
Kitayama stated that “that one was very disappointing” at Sunday’s winner’s press conference. “I felt comfortable enough in that situation, but things didn’t go my ways early on and I was probably more mad than anything. It happens. Try not to dwell on it too much.
Kitayama did Kitayama kick his golf ball or punch a wall? Kitayama laughed at the idea. Kitayama stated, “Like internally, you kinda, you’re fuming.”
Kitayama made a drastic decision in the midst of his frustration. Martin, his four-year-old caddie, was fired by Kitayama.
Kitayama did not want to deny the reasons for his dismissal but Kitayama also didn’t dispute the story. Kitayama explained that he felt it was time to change his caddie. “We had a really great run.”
Kitayama sought a replacement and reached out to his brother, an old caddie at Bandon Dunes, Oregon who had a close relationship with Tucker. Tucker is best known for his role as Bryson de Chambeau’s bagman at eight Tour victories including the 2020 U.S Open at Winged Foot, and the 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational. He also runs a transportation company at Bandon.
Kitayama stated that the two have been in touch for years and that this opportunity was a chance to meet.
Kitayama parted ways with Pebble’s caddie, and Kitayama was there to play the WM Phoenix Open. Tucker was also there for some work related to the ballmarker he designed and markets. They agreed to work together that week.
Tucker was the headline when he fired DeChambeau just days before the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Although he is not the first to fire a player, it’s rare for a caddie not to give up a bag that has made him rich with a player who seems to be in the peak of his career. Tucker has been a substitute for Tour pros Adam Svensson, Chesson Hadley on occasion. But this time it would be different.
Tucker said that he thought Tucker was “world class” after claiming the caddie trophy and flag at 18. I told Tucker that you are world-class in three areas. You can beat them if you take care of the driver. He is a master at chipping and striking the ball.”
Kitayama tied for the first place in driving accuracy at Arnold Palmer Invitational. However, Kitayama fell short on Sunday when he pulled his ball from bounds on the ninth hole. He made a triple-bogey to lose the lead. Tucker gave a masterclass on how to keep a player in control as he walked from the ninth green to 10 th Tee at Bay Hill.
“I still felt comfortable. I didn’t feel out-of-place. Kitayama stated that it was only one bad swing. He kind of supported me. He said that, and he went, “I know, you’re fine.”
Three tournaments in, Tucker was able to help Kitayama, a 30-year-old, reach the winner’s circle. Kitayama answered a question earlier in the week about how Tucker’s presence on the bag helped him. He said that Tucker has a lot knowledge and a lot experience. It’s certainly helped. It has been wonderful to see his side and learn from him how he works.
Tucker was left with a brace on his right knee and a noticeable limp. He had lifted another player to victory at Arnie’s Place. Tucker would only say to DeChambeau that they were still friends and that he’d bought DeChambeau a Christmas present. Tucker was reluctant to talk to the media and preferred to focus on his boss.
Tucker said to reporters, “Look at him. Look at his smile.” Tucker said that Tucker had taken the monkey off his back and proved that he could play with big boys.