Caddie Leaves Tour Pro For Hall Of Famer

Player-caddie breakups are not rare on the PGA Tour unless it’s the caddie leaving the player.

Jeff Johnson had been on Tyrone van Aswegen’s bag since the South African pro got his Tour card in 2011 thanks to a cold call on social media, and now for the 2018 season, it’s the looper who will be graduating to the senior tour, not the player.

“Thank you for getting in touch with me,” van Aswegen responded to Johnson’s initial outreach, which was chronicled by the caddie in a recent Caddie Network first-person story. “At the moment, I don’t have anyone caddying for me in South America.” 

At that point, a relationship began that turned into a brotherhood. After three years on the Tour, van Aswegen earned his PGA Tour card on the strength of a fourth-place finish at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship.

“A few weeks later, it became official at TPC Sawgrass as Ty walked across the stage and received his first-ever PGA Tour card,” Johnson wrote. “I can’t explain how I felt. Here I was seeing someone realize their lifelong dream after having played some small role in the effort. Actually, I can explain it: I’ve never felt prouder for someone who isn’t related to me by blood.”

After five years together on the PGA Tour in which van Aswegen notched four top-10 finishes, 21 top-25s and made over $3.2 million in on-the-course earnings, Johnson had to make one of the toughest decisions of his life. 

A text from Hall of Famer Retief Goosen asking if he’d be interested in taking up his bag led to one of the hardest conversations Johnson ever had to have. After telling van Aswegen that he had the opportunity to loop for Goosen, van Aswegen said, “That’s great. I knew this call would come at some point, I just didn’t think it would be this soon.”

“You see, this is part of what I love about this guy,” Johnson wrote. “He obviously wants to succeed, but he’s not going to get in the way of what is a tremendous opportunity for me.

“To Ty, I say, ‘thank you.'”

There won’t be any snubs or chide remarks from either side like in other player-caddie breakups we’ve seen. That’s what this game can do — bring two men together from different backgrounds and different countries and turn them into brothers.

Goosen made his debut on the PGA Tour Champions with Johnson on the bag last week in Boca Raton at the Oasis Championship. He finished in a tie for 24th place.