published Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Henley passes up bag pay to play

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    Kip Henley eyes a putt on the 18th green at the Council Fire Golf Club. Kip Henley is the caddie for professional golfer Brian Gay. Staff Photo by Allison Carter/Chattanooga Times Free Press
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As a caddie, Kip Henley’s weekly pay depends on how much money Brian Gay makes on the PGA Tour.

Henley will be playing for his pay next week in the FedEx St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind in Memphis.

He earned an exemption into the PGA Tour event by winning the Tennessee Section PGA championship last fall at Council Fire, and he’s likely turning down a big check by playing instead of looping.

“I’ve made a lot of money in the last five years caddying for him, and that’s my biggest tournament,” Henley said over the phone. “What I’m doing is absolutely crazy.”

Gay has earned more than $1.45 million in his last five Memphis tournaments, including $1 million for winning in 2008. Henley gets 5 to 10 percent of each check Gay collects.

But it’s a decision the 50-year-old had to make. He’ll earn more money down the line, but he may never play in a PGA Tour event again.

“On paper, I have no chance whatsoever, and on paper I’m too old and not supposed to play in this thing anymore,” said the former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga golfer from Central High School. “But golfing has always been in my heart.”

And he’s going to have fun with it.

Caddies do not get access to the clubhouse at TPC Southwind. As a player, Henley will. He’ll also have VIP parking, a new set of clubs has already arrived, and he said Bob Vokey is shipping him two customized wedges.

“It’s not like I’m a stranger out there,” said Henley, who has one of the longest running caddie-player partnerships on the PGA Tour at more than five years with Gay.

“I’ll be going into the clubhouse and eating creme brulee,” Henley joked. “There’s a little veranda on the top floor of the clubhouse, and I plan on standing out there and waving at all the other caddies who are in the shade of a tree where I am almost every year.

“There will be a few caddies who love it for me. And a few will hate my guts for it.”

They all could be laughing at him Friday afternoon when the cut line is determined. Or his fellow caddies could be in awe. But there is little chance that Gay and Henley will be paired together at any point in the tournament.

Henley is unlikely to make the cut, and if he does he figures it will be by a stroke or two. He expects Gay to be among the leaders.

“There’s almost no chance,” Henley said. “The odds are way too high for us to be paired together. I tell you what, I’d be comfortable playing with him, and all the pressure would be off of me.”

Gay is the full-time pro, after all.

That doesn’t mean Henley is a hacker. This will be his fifth tour around the Memphis course, and he won the Golf Channel’s “Big Break” in 2004.

“I know that if I can get it going, I can do it,” Henley said. “I can still play good golf, but not as often as I used to.”

Henley is unsure of who will caddie for him in Memphis.

It could be his brother, Lindy, who helped him win at Council Fire and get into the PGA Tour tournament. It could be professional caddie Scott Steele, who had Larry Mize’s bag when Mize won the Masters in 1987.

Or it could be a beauty queen.

Twenty-year-old Stormi Henley is trying to clear her schedule to caddie for her daddy. Having her tote his clubs — which she’s done a time or two before — would make him one of the most popular groups to watch.

“Having Miss Teen USA [2009] on the bag would be cool,” Henley said, bragging a bit about his daughter. “If she doesn’t have a big modeling gig in L.A., we’ll get her out to Memphis.”

“That would be another cool part of the story.”

It’s unique enough already.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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