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Bag Man: Tim Tucker has a knack for caddying for winners on the PGA Tour

Tucker was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open trying to promote his ball markers, but ended up on the bag for Kurt Kitayama. Three weeks later they held the winner’s trophy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. (Photos courtesy Tim Tucker)

by Steve Mims

Tim Tucker was planning to celebrate his 55th birthday by entering the Texas Senior Amateur in September. The 86th annual event is slated to be played at Tucker’s home course, Amarillo Country Club, during the first year he is eligible to qualify.

That plan, and the rest of Tucker’s summer schedule, drastically changed in February when he returned to a full-time gig as a caddie on the PGA Tour for Kurt Kitayama.

In just his third week on Kitayama’s bag, Tucker helped him collect his first tour victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 5.

“Life is amazing, man,” Tucker said a few days after the victory. “I am the luckiest guy on the planet. I am so thankful.”

But this isn’t Tucker’s first rodeo. His first regular role as a caddie on the PGA Tour resulted in eight wins with Bryson DeChambeau, including the 2020 U.S. Open.

After the two split up in the middle of the 2021 season, Tucker took a short-term gig caddying for former PNGA Player of the Year Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C., helping him to a strong start last season.

Tucker was working on a couple business opportunities before accepting the offer from Kitayama.

“The money is crazy out there, so if you get an offer to work for a Top-50 golfer, it would be financially irresponsible to not do it,” Tucker said. “I was not actively seeking it, but I said if I got a Top-50 guy, then for sure I would do it.”

Daniel Kitayama, Kurt’s brother, works as a caddie at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, and knew Tucker from his time as a caddie at the resort. Daniel told Kurt about Tucker, and the rest is history.

Tucker began his golf career as the head pro at Springfield (Ore.) Country Club before deciding he wanted to find a different role in the sport. A native of Coos Bay, Ore., he took a job as a caddie at nearby Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in 2003 while considering his career options.

“I knew the clientele at Bandon was world class, so I thought maybe I would meet someone and find something else to do for a living,” he said. “I enjoyed caddying and the lifestyle, so I stayed.”

Still showing his own game, Tucker competed in the 2013 PNGA Men’s Amateur, held that year at Bandon Dunes, making the round of 16 after tying for medalist honors.

Tucker worked at the resort for a dozen years before a connection from a friend earned him a couple opportunities to caddie on the PGA Tour.

In 2016, Tucker reunited with DeChambeau, who was 15 when he first worked with Tucker on reading greens. Tucker was on the bag for every one of DeChambeau’s victories that made him one of the top golfers on tour.

When the two parted ways in July 2021, Tucker and his business partner, Amos Baker, focused on Loop, a luxury transportation service they created that takes golfers from airports in Oregon to Bandon Dunes. The 36-foot van includes eight seats with massage features, bathroom facilities, a beverage bar and more.

“It’s like a private jet,” Tucker said. “We wanted people to start their trip when they landed, not after they landed and got in a rental car before driving to Bandon.”

Tucker’s entrepreneurial spirit was evident again last year when he invented True Aim, a ball marker with lines that helps a golfer line up his putt based on the break in the green. He said that he has sold about 1,400 of them at $100 apiece with a handful of tour golfers also using the device.

“Business has been great, it has really been word of mouth,” Tucker said. “People’s brains can’t do the complex math to read greens so it is cool to have a process. People struggle with reading greens. I don’t think people are bad putters, I think they are bad green readers.”

Tucker, who worked a couple PGA Tour events for Chesson Hadley and Svensson last year, was in Phoenix in February promoting True Aim when he got a call from Kitayama’s brother, Daniel, who works as a caddie at Bandon Dunes. Kurt Kitayama was seeking a new looper and when he found out Tucker was in Arizona, he hired him to caddie at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“I had no clothes, I had only planned to be there for three days,” Tucker recalled.

Kitayama tied for 23rd at the event, and the following week he missed the cut at the Genesis Invitational. After that, Tucker agreed to work full-time for Kitayama, who promptly shot 9-under par in his next start to win at Bay Hill by one stroke and earn $3.6 million.

“To watch him win after putting in the work all these years, to earn his childhood dream is insane,” Tucker said. “Coolest thing in the world, and if I can help a little here and there, that is rewarding.”

Kitayama, a 30-year-old from Chico, Calif., played numerous mini-tours before joining the PGA Tour last year. The winning purse in his 50th career event nearly doubled his previous earnings and moved him up to 19th in the World Golf Rankings.

“After my first week caddying for him, I knew he could win,” Tucker said. “He’s an elite ball striker.”

After the win, Tucker and Kitayama headed to The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

“I have gotten so many texts and phone calls,” Tucker said, following the win. “It is a small world, there has not been a caddie or pro that has not shaken our hand and congratulated us.”

Now Tucker has a full golf schedule ahead, including each of the majors, and that won’t leave him enough time to practice for that Texas Senior Amateur.

“I wanted to try and win that tournament, but that’s not a possibility anymore,” he said with a smile.

Steve Mims spent 21 years as a sportswriter for the Eugene Register-Guard. He was a finalist for Oregon Sportswriter of the Year in 2017.