Jim Mackay

Written by Marilyn Hawkes Category: Spotlight Issue: January 2016
Group Free

Photo by Michael Woodall; Photographed at Grayhawk Golf Club

Jim Mackay/Cool Caddie and Mickelson Sidekick

“I have one of the world’s coolest jobs,” says Jim “Bones” Mackay. As the personal caddie for PGA Tour champion Phil Mickelson, Mackay helps the former ASU standout navigate the fairways and greens of golf courses across the globe. Mackay was himself relatively new to the PGA Tour, having lugged clubs for Scott Simpson and Curtis Strange, when Mickelson recruited him upon turning pro in 1992. The duo has spent 23 years together, a rarity in the golf world according to Mackay, who says player/caddie relationships usually don’t last that long. Mackay’s goal? “I want to make life as easy for Phil as I can. If he’s happy, I’m happy.”

How did you get started as a caddie?
I knew I wasn’t good enough to play professional golf, but I did love the game and played at a very high level. I was friends with a guy who played professional golf and, as fate would have it, right about the time I got out of college, he and his caddie split up. I begged him to let me try it. I drove to Palm Springs for the first tournament and I was hooked. I knew it was something I was going to do for a long time if I caught some breaks, which is a big part of the business. You have to be a little bit lucky.

How did you get the nickname “Bones”?
When I started caddying in 1990, Fred Couples was a very successful player on the tour. A number of us went to a tournament in France and I was ridiculously skinny – off the charts, the skinniest person you’d ever seen – and at some point during the trip, he called me “Bones” and it stuck. Within a matter of weeks, everybody at work was calling me that and if I’m at work now and someone says “Jim,” I don’t even turn around, because I know they’re not talking to me.

Can you describe the most memorable moment with Phil on the tour?
He was five shots back going into the last round of the 2013 British Open and ended up winning the tournament by three shots, which is a huge comeback, and he did it in pretty epic fashion on the last six holes. I think he birdied four of the last six holes to win.

What makes a good caddie?
Anybody can do 90 percent of what we do, but it’s that other 10 percent that’s most important. If there are decisions being made out there, if you’re offering advice to your player while your player has a chance to win The Masters, you would hope it’s really good advice, and that’s what I think makes a good caddie. These guys are incredible players. We’re very, very fortunate to be there with them, and when it’s time for us to step up and do something to help the cause, let’s hope we all do it.

What’s your favorite course to caddie?
It’s hard to just say one, but certainly I love caddying at The Masters. This past year, the British Open was at St. Andrews in Scotland, and I think St. Andrews as a town is the most amazing place I’ve ever been in my life. So, the old course at St. Andrews and Augusta National would be my two favorites to caddie on.