Brian Mahoney’s presence in Memphis at the FedEx St. Jude Championship reflects a rarity – he is one of about a handful of caddies employed by players on the Professional Golf Association (PGA) tour.
Mahoney, 28, is a native New Yorker. Born in Harlem, he played golf at Payne University in Savanah, Georgia. After college, he made his way to Florida, where he started caddying. Now he is a professional working alongside PGA rookie golfer Hayden Buckley.
Buckley is playing the FedEx St. Jude Championship hoping to advance to the second round of the FedEx Playoffs. The top 70 players advance to the second leg at the BMW Championship next week. Buckley entered the week ranked No. 96, which qualified him for the field of 125 players that earned their way to Memphis and TPC Southwind for the playoffs’ first round.
At the end of Saturday’s third round, Buckley was five shots off the lead at 8-under.
On Saturday, generally considered “moving day” at professional golf tournaments, Mahoney shared with The New Tri-State Defender the primary reasons he chose to pursue the life of a caddie.
“When you have a passion for the game, which I feel like me and every other caddie has, it is really for the love of the game,” he said. “To see progress in the person you are working for.”
Golfers on the PGA level are way beyond good with baffling skills. Knowing and understanding that requires a caddie to deliver shot guidance with confidence.
“I tell my guy that is the same shot I would have hit,” said Mahoney, who early on caddied for the Seminole golf club in Florida and Shinnecock Country Club in the Hamptons.
A couple of years ago, Mahoney met a caddie on the Honda Tour and engaged him in a conversation about caddying. Enlightened and inspired, Mahoney’s caddie journey led him to the Korn Ferry Tour, which essentially is a proving ground for the PGA tour.
“I used to work for a (golfer) named Kyle Jones and we did the same thing. We got our card on the Korn Ferry and came up here at the same time,” Mahoney said. “It is great to see these young great golfers advance from the Korn Ferry to the PGA tour.”
While there are few African Americans employed as caddies on the PGA tour, a September 2021 issue of African American Golfers Digest offers this context: “ …there are legions of them (African American caddies) —they’re just essentially extinct at what I call ‘the big boy level,’ aka the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour level, aka where the money is.”
Mahoney has this advice for anyone that would want to follow in his shoes.
“Give me a ring,” he said. “I will show them the ropes. I will tell them it takes hard work and determination. It also takes positivity. You have to really know your golfer.”
Every golfer is not the same, he said.
“Once you can figure out your golfer – What triggers them to play better? What gets them going? What gets them out of a slump? – That is a good caddy. If you can add and subtract, the numbers are the same. It is a relationship job. Ninety-five percent of all of the caddies do the exact same thing, but you have to know your guy.”
Last year, after working at a Ladies Professional Golfers Association event, Mahoney had a few weeks off. A friend suggested finding Mahoney a caddie opportunity at a Florida event (LECOM Suncoast Classic), adding that he knew a player who was pretty good but not yet in the field.
The player was Buckley, whom Mahoney met on a Thursday morning. The next day, Mahoney said to Buckley, “I think you are good and can make it to the PGA tour. I am going to stick it with you and ride it the whole way.”
The caddie-player duo won the event. Buckley found success on the Korn Ferry Tour and earned his PGA Tour card.
Directly and indirectly, Mahoney is an ambassador for getting more African Americans involved in the sport of golf.
“Just try it,” he said.
“Most African Americans have not tried the game. It is my favorite sport and has been since I was younger. I am happy my dad put me in the game. Just explore the option of playing the game.”