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David Buhai was the general manager at a shoe store when girlfriend Ashleigh’s caddie suffered a broken leg. Ashleigh and David first met at a golf academy in Johannesburg, South Africa, and were dating long distance. Buhai took a leave from the shoe store and never went back, working for Ashleigh right up until they got married, when he picked up another bag.
Why the sudden change?
“Some people say it might be good to stay married,” said Ashleigh (formerly Simon), smiling.
“No, it was a case of, I think, we needed a change. There was a lot of pressure on me. Everything was coming out of the same basket, and I felt I became too reliant on him.”
It’s a tricky thing for couples, being alongside each other 24/7, as so many have discovered this year during COVID-19 quarantine. Trickier still when, as Ashleigh points out, financial success comes down to the performance of only one spouse.
David now works for Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom; Ashleigh has Tanya Paterson on the bag.
There are a number of caddie/player couples on the LPGA. There are times when a couple might find themselves on opposite sides, like during a Solheim Cup or a playoff.
Last year in Taiwan, Caroline Masson competed alongside Nelly Korda in the final group at the LPGA Swinging Skirts. Masson’s fiancé, Jason McDede, carries the bag for Korda. They eventually faced each other in a playoff, which Korda won.
It happened at the 2019 Solheim Cup too, when Masson and Jodi Ewart Shadoff squared off against the Korda sisters in Friday morning foursomes. (The U.S. won.)
Caroline Masson and her fiancé, Jason McDede (Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today)
Masson and McDede were set to marry this year but postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic. They did work together at a tour stop in Indianapolis last year and made a deal that any money made would go toward their new pool. Masson tied for ninth, earning $41,711 toward their slice of paradise.
Caroline: “We said, if it works out, it’s fun to do it once a year or so.”
Jason (with a laugh): “Once a year is fun, twice a year is fun, three times a year …”
Pernilla Lindberg first met Daniel Taylor in December 2009 at LET Q-School. Taylor, who was caddying for someone else that week, asked if she had a caddie for the next year on the LPGA.
“I’ll keep you in mind,” said Lindberg, who ultimately went in another direction.
Six months later, they started dating. In 2012, the couple started working together full time. Five years later, they broke up – professionally speaking – with Lindberg saying that it really came down to too much time together.
By the end of 2017, Lindberg couldn’t take it anymore. No one knew her game as well as Taylor and, well, she missed him. They started together again in 2018, and three months in, Lindberg won the ANA Inspiration, her first LPGA title.
“I’m choosing to say that if it wasn’t for him,” said Lindberg, “I wouldn’t have had that win at ANA.”
And so they stayed together … until 2019.
This particular break-up, however, didn’t last as long, and they’ve been together both on and off the golf course since June of last year.
“I trust him more than I trust myself in a lot of situations,” she said.
Taylor and Lindberg married on a mountaintop in New Zealand in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Lindberg)
Both have matured, Lindberg notes, and the good days mean so much more when success is shared. In the past, she didn’t take constructive criticism from Taylor too well. Now she knows that he’s saying it for a good reason, and he’s probably right.
A lot of couples, said Lindberg, have struggled with so much togetherness in 2020. The LPGA had a 166-day break in competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lindberg and Taylor took it in stride.
“Danny and I kind of look at each other like, this is what we do every week,” said Lindberg.
Alena Sharp first met Sarah Bowman in a women’s hockey league in Chandler, Arizona.
“We always played against each other,” said Alena, “and honestly, we really didn’t like each other that much.”
Outside the rink, however, those feelings began to change and while dating in 2014, Sharp asked Bowman to sub in as a caddie for her at a Symetra Tour event in Arizona.
Bowman had never caddied before, and all of Sharp’s irons started to fall out of her bag as Bowman walked down the first fairway. On the green, Bowman forgot to bring the towel.
Despite the inauspicious start, Sharp actually won the event, and it wasn’t long afterward that Bowman became her full-time caddie.
Before she met Sharp, Bowman worked in a neuro-oncology lab in Phoenix, and had plans to pursue her PhD in psychology.
“If she caught me a year later,” said Bowman, “it never would’ve worked.”
Sharp and Bowman with their two dogs, Porter and Chandler. (Photo courtesy of Sharp)
Sharp credits Bowman for helping her develop a glass-half-full mentality. She’s good at reading putts and body language, Sharp says, and keeps her afloat on days that aren’t so great.
Bowman says respect is key for making things work both personally and professionally. They give each other 10 minutes or so to talk about the round once it’s over and then move on.
“This is certainly Alena’s time,” said Bowman. “Her career only has a certain life span, and for me, that’s very easy to respect and understand. … I’ll get on with my life’s work as well eventually. In the meantime, I’m enjoying it with her right now.”
Golfweek’s Julie Williams contributed to this article.