LINKS PLAYERS MAGAZINE, 2014 ANNUAL EDITION

GOLF BAGS AND LUNCH BAGS

I was working for Sean O’Hair. We had just finished up our third year together in 2010, and Sean thought it was best that we try something different. We were pretty successful, top 30 in the world at the time, and had won each year. Things were going good, so it came as a surprise to me. It came at a strange time.

In the summer of 2010, my wife and I were baptized. Obviously when you get baptized, you think everything is going to turn and be easy and after that everything is going to be joyful. But the next six months were probably the hardest six months of my life. I was fired for the first time in my life, which is never a fun thing; had lost a very expensive lawsuit a couple months after that as well; and by the time December rolled around, I was without a job, I was without any money, basically homeless. Both of us were living in a place that was underwater. So things were not looking very good.

I had a couple of offers from some very high profile players to go work for them. Both guys were ranked in the top ten in the world at the time. But my wife and I had decided we were not going to make any more decisions in our life just professionally. I had done that a few times. I had worked for Vijay twice. Probably the biggest professional mistake I had made was I was working for Jerry Kelly in ’03 and ’04, and I quit Jerry to go back to work for Vijay in ’05. It never left a good taste in my mouth. I did it for the fame, I did it for the money, I did it for the speed of making the money and also to get the respect that goes along with working for the best player in the world. I made up my mind never to do that again.

I wanted to work for a believer, but when you’re broke and you really don’t have a house, you sometimes have to do something different. What happened next was fully in God’s control—everything is—but by the next day at noon I was going to choose one of these two players. It didn’t feel right, but I had to have a job. Lo and behold, Webb called me the day before and we talked a little bit and he said, “Will you come work for me?” I had struggled for a solid three weeks to make a decision on the other two, and in five minutes of talking to Webb I took the job. I hung up the phone and saw where he was ranked in the world and that he had barely held onto his card. I looked at Michelle, my wife, and I said, “Baby, I don’t know what we’ve done, but we’re in and we’re in full.”

I knew who he was, and I knew he was a Christian, that’s what I knew. Obviously I remembered when he came out as a rookie that he played well in his first couple of tournaments, so I knew his name. But I didn’t really know anything about him except for the fact that he loved the Lord.

A little funny part was when I was working with Webb our first week in Hawaii. Webb said, “Gosh, I’m a little nervous in front of you.” I said, “Would you be quiet!” Those days are gone now. The honeymoon’s over for sure. We still love each other, but there’s no softness now. Now we just give each other a hard time a lot of times.

I grew up in a Christian household, I went to church every Sunday, I knew Jesus was my Savior. But when I went to college, that didn’t fit with how I wanted to handle myself. I wanted to drink a little bit more, and I wanted to chase after girls a little bit more, I wanted to speak the way I wanted to speak, use the language I wanted to use. I wanted to be cool, wanted to fit in, just all the normal MOs for people that went away.

When I came back from college, I was married in 1998 to my ex-wife. About seven years into my marriage I had an affair, and obviously my life changed from that point forward. Neither one of us had ever wanted kids, and about three months into the divorce proceedings we found out that she was pregnant, which was at the time the worst news either one of use could have imagined. What transpired was the most beautiful gift that I’ve been given. A lot of things we have choices about in our life—choose who we’re going to marry, choose who we’re going to allow into our circle, choose our friends—but you don’t choose a baby a lot of times. The baby chose me, and that started a transformation in my life.

I started realizing in 2009, when I was falling into a lot of the same habits that I’d been in before, and even more so in 2010, that everything I’ve done my whole life has failed. I really looked at why, and the only obvious reason why was that I had not truly given my life to the Lord. So in 2010 I went from having a mind understanding of who Jesus Christ is and was and what he’d done for us to putting my heart in the game as well.

I think Webb and I had big bright eyes and we were both learning so much. I brought to the table a lot of knowledge about golf that he hadn’t gotten yet—just a lot of things I’d learned from my years playing and failing to working for Vijay and Jerry and Sean. His eyes were open, he was soaking in all the information. Obviously his game skyrocketed. All I did was give the information. He learned so fast and soaked up so much of the information, it was impressive to see.

From my standpoint, I was also bright-eyed, but for different reasons. I was being taught how to walk and how to live in the way of Christ. I was taught how to daily be in the Word, how to understand the Word, how to surround yourself with people of the faith. Everyday I went to work I would learn something new by watching Webb’s demeanor, his behavior. I remember the first time I was with him, he talked to Dowd on the phone, “Hey baby, how are you? I miss you so much.” I’m like, Oh my goodness, this makes me sick. Now I’m the guy doing the exact same thing because we’re called to serve our wives.

A lot of times we men are not given the tools to succeed. We think we have to be tough. We’re called to be the leader in our home, so we think that means we’ve got to be stern and sometimes maybe even harsh, or run it like a military-style. That’s not it at all. We’re called to love our wives and we’re called to serve them in every way we can, so seeing that from Webb was really huge for me.

I also saw how he handled failure and success. In New Orleans 2011, he had that penalty that he had to call on himself on the fifteenth hole. He would have won the golf tournament outright if he wouldn’t have called the penalty. No one else saw it. He did. We ended up losing in a playoff. Afterwards he handled it so well, not just on the scene but behind the scenes. He was, “Ah that stinks, obviously I wanted to win the golf tournament. There’s always a higher purpose. We’re just blessed to do what we do for a living.” I make fun of him, “I’ve helped to get you where you’ve gotten, but buddy, nothing can replace the fact that you’re helping me get to heaven.” So I think he wins on that one!

In 2010 I was working for Sean O’Hair and we were at the Phoenix Open. We’re on the putting green and Ben Crane had split up from his caddie at the time. Ben asked probably his best friend, Joel Stock, to come out and work for him. Both are believers, both are good guys, but after a couple of weeks they were really struggling. Ben was a slow player but really trying to play faster. He’s got a new caddie on the bag who doesn’t know the ins and outs of tour life. But here’s the biggest difference, I think. If you have two young guys or two guys who may be a little bit green and they’re humble, they’ll just ask better questions.

So I’m on the putting green and here come Ben and Joel—“Paul, can we borrow you for a couple minutes?” I said, “Yeah sure, what’s going on, guys?” They asked me if there were ways where I thought I could help them be more efficient in what they were doing. So I spent 15 minutes together with them on the putting green. I explained to Joel and Ben together how to make Joel faster, which will make Ben faster, which will make them both more efficient.

Rickie Fowler and his caddie Joe Skovron, they came out together. They were both green, but Joe worked really hard, a big-time professional. They may have gone through some growing pains for the first couple of years, but now I look at Joe as one of top caddies on tour because of how hard he’s worked and how much effort and energy he’s put into his job.

I would always choose relationship to begin with, but with the idea that we’re professionals and we’re going to become really good at what we do. You don’t want to be all experience and no love or no closeness in the relationship, but also you don’t want to have only the closeness in the relationship without any experience. The only way to get experience out there is to get in there and get in the mix. What we’re called to do is be the best caddie we can for the guy we’re working for. I’ve been a different caddie for each guy I’ve worked for. Hopefully this is the last time I need to make that kind of change. I hope to work with Webb until I’m too old to walk anymore.

I always wanted to help people that were underprivileged, especially kids. It was just an area in my heart, I don’t know where it came from, but it was just something I always wanted to do. I remember when I got my Tour card right out of Florida, one of the first things was, Man, I want to succeed, I just want to be able to help some of these kids. So much of the passion that I had came from knowing that these kids did nothing wrong in life. They don’t deserve not being able to eat. God made enough for food for every single person on the planet to eat more than enough, and yet we have millions starving every day.

When I came to faith and my wife came into the mix, we started talking about what we wanted to do and the Tesori Family Foundation was born. As of right now all we’ve done in the local areas is Thanksgiving and Christmas time we feed the homeless, make some donations to local churches who are just feeding the homeless as well. So right now it’s more of a feeding thing. Our goals and our aspirations are starting to take off for the future.

Also, we’re connected with Blessings in a Backpack. It’s a PGA Tour initiative. My wife sits on the board for Blessings in a Backpack. Those are little things we do for kids in schools who can’t afford normal lunches or whatever, even food to bring home for the weekends. Very small things for now, but we’re really excited about currently where it’s headed, especially with the win in Las Vegas.

Everybody has gifts. I’ve always been very free with giving my money, others are better with giving their time. I’m so tired when I get home from the road that my time is poured into my wife and my daughter and the home. But my wife is so good with her time, there’s a good reason the Lord put us together. I’ll provide the money and help her find the right places to hook up with and to make sure we’re helping in the right spot.

COPYRIGHT 2014 LINKS PLAYERS INTERNATIONAL

  • Paul Tesori

    Paul Tesori is a PGA Tour caddie who currently works with 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, after many years working for World Golf Hall of Fame member Vijay Singh.

    Photo: Paul Tesori and Webb Simpson at Paul's 2011 wedding.

    Visit Paul's foundation site here.