April 19, 2013

PGA Tour caddies find slice of home in mobile diner

Life as a caddy on the PGA Tour offers few comforts. But one bit of solace they can count on is Dale McElyea's mobile diner and the meals he serves up there.

Music drowns out the sounds of tournament coverage from a flat-screen TV inside the trailer parked beside the Inn at Harbour Town.

Caddies stretch out in the tan, leather booths after finishing their morning round at the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing. One munches a sandwich while perched atop a stool. Scrambled eggs sizzle nearby in the small kitchen.

Life as a caddy on the PGA Tour offers few comforts. But one bit of solace they can count on is Dale McElyea's cooking.

"The players have their clubhouse to rest and decompress after a long day on the course," said McElyea, who spent 20 years as a caddy. "And the caddies have theirs. This is their clubhouse. It's way more than a place to eat."

It's a sanctuary from the course to privately gripe about their bosses, swap stories and playfully rib other players and caddies.

"You hang out after the round and catch up with other caddies -- see how your buddies are doing -- and swap stories," said Nick Hughey, who caddies for Scott Brown. "It's great food and good company."

Every week, McElyea, president of the Professional Tour Caddies, and cooks Kendall Purdy and Maggie Moody serve nearly a thousand meals for caddies and players from their full-service diner on wheels. Fare includes bacon and eggs, french toast and pancakes, tuna melts, and cheeseburgers.

The PGA Tour pays their salaries, insurance and fuel. Caddies are charged a modest fee to cover food costs.

The cooking trio usually works from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

"It's a lot of work," McElyea said. "By Tuesday, we probably served 400 meals and will go through about 100 dozen eggs and $6,000 in food. But (the caddies) love it."

And so do some of the players.

"We serve 20 to 25 players a day," McElyea said. "Players like Chad Campbell and Bo Van Pelt, they eat in here every day because nobody bothers them and they can get what they want, as opposed to a buffet-thing in the clubhouse."

Cake is served on birthdays.

"It's like a traveling family," Purdy said. "That's what we try to do -- make it as close to home as they can get. It's their home away from home."

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