The little Jewish American Caddy who made a big difference

  • LukeSport13March
The name “Sally Little” will be well-known to a generation of South African sports fans, but the name “Kathy Gorchoff”, Little’s former caddy and current manager, might not slip off the tongue quite so easily.
by LUKE ALFRED | Mar 12, 2020

Before the two teamed up, they were members of The Hamlet Country Club in Delray Beach, close to Fort Lauderdale in Florida, with Little playing at rarefied levels and Gorchoff hacking down the back nine in relatively happy obscurity.

She can’t have been that obscure, however, because the two eventually met in the club parking lot after she’d played a couple of times in Little’s annual charity golf days.

Gorchoff didn’t play at Hamlet all year-round. She was a “snowbird” who spent Ohio’s winters in Florida’s sunnier climes, but one thing led to another and before long, the extrovert Gorchoff was carrying Little’s bag. “Sally calls me her JAC, which stands for Jewish-American-Caddy,” says Gorchoff, with a smile in her voice.

Little’s request to Gorchoff came at a challenging time in Little’s long and illustrious career. She wasn’t enjoying her golf as much as she might have, and Gorchoff’s arrival gave her a much-needed fillip. “Sally’s peers were retiring, and she wasn’t really enjoying her time on the course that much,” says Gorchoff, “so I said, ‘Sure, I’ll caddy for you, we’ll have a ball’, which is pretty much what we did.

“I just thought it would be an unbelievable experience to be inside the ropes.”

Being a caddy to a professional isn’t as simple as it might appear. Carrying a bag for hours can be back-breaking (Gorchoff is a small woman who put weights in a backpack to train) and the instant demands for a caddy to calculate accurately the distance from where the ball is lying to the pin – called “yardage” in golf – can be intimidating.

Little prefers that her caddy doesn’t impart a great deal of information, but she does demand accurate yardage, so Gorchoff needed to calculate the yardage both to the front of the green and the pin pretty smartly.

She also needed to understand Little’s quirks. Little, for example, plays golf right-handed, although in everything else she does (like holding a pen or playing tennis) she’s a lefty.

In spite of playing right-handed, she likes the clubs in her bag set up as they would be if she played left-handed, which might seem like reverse engineering, but is the way Little likes it.

She also likes to walk with her putter in her hand in the approach to the green because it gives her a feeling of comfort and calm, so it must be given to her the moment she’s completed her approach.

Finally, Gorchoff needed to master the subtle art of keeping quiet, something most of us find difficult to do. Little didn’t like it if she said too much or parted with too much information, which wasn’t always easy for someone with such an effervescent personality.

“Having her alongside certainly made it more palatable,” says Little. “I was able to get in a few more good years of golf.”

Although there was always chemistry between Little and Gorchoff, their partnership on the course wasn’t universally welcomed. Caddies can be a clannish lot, with a pecking order to rival any fraternity club, and Gorchoff was greeted with civility rather than being openly embraced.

It didn’t help, of course, that she was allowed in the club house after a round, while caddies weren’t.

Sometimes they were dismissed as being “too old” or “grannies” who had no right to be where they were on the course, something which they can chuckle about now but which they found annoying at the time.

Their pairing also coincided with the rise of any number of barnstorming young Asian or Asian-American golfers on the tour. For example, Gorchoff recounts with amusement the story of the long-hitting Little hitting the ball further down the fairway than a frustrated Christina Kim, who prided herself on her booming drives and couldn’t believe the kind of yardage that Little was consistently getting.

“Time and time again, she was going to the long ball only to discover it was Sally’s,” says Gorchoff with a chuckle. “Then finally, on the 18th, she hit her ball a foot in front of Sally’s. We laugh about it now because we’re all good friends, but Christina was pretty relieved to have finally hit it further than Sally.”

Gorchoff and Little campaigned on and off for four years together on the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) Tour before Little retired to devote herself to her trusts and charitable causes. She re-located to Cape Town in 2009, and nowadays Gorchoff visits South Africa “three or four times a year”.

Their labour of love at the moment is the Little Golf Trust, which was started five years ago and is based on the old Peninsular Driving Range in Maitland. The aim of the trust is to use golf as a mechanism for uplifting the previously disadvantaged – with emphasis on girls and young women – through the game of golf.

Golf teaches values that can be used in all walks of life, and Little is passionate about discovering champion golfers in communities that have seldom produced them. Long may her search last.

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