I should start this off with introducing myself. I’m Matthew Galloway and I’ve spent the last five years caddying on the LPGA Tour. Currently, I’m working for Angel Yin and previously have spent two and half years with Michelle Wie, plus a couple of other players prior to that.
Working on the LPGA Tour wasn’t a plan of mine originally. I was on my sixth year of attempting to play professionally at the end of 2014. While doing some off-season caddying at Streamsong a good friend suggested I try three weeks on the LPGA Tour with a young Chinese girl. That never quite worked out after the three weeks, but fast forward to now and I’m still at it and love every bit of it.
The LPGA Tour schedule has a few unique aspects that seem to go unnoticed your average LPGA fan. Roughly 1/3 of our schedule is outside of the U.S. In the fall there is one particular stretch of our schedule that unofficially goes by the “Asian swing” to us.
This year we only had four events in Asia in the fall, but in the past I’ve been for up to six consecutive weeks. Most of us caddies view making this season-end “Asian Swing” as an accomplishment. The fields are reduced, no cuts. It’s sort of an end-of-season bonus for the players (and caddies) that make it into those fields.
Personally, I love it. Yes, there always comes a point in a four-consecutive week stretch in Asia where all I want is a cheeseburger or a properly scrambled egg in the morning. Despite the 18,000 some odd miles traveled and hours in planes I still love making the trip. While you’re there for work, getting to experience different cultures/food/people/golf courses is always a highlight to my season and once I get over the jet lag I can’t wait to do it again next year.
Now the golf is important, but I don’t want to bore you with the details of each round. There were some stretches of great golf. Angel was a lip-out away from three eagles on one nine-hole stretch in China. There were plenty of highs and lows during the four weeks but plenty of new experiences along the way.
This season was different because I was getting to see three new places in Asia to me (Shanghai, Busan and Kyoto) and that’s really what I’d like to share.
WEEK 1- Shanghai, China
To be completely honest, I struggle going to China. I know its a total first-world-type issue. Simply the lack of connectivity to anything is frustrating from the get go. You learn tricks and how much you actually google things. Expect to not be able to find anything on any sort of maps app unless you know Mandarin. However, Shanghai surprised me. We stayed super close to an older “town” with loads of traditional Chinese architecture and history. I’m pretty sure the whole week I ate my weight in xiao long bao (soup dumplings) and pork buns. The Bund in downtown is a spectacular modern view along the river with loads of cool architecture to walk and see but be prepared to fight the tourists. By the end of the week I was impressed enough with Shanghai I would want to come back and see more on my own time.
WEEK 2 – Busan, South Korea
Golf in Asia is a completely different experience than what we’re used to back in the U.S., especially in Korea. It’s mainly an activity for the wealthy elite, and thus, why screen golf has become such a phenomena there. It’s also not your quick three and a half hour jaunt around 18 holes at your home course. I remember my first time in Korea experiencing this in a pro am, where it took easily six hours for 18 holes. We stopped every six holes for a food break, sitting down in a halfway house-type structure for a quick snack, which can get really interesting if you’re not used to Korean food. At least you leave the golf course full that day.
The traditional Korean LPGA event has typically been held outside of Seoul so Busan was a new place for us. Having heard good things from a majority of the Korean girls, we all were looking forward to the week. Hats off to BMW for putting together the event and everything was really well run. I, for one, wasn’t upset about the 30 minute ride to the course in a brand new 7series. Busan (Hongdae) didn’t disappoint either. The second largest city in Korea, it’s a fun, active coastal city especially in the summer. Next to Japan, Korean food is a close favorite of mine. I can never get enough BBQ and fried chicken all week. Besides the steep walk on the course, I can’t wait to get back to Busan next season.
WEEK 3 – Taipei, Taiwan
It was my fifth year in a row heading to Taipei. I love the city as it’s full of fun night markets and its fair share of dumplings. The people in Taiwan seem to always be nice and happy to help you when you get turned around. I’ve always joked in a future life I would open a scooter repair shop in Taipei since the city is full of people scootering about with reckless abandon. The Taiwan event is typically a grind. Always windy and usually rainy, its taxing to keep your mind right after four days and this year was no different.
WEEK 4 – Kyoto, Japan
Japan is easily my favorite country in Asia by far. The different foods (ramen, sushi, karaage, shabu shabu, etc.) alone just get me exited about coming back. Something about how technology has advanced the country while also feeling like you’re going back in time is my favorite thing about Japan. Kyoto is a place that’s been on my list to see for a while now. I was honestly a little disappointed at first when running into so many tourists in certain parts of the city . But when you finally find a quiet alley or a small izakaya off the beaten path it makes you really appreciate how awesome Kyoto is. Despite being somewhat overrun with tourists in certain parts, I would say Kyoto is a must see for anyone ever traveling to Japan.
At the end of four weeks on the road in a totally different continent is about the only time you’d be excited to hop on a plane for 14 hours. I couldn’t feel more fortunate and lucky to have a job that gives me the opportunity to see and experience all these places across the world. Asia can come off as a daunting place to travel to but it’s something I highly recommend for people to experience at least once in your life.
So what does any of this have to do with Imperial? I realized recently packing for one of my trips that basically every hat I own (big performance rope hat guy) either from courses across the country or other merchandise sellers (Shoutout to Random Golf Club and Burning Cart Society) is an Imperial lid. I love the design your own feature and am stoked about the designs I have cooked up for next season. I thought it would be fun to share some behind the scenes stories from what life as a LPGA caddie really is. So stay tuned to some more Field Notes from my world.