Who’s your caddy? Grand Del Mar golfer caddies for local PGA Tour Latinoamérica pro

Danny Ochoa and Herb Morgan on the course in Colombia.
(Copyright Herb Morgan)

A Carmel Valley golfer recently had the opportunity to caddy in a PGA Tour Latinoamérica event in Colombia for local golf pro Danny Ochoa.

Both are members at the Grand Del Mar Golf Club in Carmel Valley and the 56-year-old Herb Morgan had often joked with the 28-year-old pro that he would fill in as a caddy when he made the tour. The joke that had evolved into clubhouse lore became reality when Ochoa gave Morgan the nod for the Colombia Classic on May 25-28 at the Ruitoque Golf Country Club in Bucaramanga, Colombia.

The first-time pro caddy said it was an incredible experience, one to check off the old bucket list.

“It was just a lot of fun, an addition on the balance sheet of life as something that I’ll have forever,” said Morgan.

A Torrey Pines High School grad who went on to play golf at USC, Ochoa turned pro in 2018. Morgan, a member at Grand Del Mar for 11 years, knew of Ochoa as one of the young pros at the club.

”He was like a golden retriever puppy,” Morgan said. “He came bounding into the clubhouse at the Grand super excited and willing to talk to us older adults, he was not shy. He was not even fully grown but the way he was hitting the ball was beyond any of us could ever dream of doing.”

While they knew each other in passing, they got closer after Ochoa took Morgan’s niece on a few dates. He and “Herbie” would hang around the member lounge, chat about life and swap golf and financial tips.

“I studied econ and finance in school and was eager about the stock market and global financial markets and loved picking his brain on his knowledge from his work over the years at Cantor Fitzgerald,” Ochoa said.

As more time went on, Ochoa started giving Herbie tips on his short game and they played a few holes from time to time. Morgan would see Ochoa playing at the Grand with pros such as Xander Schauffele and Phil Mickelson and was honored that he would still play with him.

“He would always kinda jokingly mention how fun it would be to caddy at one of my events and how big of a legend it would make him at the club,” Ochoa said.

When Ochoa gave Morgan the call for the Colombia tour event, Morgan almost declined: “I didn’t want to hurt his game,” he said. “I can’t read a green, I can’t see the ball past 215 yards, what value could I bring? It was just a gracious gesture…He convinced me it was ok to do it.”

Herb Morgan and Danny Ochoa.
(Copyright Herb Morgan)

Morgan had to put in some prep work since PGA tour events are about seven to eight miles of walking per day, carrying a 50-pound bag on his back.

While you are not supposed to, he tried to walk the Grand as much as he could to get into caddy shape—he also did some workouts with Jamie Steele of Carmel Valley’s Steele Bodies, heavy lifting at the grocery store and squats to the “Rocky” theme song.

The course in Colombia was much hillier than the Grand and rested at a higher elevation of 4,500 feet. It was warm and humid for those tourney days and for the practice rounds, he was toting a load of 18 clubs (14 is the standard).

“It was work,” said Morgan.

During the tournament, Morgan knew a role he could play as a caddy would be to keep Ochoa calm and keep his head in the game. He was amazed by Ochoa’s cool composure while he plays-when he misses a putt or pulls a shot, he never curses or gets mad: “It’s one of the reasons he’s so good at the darn game.”

“Herbie honestly did one of the most amazing jobs a caddy could do. He was so stoked to be there in a tournament environment and his demeanor put me in a great mood at all times, which is a big deal when you’re a caddy,” Ochoa said. “There were a lot of shots and a few putts where I was a little unsure of which way the wind direction was going or which way the slope was going, and he helped me determine which way each of them were going which saved me a few strokes throughout the week. It was nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of and just talk to, as most of the local caddies I’ve had throughout the year speak little to no English and don’t have as much golf knowledge.”

Two under after the opening rounds, Ochoa ended up not making the cut for the weekend so the pair ended up following some players from the San Diego area: “Who knows if I could have survived another two days,” joked Morgan.

Caddy Herb Morgan in Colombia.
(Copyright Herb Morgan)

Ochoa said this year has been really stressful as a pro golfer. The PGA Tour recently announced that they are combining PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamérica for the 2024 season as the PGA Tour Americas, effectively making it twice as hard for up-and-coming players to make it to the highest level.

They used to have Qualifying School to qualify for PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamérica but starting next year the only way to qualify for the new tour is to finish top 60 on the money list on either tour. “It’s a lot of added pressure for this season knowing your only option is to play well this season and there’s no fallback plan for Qualifying School if you miss out on the top 60 number for the season-long points race,” said Ochoa, who currently sits 56th in the standings with his play in PGA Tour Canada to begin soon.

In a stressful year, it was good to have a friend like Herbie from home around. For the trip, Morgan made up some hats and shirts with his company logo on them. He also paid for all of his own travel.

“All he wanted in return was a cool story so I’ll be forever appreciative of that,” Ochoa said. “And hopefully he got that cool story.”

Ochoa said one of his favorite parts of the trip was going out to eat and having Morgan meet all of his buddies on the tour— after learning their names, Morgan followed them on the PGA Tour App so he could see how they did throughout the week and then be able to track their career for the rest of the year.

Morgan, who admittedly plays a lot of golf, said it is just different to see the way the pros play and it’s even more impressive to see in person than to watch on TV.

“These kids what they’re trying to do, be a professional athlete, is next to impossible,” Morgan said. “I’ve always admired people like that, that work ethic and discipline. It motivates me to make my own game better.”

He was amazed that their warm-up was three hours of mental exercises, stretching, chipping, driving and putting. And after the five-hour round, rather than grab a margarita, the players would hit the gym to work out for two hours before going to sleep and getting up to do it all over again. It was hard not to come away from the experience invigorated and inspired.

Something on the trip must have sunk in. The Sunday after Morgan returned home from Colombia, the caddy hit a hole-in-one on 17.