It's the season of goodwill. So let's be charitable and spare a thought for the much-maligned and oft-abused men and women who earn a paltry crust from lugging oversized golf bags around the golf courses of Asia. To be sure, the lot of a caddie is, for the most part, a thankless one. After all, they are the poor souls who have to put up with the violent mood swings that afflict fickle golfers of all abilities. Confess. How often have you duffed a shot into the drink and turned in disgust to berate your caddie for proffering you the wrong club - even though, if you're honest with yourself, you know you can't hit two successive shots the same distance with the same club anyway? When you miss a four-footer, do you unleash a stream of invective in the direction of your caddie for failing to spot the line, even if you've ignored the well-meaning advice to aim left edge of the cup that they've volunteered in good faith? Conversely, on those rare but memorable occasions when you do pull off a masterstroke or snare a long, curling putt for bogey, do you take time out to credit your caddie for his/her contribution? Of course, there's no excuse for the type of churlish behaviour towards caddies that is frequently meted out by amateurs who claim to play golf for fun and relaxation. It's a different story, however, in the professional game, where an incorrect yardage reading can be worth tens of thousands of dollars to the player. Indeed, any top professional will confirm that a reliable caddie is worth his/her weight in gold. Not just as a bag-carrier who keeps the clubs clean and knows the exact distance on every shot, but also as a sounding board and a constant source of encouragement in what can be such a lonely, solitary game. In Asia, where tournament purses lag a long way behind the riches on offer in the US, Europe and Japan, professional caddies are still the exception rather than the norm. If you consider how difficult it is for the majority of pros who ply their trade in Asia to break even, then you'll understand why we don't yet have celebrity Asian caddies such as Mike 'Fluff' Cowan, Steve Williams and Fanny Sunesson who earn at least as much in endorsements as the US$200,000 Kyi Hla Han accumulated in winning the Asian PGA's 1999 Order of Merit. As a rule, those who travel around the region trying to eke out a livelihood from playing the game, employ the services of resident caddies at the clubs where events are staged. It's a daunting task for the caddies, unused to the pressures and demands placed upon them. Just talk to the professionals and they'll reel off a series of bizarre tales of woe about their experiences with caddies that you wouldn't credit. There's been, for example, more than one case in recent years of Tour players being docked shots because their caddie took an 'illegal' ride on a buggy. Ultimately, though, it's the player who must bear responsibility, and suffer the consequences, for the actions of his caddie. Sometimes there's nothing a player can do . . . except pull out his hair in anguish and disbelief. Consider what happened to Robert Huxtable at last month's Sabah Masters where he was penalised a stroke when his caddie inadvertently kicked his ball forward on the fairway. Fortunately, Huxtable was five shots clear of the field at the time and still sauntered to victory. Last week, Scott Rowe's ambitions of glory at Shenzhen's Mission Hills in the season-ending Omega PGA Championship suffered a damaging blow even before he teed off. Somehow his caddie managed to snap his three-wood in half, rendering the club unplayable and denying the former Hong Kong amateur champion use of one of the most trusty weapons in his bag. Understandably aggrieved though he was, Rowe's despair did not compare with the devastation felt by the hapless caddie. And what about the freak occurrence that befell Ed Fryatt at last year's Singapore Open which cost him any hope of topping the Order of Merit? He incurred a two-stroke penalty at the final hole when his drive clattered into his bag that his caddie had dutifully carried 280 yards down the fairway. Fryatt was distraught; his caddie inconsolable. So, whether you're off to play in China, Hong Kong, the Philippines or Thailand over Christmas and New Year, if you decide to splash out on the services of a caddie, do so in the spirit of the season and treat him or her with decency and respect.