Golfer: Do you think my game is improving?
Caddie: Yes Sir, you’re missing the ball much closer now.
By definition, a caddie is “one hired to serve as an attendant to a golfer, especially by carrying the golf clubs”. Caddies are also called “Loopers” since they normally work in circles. They’ll often go out on the first nine holes with the sun coming up and can return on the back nine with the sun setting to finish where they started. Caddying is not rocket science. It’s much more complex because the caddie possesses a rather unique position in the world of sports. He’s an assistant coach who advises and consults, a psychologist who doesn’t need a license to practice, and a golf fan who’s allowed inside the ropes without buying a ticket.
Caddie programs became commonplace when golf was first introduced into the United States and flourished well into the 21st century. Then, in the late 50s, golf carts came onto the scene and caddie programs began to slowly disappear. While it’s true that golf carts have allowed players to continue playing well into their senior years, it’s also true that caddies were once a renowned fixture in golf and provided the platform that gave us such greats as Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, and Gene Sarazen. Today, a number of golf clubs have preserved the caddie tradition but it’s mainly seen in the older, more established and upscale country clubs as opposed to the newer and public play courses. In Western New York, the Country Club of Buffalo (CCB) and Park Country Club are the only two clubs that still offer traditionally maintained caddie programs. CCB’s program has been in existence for more than 95 years, and it’s not only a prime contributor to the club’s tradition of personal service but it’s also an important recruitment tool for attracting members.
As a student of the game, I enjoy exploring its treasured history, so I interviewed CCB’s current Caddie Master to learn the details of his position and its rewards. I also interviewed a number of former caddies to hear about their experiences and how they may have helped them prepare for a life-long career.
How the caddie program benefits the club
Golfer: The ball’s not traveling well today.
Caddie: I can’t imagine why, sir.
* Speeds up and encourages the pace of play by having the caddie clean up the tees,
fairways, and greens and encourages a quicker pace of play.
* Enhances the club’s prestige.
* Improves the condition of the course by using the caddies to help maintain the quality and integrity of the course.
How the caddie program benefits the golfer
* It improves a player’s game by having the caddie handle the clubs and flagstick, repair the divots, and restore the bunkers
* Creates a variety of health benefits from walking rather than riding the course
* Promotes a personal satisfaction by serving as a mentor and impacting the lives of young people
* Amplifies the golfing experience, especially when entertaining guests
How the caddie program benefits the caddie
* The pay is really good and it’s always paid when the loop is finished
* They choose when to work rather than adhere to a strict schedule
* Provides great exposure to players who serve as positive role models
* Provide important exercise and health benefits working outdoors
* Offers the opportunity to apply for a substantial caddie college scholarship fund
The Caddie Master
Golfer: Caddie master, that boy isn’t even eight years old!
Caddie master: It’s better that way, sir. He probably can’t count past ten
Accountability for the development, operation, and integrity of a caddie program rests with a caddie master. The club offers a “pool” of caddies and members are able to choose whomever they prefer. If the member has no preference, the caddie master oversees a drawing of sorts to send caddies out with the next group. For the past 30 years one man has influenced generations of young men and women who have worked and walked the golf course caddying for the membership. Jim Gallery, CCB’s current and renowned director of golf and caddie master, has overseen the program for 30 years. Jim was introduced to caddying at age 14 when he first caddied at the Buffalo club. He went off to college and worked for a while in the food service business. In a chance meeting with CCB’s then head professional Bob Mellon, Jim was asked to spend a few months re-organizing and running the fledgling program in order to get it up to speed and make it a viable service for the membership. He’s been there ever since. Being a caddie master entails two responsibilities; one to the club and one to the caddie. Traditionally, the position does not have a lot of turnover. His predecessor, having started caddying at age 7 in 1907 held the position for 47 years from 1920-1967.
Gallery points out that caddies are trained to help the player enjoy the round and probably save him a few strokes as well. “Some players are troubled that the caddies will judge how well they play,” he said, “which is totally absurd. They’re used to help the players enjoy the outing. Caddies are ambassadors of the club. The harder they work the more fun they’ll have and it will ensure a more positive experience for the player. I always suggest they must know when to laugh, when to keep quiet, and always be ready to contribute if asked. I’ve been a father, a teacher, a preacher, and a friend to more than 900 young adults since I’ve been here. Many of them started as kids at age 13 and left as adults well into their twenties. They’ve become successful lawyers, doctors, engineers, business professionals, and most important, outstanding parents. I like to think I played a role in the development of their careers. Some have even returned to CCB as members and now play from the other side of the bag.”
Golfer: How would you have played that last shot?
Caddie: Under an assumed name.
The job description of caddying has changed over the years from that of simply toting a golf bag to that of being better trained and more professional “Caddies don’t just carry bags, clean balls and clubs, and read greens”, Jim told me. “Golf, for a player, is all about the walk, getting and staying in focus. The players determine what the level of interaction with the caddie will be but primarily our caddies help with the secondary thoughts so the player can concentrate on the next shot. Ben Hogan believed the most important shot in golf was the next one. It’s the caddie’s job to make sure his player remains “in the moment”. It’s generally expected that a good caddie will take strokes off a player’s game by knowing the distance to the green, the location of the flagstick, and what club to hit after seeing his player play after only one hole.
Dennis Cone, President of Professional Caddie Association once said “If you’ve never played with a caddie, you never really played the game.”
Caddies are an integral part of a country club’s structure. Their responsibilities include:
* Having a strong work ethic…showing up for work and be willing to learn
* Functioning as a guide… following a likely unpredictable path of a golf ball
* Knowing mathematics… calculating the varying distances to a specific target
* Being a part time weatherman… knowing how the rain and wind will affect each stroke or even when to get off the course to avoid potential lightening strikes
* Having a sense of humor… bad shots can be amusing
* Being perceptive… anticipating and understanding a player and his mood
* Understanding psychology…supporting and motivating a golfer who, having experienced some highs, is suddenly disillusioned with the lows
Country Club of Buffalo caddies
Golfer: Caddie, what do you think I should hit?
Caddie: Let’s try the fairway for a change.
Caddying can be a wonderful summer job alternative for today’s youth. Better still, caddies experience a freedom that they won’t experience working inside a fast food store. It’s possible; even likely, they’ll caddie for people who might, one day, have a positive influence on their future. I reached out to a number of individuals who caddied at CCB in the 1980s and 1990s in order to learn how caddying helped prepare them for their adult years and life’s profession.
Jim C., who toted for 7 years starting at age 14, is today a senior executive with a major NYSE corporation. “Caddying taught me a certain amount of responsibility. I had to arrive on time, be presentable, and ready to work. I also had to be flexible enough to deal with whatever the course or golfer threw at me…sometimes literally.”
Golfer: Where’d it go?
Golfer: How far left?
Caddie: When you see Nancy Pelosi, you’re getting close.
Ryan L. caddied 10 years starting at age 12. Today, he’s a partner with a major worldwide business network corporation. “I learned how to deal with all types of personalities and it forced me out of a “shell” to become a trusted part of a player’s golf game. I learned that hard work pays off, and it was that work ethic and interactions with others that helped shape who I am today.”
Golfer: You’ve got to be the absolute worst caddie.
Caddie: I don’t think so, sir. That would be too much of a coincidence
“Caddying motivated me to be the player on the other side of the bag one day.” That’s what Andrew D., a successful financial advisor told me. “It definitely helped me develop maturity, communication skills, work ethics… and gave me a sense of what I wanted to accomplish professionally.” Andrew caddied for 9 years starting in the 8th grade and continued each summer throughout his college years.
Golfer: Can I reach the green with a five iron?
Caddie: Yes sir, eventually.
And finally, Kevin C., a risk management executive, carried for 7 years starting at age 14.
“I loved being a voice of reason,” Kevin explained. “When a member was about to take an irrational chance on the course, I was often able to convince him otherwise. But the best part of caddying was meeting new people and it taught me the importance of personal relationships. Caddying forces you to adapt your style to the people for whom you are working. As such, you learn to read people quickly and accurately”.
Back when caddies were a fixture of golf, a blue collar role in a white collar game, it wasn’t all love and lollipops. Clients that required patience, lack of a job on some days, miserable hot, wet, or humid days that completely drained energy after carrying some 50 pounds for 5 miles were all factors that defined the job. A good payday would even out the negatives and walking off the 18th green with the caddie fee and tip in hand made it all seem worthwhile.
From caddie to college
Caddying up to eight hours, sometimes in sweltering heat or inclement weather, may not seem like a great summer job but the pay is good, the hours can be flexible, and it can help you get a full ride college scholarship. The Evans Scholarship Program has been designed specifically for caddies. Charles ‘Chick’ Evans, Jr. began caddying in Chicago’s at age eight. From that early introduction to the game, Evans grew into the nation’s top amateur golfer. He earned his greatest fame in 1916, when he won both the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur.
From his early toting days, Evans knew there were many worthy young caddies who showed academic promise, but whose families could not afford the costs of college. In 1928, Evans persuaded the Western Golf Association to oversee a trust fund, and in 1930, the first two Evans Scholars enrolled at Northwestern University. Chick Evans’ dream had become a reality.
Those applicants meeting the requirements are eligible for a full tuition and housing scholarship to one of 19 participating universities across the country that currently have Evans Scholarship Houses. The 85 year old program seeks students who display academic strength, financial need, and caddying capabilities.
“The Caddie is the lifeblood of the game of golf . . . a great companion, a friendly conversationalist, and a smiling face. This is what the game is all about.”
Charles “Chick” Evans, Jr.
From the very beginning, the Country Club of Buffalo has promoted the idea that caddies are an integral part of the golf game. They have maintained a traditional caddie program even as a majority of golf clubs in the United States opted to replace the time-honored caddie programs with motorized golf carts. Actually, some feel as if golf carts have hurt the game as they tend to slow it down. CCB, however, looks at the caddie program as a recruiting tool for attracting members and its members tend to embrace their role as mentors by offering life and career advice during the round. The full support of the membership is vital to the success of any caddie program, and the CCB members have fully embraced theirs, sometimes with over 40% percent of rounds played accompanied by a walking caddie. The caddie program serves to enhance the experience of members and their guests, while reducing the amount of cart traffic on the course, and preserving the optimum playing conditions. It also offers a fine work opportunity for young men and women in a healthy, safe, positive environment and helps to grow the game of golf by exposing them to the game itself. In short, it’s a win/win program for both the membership and the participating youth.
John Mooshie, a freelance journalist from Wakulla Springs, Florida,
has an insatiable curiosity for almost
everything and writes on a broad range of golf, travel, and
golf fashions for various magazines, newspapers,
e-zines, and websites. Formerly an ad agency and billboard
copywriter, he switched careers, co-designed
an 18 hole golf course, and now writes reviews on both golf course
resorts and destination spas.. He is
currently conducting research to write biographical sketches about
individuals and businesses that fly
below the radar and will soon publish a golf book promising to cure
the five bad shots in golf.