The Aurora, Colo., golf course’s Solich Caddie and Leadership Academy currently has 45 eighth- and ninth-graders as caddies, and has tutored more than 100 caddies since the program began in 2012. The academy, the only program of its kind in the area at a public course, is part of an effort by the Colorado Golf Association to keep caddies in the game.
The Solich Caddie and Leadership Academy at CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora, Colo., is part of an effort by the Colorado Golf Association to keep caddies in the game, the Littleton (Colo.) Independent reported.
Caddies, while very visible on the professional tours, seem to belong to a bygone era when it comes to amateur golf. But in the Denver metro area, the trade of carrying a golf bag for money is amid something of a resurgence, the Independent reported.
Jake Pendergast, who will be a junior at Regis Jesuit, is a caddie at Colorado Golf Club in Parker. “I picked up caddying because I love golf and learning about the game,” he said. “There’s not too many ways to make money and have fun. Caddying is fun.”
The Colorado Golf Association purchased and re-designed the former Vista Mira Golf Course and in 2009 opened CommonGround. The Solich Caddie and Leadership Academy was started there in 2012. Today, there are 11 Denver-metro area caddie programs, including the Solich Academy, which is the only one at a public course, the Independent reported.
Ed Mate, Colorado Golf Association executive director and a former caddie at Denver Country Club, calls the program a “game changer.”
CommonGround has 45 eighth- and ninth-grade students as caddies this summer and has tutored more than 100 caddies since the Solich Academy started. Five have been awarded prestigious Evans scholarships to the University of Colorado. After two summers, CommonGround caddies are placed in existing Denver-area caddie programs, the Independent reported.
Columbine Country Club in Littleton, which saw its caddie program go by the wayside 15 years ago, has 60 caddies working this summer. Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills Village has one of the top caddie programs in Colorado with 155 caddies working this summer. There are 50 caddies at Lakewood Country Club, and there has been a noted increase in loops so far this summer, the Independent reported.
Caddies must have a certain measure of physical fitness. They carry bags that average about 25 pounds—though many bags have double straps, which make them more like backpacks. Years ago, bags were leather, as opposed to today’s lighter-weight materials, and single-strapped, making them more difficult to tote. It’s been estimated that caddies probably walk about seven miles during a day’s work, depending on the loops, the Independent reported.
During their treks, caddies do more than carry the bag, helping locate balls, raking bunkers, tending the flagstick and cleaning clubs and balls. More advanced caddies also help players make the proper club selection and read the greens on putts, the Independent reported.
In pro golf, “the caddie just has a gigantic role now,” said Bill Loeffler, owner of The Links at Highlands Ranch course and a former PGA Tour player. “He’s a coach, mental coach and father figure sometimes,” Loeffler said. “He’s a guy to lean on in bad times and enjoy good times, too. There are a lot of friendships.”
Local caddies have a more reserved responsibility. “These are 15- and 16-year-old kids, and the best ones are the most attentive and don’t get distracted,” said Pilo Troup, Lakewood Country Club assistant caddiemaster.
Through caddying, young loopers learn about the game, earn money and some even secure college scholarships. The Evans Scholarship, awarded by the Western Golf Association, provides full tuition and housing to students attending one of 14 universities across the country. Recipients must perform well as caddies, be strong academically and show good character, leadership and demonstrate financial need. The scholarship is named for Chick Evans, a top amateur golfer who won the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur in 1916, the Independent reported.
Keane McClintock, a Cherry Creek High School graduate, Evans scholar and sophomore at Colorado University, still caddies at Cherry Hills. “When I started caddying five years ago, the main goal was to win a scholarship,” he said. “It’s a great summer job just based on the amount of money you make—and you’re outside and not in an office building.”
While caddies on the PGA Tour can earn hundreds of thousands to more than a million dollars a year, local loopers are paid on a more modest scale. They usually get a base salary plus gratuities from golfers. There are basic rates depending on the skill and experience of a caddie and the country club. For example, the rate at Cherry Hills is $25 for a rookie, $30 for a “B” caddie, $35 for an “A” caddie and $40 for an honor-class caddie. CommonGround, on the other hand, uses an educational grant to pay caddies, so golfers don’t have to pay, except for tips, the Independent reported.
Molly Lucas, a Cherry Creek graduate who will enroll as a freshman at North Carolina State next month, has completed 45 loops this summer after racking up 100 last year, the Independent reported.
“Golf is a passion of mine,” Lucas said. “I feel there is not a better place to be than a place you love, being outdoors, great work, you meet amazing people—and I couldn’t ask for a better job.”