For one night, at least, Northeast Ohio turned into Hollywood as droves of people poured into the Cedar Lee Theatre in Cleveland Heights to watch the unveiling of “Loopers: The Caddie’s Long Walk.” The evening was part of the 43rd Annual Cleveland International Film Festival.
Directed by Jason Baffa, “Loopers” is a documentary that examines the colorful characters and fascinating past of those who’ve lugged a golf bag for another person.
While I knew a little about the profession’s history—the term “caddie” seems to have come from the French term “cadet,” and caddies were all-purpose porters, or errand boys in the 1700s, before specializing on the golf course—there was so much I learned from watching “Loopers.”
For instance, Old Tom Morris, the omnipresent ghost of the game—legendary for everything from playing to design to maintenance—wrote the first code of conduct for caddies. A 2005 inductee into the Caddie Hall of Fame, Old Tom elevated caddies from their reputation of being low-class, unkempt, rude and foul-mouthed to well-respected members of the golfing community.
While the Irish and Scottish accents of several caddies interviewed provided a bit of romanticism and authenticity, it was the story of Mike Kiely that really hit close to home (literally). Kiely, the Caddymaster at Canterbury Golf Club on Cleveland’s east side for more than 50 years, is as well-respected as anyone in the industry. I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with several of the young people he’s trained and they’ve all been incredible … as knowledgeable and professional as they are courteous.
Not to be outdone, the tales from caddies at storied Augusta National Golf Club were intriguing. You could spend hours learning about all they’ve been through and the countless lives they’ve touched.
Long gone are the days of “Show up, keep up and shut up.” Caddies are so much more than porters carrying your bag, pulling clubs and reading greens. They’re a trusted advisor, a shoulder to lean on and a friend when you need one.
The very first time I took a caddie, one of my drives came to rest just off the fairway. I was only about 190 yards out, but a towering tree stood between me and the green. I asked for my 4-iron, believing a baby cut was all I needed to somehow manage a birdie putt.
Tucker, my caddie and only about 15 years old, looked me dead in the eye, handed me a 7-iron and said, “Don’t be a hero.” I hacked it out into the fairway, wedged it on from there and drained a 10-foot putt for par. My friends and I still laugh at that, though I’m sure my 4-iron could’ve produced a birdie (or, more likely, a double bogey).
Like everything else, caddying has evolved over the years. Institutions like the Solich Caddie and Leadership Academy in Colorado are training today’s caddies and tomorrow’s brightest stars. And the Evans Scholars Foundation contributes more than $23 million annually to provide college scholarships to worthy caddies. Both organizations are deservedly represented in the film.
I can go on and on about this movie. “Loopers” takes the audience on an 80-minute journey through the highs and lows, triumphs and defeats, in the life of a caddie. The cinematography is as breathtaking as the tales are fascinating. Reading my thoughts would take twice as long as actually watching the film. I’ll spare you that and fully recommend seeing “Loopers” for yourself.
“Loopers,” narrated by Bill Murray and produced by David Brookwell, Clark Cunningham, Ward Clayton, Jim Packer, Chris Brown, Michael Murphy, David Gang and Mike Pope, hits theaters for a national release June 7. In the meantime, watch the trailer HERE.
Country clubs wanting to host a special screening for their members can choose from one of four packages. The Bronze package ($500) includes screening via secure link or Blu-Ray, plus one theatrical poster. The Silver package ($1,200) includes the screening, 100 DVDs, Blu-Rays or downloadable links and four posters. The Gold package ($1,800) includes the screening, 200 DVDs, Blu-Rays or links and four posters. Lastly, the Platinum package (price based on location and availability) includes everything in the Gold package, plus a Q&A with a producer or Tour Caddies. Click HERE to learn more.