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Caddie Life

Bounce Back: Caddie Stories of 2021

Well folks, here we are at the end of 2021.

What’s your year been like? I’m asking it rhetorically but I am actually curious. Did you feel like you were back to some sense of “normality” (will be used in inverted commas indefinitely)?

However, I’m not here to tell a tale of woes. I wanted to share some stories of a few exceptional people I have met this year in my line of work. Back in January of last year, I was curious to connect with other caddies around the world on how they were navigating through the pandemic. The caddying industry was hit hard, both at a professional level with tournaments across the world being cancelled, and also at a club level, with almost zero golf tourism for the entire 2020 season.

After browsing online to find a forum that would support my curiosity, I simply couldn’t find one that existed. So, I took the initiative to see if I could create one myself (and with the help of a community building app). What started off as curiosity has undoubtedly turned into an incredibly worthwhile project for me. I have been able to connect and share our ups and downs, successes and failures with over 130 caddies from around the world. 

During the year, I’ve met some remarkable people through the community. Here are some of the stories of the caddies I met this year…

 

Mike Darby- Winning on Tour

 

By May time, our community was growing with clubs caddies, however we didn’t have any professional caddies on the tour involved .Mike joined our forum in May after I stumbled across his profile on LinkedIn and saw he was a PGA Tour caddie. Shortly after, I was lucky enough to sit down with Mike for a virtual chat. After giving me an impromptu tour of his “place of tranquillity” (garden in Lehman’s terms) I got to hear his story.

 First chat with Mike Via Zoom

Native to Canada, Mike began his caddying journey on the Canadian Tour. True to himself, Mike explained his prolific rise throughout the ranks in a modest manor. “In my case I just got lucky. I was fortunate when I started the first time with DA Points we went 14th.. then a win, and went straight to the PGA Tour”.

Between 2009 and 2021, it turned out that Mike had held the caddie position for 10+ landmark PGA Tour players including the likes of David Lingmerth, Adam Hadwin and D.A Points. In all honesty it was surreal talking to a guy on the other side of the world who had experienced working on the tour that I had watched on TV for the last 10 years!

Mike at the time was working for LPGA player Jennifer Song, and was all set to work for 2 time PGA Tour winner James Hahn. In typical fashion in the caddie world however, things didn’t go quite to plan, with the Hahn deal falling through. Mike was back to square one, however what he didn’t know, was that it was all about to turn good.

Tour caddies like Mike also faced a, shall we say, “Interesting” set of challenges due to the pandemic. When the pandemic struck, Mike was caddying for Jim Herman at the Players Championship when the event was postponed, and things began to shut down. COVID restrictions forced Mike to stay in Canada whilst Jim hired a new caddie, and ended up winning the season finale. It cost Mike his Job. On this side of the pond, caddying in Europe on the pro tours seemed to have undergone change too. European Tour caddie David Rankin mentioned the scenario of frequent PCR’s, reduced purses and entering a “bubble” each week.

By October, Mike had got back on the bandwagon and now found his way onto the Champions Tour (golfers of 50+ who are legends of the game) on the bag for Lee Jenzen. It’s funny how timing works. On October 6th I asked Mike if he would like to begin a segment on the community where he posts weekly about his journey on the tour. Well what a first update he gave!

Good morning lads!” Yesterday Lee Janzen and I won our first tournament together on the Champions Tour. I am so grateful for everyone’s support and want to share any insight I can with the community”

 I would hate to play Mr. Hindsight and say I knew that this would happen, but you can’t keep a guy like Mike down. In Mike’s journey, it’s incredible how many times he’s had to return to square one, yet with no loss in tenacity or drive. . He found a way to get it done.

 

Club Caddies- The stories of Rob and Ewan

 

The pandemic certainly wasn’t a breeze for golf club caddies either. Each year the UK receives almost 1million inbound golf tourists, with a good portion of them booking caddies. With most of these being North American tourists, the possibility of carrying a bag for a visitor went quickly out the window.

As a club caddie myself in Castlerock Golf Club in the North of Ireland, I began connecting with other caddies in the community who were in the same boat. One of the communities’ earliest members was Rob Shearer, a caddie at “Awesome” Ardglass Golf Club in Co. Down.

Rob was one of the first caddies in Ireland to join the community 

Like Mike, I was lucky enough to sit down and have a chat with Rob in June to hear more about his story. Rob began his caddying journey like many others, just good timing.

“I was hanging about the putting green and they were short of a bag so that was my first day”.

Since then, Ardglass has become a popular destination for American visitors, with over 2500 caddie rounds expected next year at the links. However in the second part of 2022, after a 20 month layoff, Rob and the rest of the caddies got their first runout at Ardglass.

Rob has also been instrumental in the progression of our app Handicaddie which Ardglass used this year. He was always quick to give us insights into how the app was performing at the club and if there was anything that we had missed. At the start of the season, club caddies like myself and Rob were doubtful is there were to be any jobs this season, so to have 3 months of steady work was a blessing.

As the community grew, we also started connecting with caddies working in clubs across the UK. One of the communities’ standout members this year has been Ewan Rae, who has been a caddie at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland for 7 season now. Ewan wasted no time getting back into the swing of things this year, caddying in Tour events such as the Ladies British Open as well as keeping up the day job at Carnoustie. Around mid-August time Ewan mentioned that his work began to pick up with his “first American bag since the start of COVID” after what had been a desolate year. Caddying in the UK had returned.

Ewan (pictured right) let us all into his life as a caddie throughout the year .

It was cool to have a place to share our experience of getting back to caddying together. Through the community we managed to connect caddies from 9 countries including the US, France and New Zealand, whilst sharing our experiences going through 2021. It was a safe space for us to share our journey and has been built as much by every member that joined as it has by me. 

The 3 gentlemen mentioned above have been great to get to know this year, and have left incredible contributions that have made what our community is.My takeaway from this. Whatever industry you find yourself in, get connected, meet people in your industry, and listen to their story. It’s worth it.

If you are a caddie / golfer who wants to make connections in the industry and share your story, you are more than welcome to join the family for 2022.  You can join through clicking here

 

To all the caddies who joined the community this year, thank you. Let’s hope for a bumper year in 2022. Peace

 

Graham is an experienced caddie at Castlerock Golf Club in Northern Ireland. This year Graham and his team launched Handicaddie, an app which provides digital solutions for the caddying industry. Find out more at Handicaddie.com