Meet the men who are more than just bag-carriers

Andrew Marshall
Thu, 10 Feb 2011

Andy Pearson, former assistant caddie manager at Kiawah Island Club in South Carolina, who heads up the project here admits: “There’s a high demand for caddie places and it’s brought a lot of employment to the region.

You’d be amazed how many mothers ring me to get jobs for their sons and daughters. Students can come for the summer months, do a few ‘loops’ and earn money to pay for their college education.

“It definitely beats flipping burgers,” he laughs.

Like golf equipment technology, caddying has entered a new age, as former Lahinch caddie Mike O'Connor explains: “This game has changed a lot since I was a lad in the 1960s. Then, you’d just turn up at the course and learn the ropes from there. I remember earning two shillings and sixpence a bag (equivalent to 15p in today's money) back then. There’s much more to it than I realised."

Others, like Paddy O’Shea have been impressed with the caddie trainers from the US: "The standard and attention to detail is very high. There’s even a video on how to greet clients and make a good first impression and a ‘caddie exam’ with multiple-choice questions, there's a copy taped inside the toilet door, ” he says.

“As a caddie you need to be multi-skilled and develop a heightened sense of anticipation. You need be a mentor for your player, know when to talk and when to be quiet, act as a local guide and be specific with distances.”

Down at the ‘caddie shack’ things are hotting up. George Stavros from Pinehurst, North Carolina  has arrived to oversee the Caddie Programme during the tournament.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase the programme and enhance the Doonbeg experience,” he tells the group. “Make sure you have all your supplies with you - scorecards, caddie-rating cards, pin-placement sheets, pencils, markers, green-repair tool and sand bottles. And don’t forget, it’s the 14-club rule in operation today.”

Standing on the elevated first tee of the windswept links, eyes are drawn to a fairway that bucks and plunges like a raging river towards a green protected by soaring dunes. Doonbeg, designed by double Open champion Greg Norman, looks and plays like it’s been part of the landscape for a hundred years even though it was opened only in July 2002.

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