Caddies Not Just for the Pros
PHOENIX - Got caddie?
That is the question being raised by the Caddie Foundation of Arizona, a local non-profit organization serving golf courses in and around the Valley.
Chances are, the answer is no. The species Baggus toterus, the common American Caddie, has all but died out. They thrive only on tour and in exclusive country club habitats.
Their spirit is immortalized in such great movies as Caddie Shack and such lousy one as Caddie Shack II. They are well known for guiding golfers through unfamiliar courses, finding balls, cleaning equipment and offering friendly advice on club selection and putting breaks, but they are seldom seen among the cart caravans on Arizona's resort and daily-fee golf courses.
"The way of the caddie has gone away," says Aaron Green - an assistant golf pro at the Wigwam resort. "In the past, it was more of a tradition. You could always get a kid or someone less fortunate to caddie for you fairly cheaply. Now it's become a more expensive proposition. It's not an every day thing."
The Wigwam is one of the courses that uses CFofAZ caddies regularly, along with the Boulders Resort, Eagle Mountain, Gold Canyon, Grayhawk, Gainey Ranch, Legend Trails, Phantom Horse, Talking Stick, and Troon North.
Don't be confused: Regularly does not mean all the time. It just means that these courses allow guests to use CFofAZ services. CFofAZ can arrange caddies for other Valley courses on an individual basis. Believe it or not, though, some courses do not allow the service.
"There are courses that don't allow golfers to walk," says CFofAZ founder Doris Siefker, "so we also provide 'cart chasers' that run behind golfers in carts."
Siefker says some courses have expressed concern for losing cart revenue if they promote caddie services. Hence the cart chasers. It's just one of several adjustments she has had to make in her attempt to put caddies back on the Arizona map.
Siefker originally started the CFofAZ as a business. About six months later, in October of 1998, the business became a foundation.
"The USGA suggested that I go non-profit," Siefker says. "You get more visibility and support as a non-profit organization."
The USGA is one of the staunchest supporters of the caddie revival. The organization affirmed it's support in May, issuing a $15,000 grant to the CFofAZ.
It has also published a booklet entitled "A Call to Feet" that details the benefits of walking a golf course and hiring a caddie, as well as the obstacles facing the movement. The USGA believes that walking is part of the game of golf. If you are not walking, you are not really golfing. You are playing some form of "cart ball."
The booklet acknowledges that caddies, at about $40 per bag and up, are more expensive than carts, which usually cost an extra $10-20. Plus, you don't have to tip a cart. But it also states that the current prices of carts do not really reflect all the costs that go into them. Once you've figured in the cost to recharge, clean, fix, and house the carts and keep them up to date, caddies might actually be a cheaper alternative.
One thing is certain, you will never send a cart to college by electing to ride. The benefits caddying provides to the caddies themselves represent the primary reason Siefker is so dedicated to the organization.
"I have two boys, Christopher and Matthew," she says, "and I pretty much started this because of them. I've seen the benefits for them. My kids are closer to me now. They show more manners. When they go out to caddie, they meet presidents, CEOs and bankers, and it rubs off on them. They don't feel as intimidated to, say, approach someone and stick their hand out and say, 'hello, how are you doing?"
"There's not much out there that prepares a kid for a job interview or for their adult life, and this does that."
And thanks to Siefker, a growing list of about 40 other kids are seeing those same benefits. The foundation offers need-based college scholarships and a good wage, and allows the kids to work on weekends so it doesn't interfere with school. Siefker has a few adults to handle the weekday load, but kids always get the honors on the weekends.
"The kids are awesome," Siefker says. "One of them could be the next Billy Mayfair or the next Patty Berg. Some have the ability and desire to play college golf, but they might not have to money to afford it.
"There are a lot of single parents out there that don't have the time to dedicate to their kids, and so they don't have enough structure. And that's what I like about golf. Golf does have a structure, and it teaches etiquette."
"I think it's a fine idea," says Green. "If courses could be staffed with caddies at all times, that would be great, but it just doesn't make economic sense for most. The foundation allows the Wigwam to provide a great service to our guests."
Still, Siefker faces the reality that the caddie movement has not yet been accepted back into the mainstream golf conscious. She says two of her better caddies are now working fast-food jobs because she couldn't guarantee them enough work.
The CFofAZ is always looking for more young bag toters. A caddie clinic was held last weekend at the Phoenix Public Library, and three more are on the early schedule for 2000. The next one starts January 16 at the library. Clinics are also scheduled for February and April.
Siefker uses the clinics to orientate potential caddies to the tenets of the profession, the rules or golf, and course etiquette. The three main rules of caddying: Show up, keep up, and shut up - meaning don't give advice unless asked.
Caddies must learn to be aware of literally everything going on around them and must always be positive. They should also be physically fit, since one caddie may be asked to carry two bags and there is often a lot of distance to cover quickly from a green to the next tee, especially for cart chasers.
The clinics start out in the classroom and wind up out on the course with Director of Caddie Instruction Ron Schurer. "Mr. Clean," as he is known, is a veteran caddie of the LPGA tour. In addition, potential caddies must pass the caddie exam.
Once trained, caddies can make $25 per bag/cart plus tips at the B level. A-level caddies make $30 per bag/cart and Honor caddies make $40 per bag/cart.
The CFofAZ currently has relationships with several tournaments and pro-ams, including the Arizona Open, the PGA's Phoenix Open, the LPGA's Standard Register Ping, and the USGA's Senior Women's Open.
Most of her support has come from pros and tournament directors whom themselves caddied as kids. The list keeps growing as more and more people are impressed by Siefker's crew.
"Doris does a great job," says Green. "She takes care of her people and lots of golfers seem to take advantage of it and enjoy it. She has a great relationship with us and she does a good job of customer service."
If you are at least 14 and think caddying might just be your bag, remember that you don't have to be a golfer to caddie.
If you are a golfer and you are thinking your game could benefit from a caddie, you're probably right. In either case, you can contact the CFofAZ at:
The Caddie Foundation of Arizona
5930 W. Greenway Road
Unit 10 PMB 186
Glendale, AZ 85306
November 4, 1999