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Where have the caddies gone?

December 10, 2013

By Michelle Krasodomski

Technology has taken over so many aspects of the golf game, from the equipment used to the golf carts driven and, in result, something has started disappearing from the rich history of the game; caddies. They could, however, be making a comeback.

In efforts to bring caddying back to golf courses across the nation, the Western Golf Association (WGA) is pushing new initiatives and plans to focus on introducing caddying at a young age, and especially to young women.

In 2012, the WGA Caddie Academy was launched at country clubs on Chicago’s North Shore to provide young women, who wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to work at a golf course, the chance to do so. But the academy, which recruits young women, and especially minorities, who are economically disadvantaged, offers much more than learning how to caddie. Participants learn life lessons from being around role models and successful professionals on the golf course, and off the course are able to see the city of Chicago and learn more about college from guest speakers.

This year, the academy grew to 22 participants, three of which were from Southern California.

With no prior exposure to the game of golf, high school sophomores Christiana Abarca, Sarahi Ortiz and Kezia Setiawan (pictured) flew to Chicago for a seven-week crash course in caddying, which turned out to be much more than that. “A life changing adventure” is how the girls collectively describe their time at the Caddie Academy. Despite their initial fears, and tears, the girls look back on their experience and agree it was a summer well spent.

All three caddied at Onwentsia GC, an 18-hole golf course located in Lake Forest, Ill. On a typical day, the girls would spend more than nine hours at the golf course, looping at least twice, sometimes more.

“It was hard work,” said Sarahi, explaining that it was her first real job. “I knew nothing about golf before, so working on a golf course all day was a challenge at first.”

When describing why the Caddie Academy was launched, Mike Maher, associate director of education for the WGA, stated that caddying is one of the best summer jobs for anyone.

“The girls take away so much,” Maher said. “They experience group living, forming new friendships, communicating with members at the club. It’s a lot more than just golf.”

Other programming fit into the schedule too, including trips to the Navy Pier, a boat tour of Chicago, Shakespeare in the Park, guest speakers and more. In the future, Maher stated that they hope to provide attendees with SAT and ACT prep classes as well.

Kezia, Christiana and Sarahi all agreed that college is important for their future, so the three are excited about the opportunity to attend the academy again next year.

“I learned a lot about myself,” explained Kezia. “It’s nice to work hard and have an experience that’s life changing. I’m really excited for college now.”

Each girl that participated in the Caddie Academy is invited back the following year, depending on academics, and will have the ability to apply for the Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship their senior year. Applicants must have a strong caddie record, excellent academics, demonstrate financial need and outstanding character. Those selected receive a four-year college scholarship, with most participants attending one of 14 universities with an Evans Scholars House. More information about the scholarship can be found here.

“We now understand golf and caught ourselves commenting on a televised PGA TOUR event during our trip home,” said Christiana. “It’s exciting that we learned so much about something so foreign to us and we look forward to going back next year.”

To read more on the Caddie Academy, click here.

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