June 16, 2019

"WILLIE, I NEED A LOOP!":

Documentary views golf history through eyes of caddies (EDGAR THOMPSON, 6/15/19, Orlando Sentinel)

"This project has reconnected me with a special time in my life, and I feel inspired to tell this unique and relatively unknown story of the caddie," Baffa said. "I grew up playing golf with my dad and his brother. I have great memories of walking 18 early on a Sunday so we could get home and watch Nicklaus, Faldo or Crenshaw finish."

Growing up outside Chicago, Murray and his six brothers caddied at Indian Hill Club, earning as little as a few dollars a day for guiding golfers around 18 holes -- or in caddie parlance, "loops." Murray's career as a comedian and actor later took off due to roles like Carl Spackler, the eccentric and unhinged caddie in the 1980 classic Caddyshack.

These days, some real-life caddies have themselves become rich and famous in a profession with blue-collar, hardscrabble roots across the Atlantic Ocean in the home of golf.

Loopers traces the history of caddies to Mary Queen of Scots, at one time credited with originating the profession during the 16th century, though this historical claim has since been revised.

Irrefutably, the first caddie of renown is Tom Morris Sr. "Old Tom" became the original caddie master at storied St. Andrews and the professional game's first great player, winning five of the first eight Open Championships and fathering a son who won four more.

In Old Tom's day, a caddie's value was as much as a retriever as a resource for information on the course layout and the conditions. Golf balls known as "featheries" were not inexpensive, costing 2 to 5 shillings, or the equivalent of $10-$20. Producing these hand-sewn round leather pouches stuffed with chicken or goose feathers and coated with paint was tedious and time-consuming.

In the early part of the 20th century, an estimated 300 golfers from Carnoustie, located in Angus across the water from St. Andrews, emigrated to the United States, providing caddies and club makers to help grow a fledgling sport. [...]

During one of the lighter moments of Loopers, caddies from Lahinch Golf Club in Ireland sit around a table, sip pints of beer and share laughs and stories about their trade. Subtitles are used to help viewers unaccustomed to the thick Irish brogue.

The caddie subculture is one fewer and fewer golfers will come to understand outside of the British Isles, where loopers are as commonplace as the rain, wind, knee-high heather and neck-deep pot bunkers.

Exclusive U.S. clubs, like Augusta National, or high-end public courses like Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes or Streamsong Resort, located 90 minutes south of Orlando, offer caddies. Generally, though, the golfer-caddie experience is less and less accessible and available due to golf carts equipped with GPS tracking and offering comfort and ease.

Loopers is a pleasing, poignant reminder of what has been lost: Two people joined at the hip with the common goal of conquering a difficult game and enjoying every step of the way.


Inside Sankaty Head Caddie Camp, the Oldest Caddie Camp in America (Maxwell Surprenant, September 1st 2015, SI for Kids)

For nine weeks every summer, 60 boys call Sankaty Head Golf Course on Nantucket Island their home. These boys have the privilege of attending Sankaty Head Caddie Camp, the last residential caddie camp in the country.

Sankaty Camp has been running 85 years without any interruption. It opened in 1930 when there were a lot of caddie camps around the country. Slowly, though, they began shutting down. World War II required young men to fight, and after the war clubs could not afford to keep them open. 

But Sankaty has stayed in operation. "This camp exists because membership believes in it," says camp director David Hinman. It costs $400,000 to run the camp, and the funding comes from member donations. 

Members help the boys on and off the golf course, too. When one boy came to camp, he had never held a golf club. A member gave him a set of clubs that he didn't need anymore. Another member donated new sneakers for all the boys. "It's like members have more children for the summer," Hinman says. 

Sankaty Golf Club members include Jack Welch, retired chairman and CEO of General Electric, and Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots. 

Caddie campers pay $5 per day, which includes room and board. They caddy six days a week, and at the end of the summer, they can take home their earnings.

The boys work hard and play hard. They wake at 7 a.m. and caddy all day.  In the evening, they play organized sports such as touch football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, swimming, tennis, horseshoes, and, of course, golf.  Lights go out at 10 p.m. 

"After a long day of caddying and playing sports, there are no complaints about bedtime," Hinman says. 

Posted by at June 16, 2019 9:53 AM

  

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