Getting caddies back on course big priority for WGA

  • Caddies Jaclyn Prucha of Chicago and Donavan Bird of Elgin work in July 2017 at Olympia Fields Country Club.

    Caddies Jaclyn Prucha of Chicago and Donavan Bird of Elgin work in July 2017 at Olympia Fields Country Club. Charles Cherney/Western Golf Association

 
 
Updated 5/10/2020 11:13 PM

A few weeks from now, school's e-learning will be OUT FOR SUMMER! OUT FOREVER!

NO MORE KEYBOARDS, NO MORE SCREENS.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

SOME KIDS WILL BE WANTING TO HIT THOSE GREENS.

As in country club greens to begin their summer jobs.

Because of the novel coronavirus and the restrictions placed on golf courses -- which includes no caddies -- it's not clear when that might happen, however.

Dr. Kevin Most, the chief medical officer at Central DuPage Hospital, believes it could be as early as June 1 if Gove. J.B. Pritzker's office listens to the "playbook" unveiled by the Western Golf Association.

"You're talking about people in this organization who understand the business better than anyone does," said Most, who was an Evans Scholar and is a member at Butterfield Country Club and Chicago Golf Club. "They promote caddying and have always been the go-to experts for caddying. So the governor should look to them for insight."

Some of the recommendations made by the WGA include:

• Making sure caddies place the bag at least 10 feet from where the ball is being played.

• Always hand the club to the member by the face of the club and not the grip.

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• Putts can still be read and balls washed, but when those tasks are completed, a caddie should retreat to the edge of the green.

• Have markings on each tee box so caddies can stay six feet away from each other.

• Prepackage meals at halfway houses.

• If masks are required, Most said clubs will provide them.

• Ask members to call and request a caddie to reduce the number who must congregate at the shack.

This last suggestion could be tricky because many kids are under 16 and need a ride to the course. That ride may have to come from mom or dad on their way to work in the morning, meaning a certain number of caddies will still have to be at the shack as they wait for a loop.

"For those individuals we're going to make sure (they) social distance and that clear expectations are set," Most said. "And those who don't follow the expectations won't be allowed to work."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Training for new caddies is another issue. Facilities normally dedicate at least a couple of days for instruction so kids know what they're doing when they are assigned their first loop.

The WGA is trying to help by providing online materials so new caddies can practice and learn the classroom aspects of the job. A 30-page training manual and 22-minute instructional video can be found at www.wgaesf.org. To find them, go to the site and scroll down to "Caddie Resources."

Most isn't the least bit concerned with anybody contracting the coronavirus by touching a flagstick or a rake. He said the odds of that happening are akin to winning the Megamillions lottery.

Golf bags shouldn't be a problem either.

"This virus cannot live on a golf bag for 24 hours," Most said. "So if a player plays and puts their bag into their trunk or a bag room, we're not concerned that there's going to be a viral load on the strap. And if there's that big of a concern, we would set up a process to make sure every bag is wiped down." There are about 75 caddie programs in the Chicagoland area that employ about 3,000 kids college age or younger. Programs range from as little as 10 to more than 300 at a place like Medinah Country Club. Other big supporters of caddies include clubs such as Butterfield, Twin Orchard, Northmoor, Beverly, Edgewood Valley and Olympia Fields.

"I learned more in the caddie yard, in the caddie shack and on the golf course about business and how you interact with people than I probably did in all of my years of school," Most said. "So I certainly hope we can get caddies back on the golf course for a whole slew of reasons.

"We're turning these individuals from teenagers into young gentlemen and gentlewomen. We're teaching them how to communicate with adults, and all of the skills that they're going to learn as a caddie they're going to use later in life.

"So to miss out on an opportunity because we haven't figured out how to keep them safe would be sad. And I think we have worked out the ways to make them safe."

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