Caddie usage in Colorado on an uptick as courses recorded nearly 40,000 loops in 2017
by Gary Baines
Executive director Ed Mate likes to say, only half-jokingly, that the “C” in the CGA organization he represents not only stands for Colorado, but for Caddie.
There are numerous reasons there’s some truth in that for the CGA and for Mate.
As he noted in a recent interview with We Are Golf, “Caddying embodies some of the most important and fundamental attributes of our sport that make it great. Golf is a game of a lifetime and caddying puts young and old together to share it. Golf promotes health and wellness and caddies make it more enjoyable for adults to walk and gets kids outside and away from their video screens. Golf is a social game; show me a group of four golfers with four caddies and I will show you eight people having a great time.”
In addition, the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy is a cornerstone initiative at CommonGround Golf Course, which is owned and operated by the CGA.
But the association’s commitment to caddying extends well beyond CommonGround. That was evident on Monday, when the CGA conducted its annual Caddie Summit for the seventh time, in this case at Denver Country Club. Clubs and courses with caddies programs from around the state met to exchange ideas, chat about subjects integral to caddying, see caddie trends in Colorado and listen to a few topic-appropriate speakers.
And this year, featured was a high-quality VIDEO — produced by Columbine Country Club — which focuses on the value of caddying and the full tuition and housing Evans Scholarship for caddies. It was filmed at Columbine and at the University of Colorado Evans Scholars house. Columbine had a once-thriving caddie program which produced numerous Evans Scholars before that program largely went by the wayside. But it’s been resurrected in the 21st century and is once again successful.
The CGA sees enough value in this annual Caddie Summit that it — through the Colorado Golf Foundation, which supports Colorado-based programs and organizations that use golf to build important life skills and character — awards a caddie grant of $500 to each club which attends with multiple representatives.
On Monday, 19 of the more than 20 caddie clubs/courses in Colorado were expected to participate in the Summit. Overall, nearly 70 people were in attendance, after 50 being the norm in recent years.
“If anybody sat through this session and was asked how do you measure the health of caddie programs and the enthusiasm, it’s the highest it’s ever been — absolutely,” Mate said. “The video we saw from Columbine, the attendance today, the energy level … we’re on the upswing for sure.”
Indeed, the Caddie Summit seems to be paying dividends — or at least helping the cause. The number of caddie/forecaddie rounds in Colorado — which is tracked by a survey the CGA sends to caddie clubs and courses — has been trending up in recent years. In 2017, that number hit almost 40,000 as a total of 39,919 were reported.
“The more loops for the kids, the more summer jobs — healthy jobs — there are for youths,” said Janene Guzowski, who chairs the CGA Caddie Development Committee and has been a director for the Western Golf Association (which administers the Evans Scholarship) for about eight years. “In the end, it can lead to a scholarship if everything else falls into place and they apply for an Evans Scholarship and have all the qualfications.
“For me, the more kids that are on the course learning how to talk to adults and being on time at 7:30 in the morning, learning accountability … it’s all good. It’s better than flipping burgers or mowing lawns.”
The fact that the CGA tracks the number of caddie rounds in Colorado puts it in better position than many states, said Tim Orbon (left), the manager of caddies and scholarship development for the WGA. “That data is awesome.”
Though the number of caddie loops has headed upward in the Caddie Summit survey, Mate is reluctant to draw any conclusions at this point. But he likes the fact that the data is being gathered.
“It’s too short a line to really see a trend,” said Mate, himself a former caddie — at Denver Country Club — and an Evans Scholars alum. “We’re asking the right questions and we actually have a number. If you don’t have a number, how do you measure? You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Let’s track it and get our clubs to report rounds consistently.”
Orbon was the keynote speaker for Monday’s Caddie Summit, providing updates on the Evans Scholarship, the new “Carry the Game” youth initiative designed to create lifelong golfers through caddying, and on the WGA’s Caddie Academies. At the Academies, for seven weeks each summer, participants caddie at courses in the Chicago area while living together in a community. Orbon also gave some tips on how to build caddie programs and make them thrive.
“When you have a speaker like Tim, whose enthusiasm and passion for caddie programs is really intoxicating, that was like a coach motivating a team,” Mate said. “The whole day is about getting people enthused, and I think we accomplished that for sure.”
Orbon was one of two WGA staff members on hand for Monday’s Caddie Summit. Director of the West Region Bill Moses was also in attendance. Moses was planning to visit the CU Evans Scholars house in Boulder later in the day.
Sixty-two caddies were on the Evans Scholarship at CU starting the school year, among the 965 current Evans Scholars nationwide.