As a long-time PGA Professional and Coach with The First Tee, I’m often asked by participants and/or their parents how long I’ve been playing golf, and how I got started in the game. They are often surprised to find out that I began playing golf at age twelve, which often seems “late” by today’s standards for youth sports, and that no one in my immediate family, neither my parents or my younger brother, played golf with me when I was first learning to play the game.
I first stepped foot on a golf course when I began to work as a caddie. For most of the twentieth century, that was a very common way for young people, albeit mainly boys, to be exposed to golf. You were outside, working hard watching golf balls and carrying your players clubs around the course, and best of all, you got PAID for your efforts at the end of the round! In addition to the money, you learned a great deal about the adults who just spent four hours on the golf course with you. Did they play by the rules? How did they interact with the other golfers in the group? How did they treat you and the other caddies?
The types of lessons you learned as a “looper” were hilariously parodied in the movie Caddyshack, which was released in theaters during my second season as a caddie. The stereotypical characters in the movie are funny because they distilled and enlarged the best and worst of the behavior you encounter on the course, and in life.
The number of clubs that utilize and encourage caddies has certainly decreased nationwide in the last few decades. However, we are blessed in western Pennsylvania with many private facilities, such as Oakmont, Fox Chapel, Sewickley Heights and others, that still support very strong caddie programs.
In addition to the money you earn while caddying, the West Penn Golf Association, located here in Pittsburgh, and the Western Golf Association, headquartered in the Chicago area, both have college scholarship programs for young people who work regularly as caddies. The extraordinary social and financial benefits to being a caddie are still available, and The First Tee of Pittsburgh can help your child discover them, and prepare to reap the rewards of hard work and service.
If your family would like to learn more about becoming a caddie, please feel free to contact me!
Contact Coach Eric Kulinna, PGA Director of Golf and Player Development via email (ekulinna@
firstteepittsburgh.org) or in the Golf Shop (412-622-6959).