Most of the caddie programs in SE Wisconsin are located at private courses, but it’s public golf facilities that are home to a novel, innovative program aimed at mentoring youth and strengthening the institution of caddying.
This year, the Caddie & Leadership Academy of SE WI will offer two locations. Our Milwaukee location will again be Brown Deer Park Golf course. In Racine/Kenosha, we are moving our academy to a new location, Meadowbrook CC. What better way to experience these wonderful facilities than with a caddie! The Caddie Academy will again encourage the use of caddies through a unique incentive — paying the caddie’s base fee through educational grants. The only out-of-pocket cost for a golfer could be an optional tip.
Brown Deer Golf Course in Milwaukee is the “jewel in the crown” of municipal golf facilities in Milwaukee. It offers an 18 hole championship golf course that served as a host for the long running PGA Tour’s Greater Milwaukee Open. Brown Deer and Meadowbrook are well worth the short drive to great golf and a complimentary caddie!!!
This caddie program is designed to provide young men and women the opportunity to learn life lessons through exposure to the game of golf — valuing a strong work ethic, social interaction and perseverance. In addition, the Academy will help the WSGA and Western Golf Association identify potential candidates for the Evans Caddie Scholarship program.
The Evans Scholarship is one of the flagship programs of the Western Golf Association, partnering with the WSGA in sponsoring the Evans Scholars’ chapter houses at Marquette and the University of Wisconsin. Through Par Club contributions to the WGA and other fund raising initiatives, donors fully fund the year-to-year scholarship costs. The WGA awards approximately 200 new scholarships annually with about 15 of those scholarships going to deserving caddies in Wisconsin.
WGA director George Solich, who is an Evans Scholar graduate, provided the inspiration for the Academy’s creation in Denver. Solich read an article about a caddie camp in Nantucket, Mass., and thought a similar program would be ideal.
“The whole idea is promoting caddie programs, the lifeblood of what this (Evans) Scholarship offers,” Solich said “and pulls kids out of extracurricular activities that aren’t so rewarding, this is perfect for them.”
“There’s nothing that taught me more than caddying. I look at the path (it can put kids on) — that’s the key. You put a kid in caddying and it gives them the opportunity to be a successful student, gives them that work ethic, teaches them how to be self-sufficient and gives them the drive to get better.”
The goal for the Brown Deer and Meadowbrook Caddie Academies in 2018 is to continue developing about 10-12 caddies from last summer and begin the process for 5-7 new participants with both programs starting Mid-June and continuing into Mid-August.
Participants will commit to caddying at least three days per week for the 8-week session, meaning the program could lead to 400 loops or more for the Academy caddies. Kids are selected in part based upon character, grades, financial need, and their summer-long commitment to the program.
Initially, priority will be placed on younger and less-experienced caddies, age 14, who will work exclusively at Brown Deer and Meadowbrook during the two-year training period. In future years, the hope is that caddies who have “graduated” from the Academy will be made available then as fully trained and experienced caddies for opportunities at other area courses. This has proven true, as six experienced caddies from 2015 are now at Lake Geneva Country Club and more from 2016 will find new home courses!
Educational Grants of $200 will be paid biweekly to the caddies, program participants are expected to attend leadership training and caddie training one hour each week, and the caddies are required to complete three hours of community service over the summer.
Each year, new candidates attend training sessions before officially starting the Academy program. Brown Deer and Meadowbrook will be used for the training sessions, conducted by Directors, volunteers, and Caddie Academy Board Members.
Jim Bunch, past president of the WGA, is obviously a big proponent of programs that encourage the use of caddies.
“Golfers who have never used a caddie, then do it, they find it’s the best way to play the game,” Bunch said recently. “When they have a caddie, they get it. And they’re helping kids in the process.””