It struck me recently how privileged we are in most parts of Asia. We can enjoy a round of golf with a caddy at an affordable price.
Trust me, in European and North American cities, using a caddy during normal play is very uncommon. Mostly only wealthy people can afford them. Golfers there (and actually even in the more expensive Asian cities like Japan and Singapore) use a pull trolley or drive a golf cart. Some even use light bags and carry their sets themselves.
Most societies view being a caddy as a profession that indicates no real social standing. (In case you didn't know, caddies are employed by golfers to carry their golf bag containing the equipment and accessories needed to play and enjoy the sport.)
Caddies can and should play a very important role in a player's performance, right from top professionals down to club amateurs. Besides tending to equipment, caddies assist in a variety of ways, such as judging distances, reminding one of hazard placements and reading breaks on the green.
Good caddies also help players in course management, such as taking into account wind speed and direction, advising on options that can be taken during the round, knowledge on the rules, and most importantly, keeping the player's morale and spirits up. It takes quite a lot to be a good caddy including being efficient, intelligent, hard working, and of course knowing a lot about golf.
For the caddies, just being the caddy is not the limit. Hard working talented caddies have developed into good golfers. There are numerous examples, such as world's #1 golfer Vijay Singh who recently revealed that he started his golfing career as a caddie. Being the caddy of a top golfer can earn lots of money as well. Tiger Woods' caddy, Steve Williams, is known to be the highest earning sportsperson in New Zealand!
Many professional golfers who reach the top have come from being ball boys and caddies. This usually meant they started by swinging wooden sticks at old rotten balls, just as some famous soccer players started as kids kicking plastic packs in the back alley.
In neighbouring India we have witnessed many such examples of having gone from being a 'bag boy' at the local Golf Club to becoming a top professional in the region.
Some who are enjoying success today and living a new lifestyle beyond anything they ever imagined include Vijay Kumar, Mukesh Kumar and Ali Sher. Recently, Ashok Kumar won the order of merit on the Indian PGA tour, placing him as the #1 in Indian Golf. He started his career at the Delhi Golf Club, first as a ball boy and then a caddy.
It is high time we encouraged our caddies and recognised their potential. It is not impossible for some of our caddies to be amongst the best players in the region, and their start will come from the opportunity to swing a golf club.
Next time you are discarding your old golf set, or even just a club or two, for a new one, don't throw it in the back of the storage room where it will rot. Talk to your local professional about how it could be used to open up a whole new world for caddies who faithfully help you through your round of golf.
Deepak Acharya is a golf instructor and Head Golf Professional at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu. [email protected]