It was a scene reminiscent of the 1950s with a hint of Caddyshack.
On Saturday, 13 earnest young men were at Rancho Murieta Country Club by 7:30 a.m., each wearing their uniform white polo shirt, khaki pants, sneakers and green bib.
They were caddies looking for a loop, something rarely seen these days outside golf courses in Scotland and Ireland or upscale resorts and private clubs. All succeeded.
Caddies have been out of style longer than bell-bottom jeans or since the introduction of golf carts. Don Thames, Rancho Murietas head pro, is banking on them coming back into fashion. Saturday was the programs debut.
Its something Ive always wanted to do, said Thames, who spearheaded the project. Its something the finer clubs do. It brings members to golf as it was meant to be played.
The caddies, mostly Pleasant Grove High School students, earned $40 plus tip per round and the opportunity to rub elbows with adults it doesnt hurt to know. Rancho Murieta stands to benefit, too, amid trying times for private clubs.
It gives us something different in member recruitment and retention, Thames said.
Its potentially the rare win-win-win situation.
The caddies went through a training program that included a 30-page manual, a 40-minute video, a written test and two on-course simulated sessions. Carrying the bag was only part of the job. The caddies also provided yardage, cleaned clubs, raked bunkers, filled divots, repaired ball marks and observed golf etiquette in a rhythm and manner that meshed with their player.
Tom Lewandowski was impressed. A longtime scratch player whos had experience with caddies at other clubs and in Europe, he was hooked up with Chad Vanderdussen, a Pleasant Grove senior.
Chad was better first time out than some of the caddies Ive had in Scotland and Ireland, Lewandowski said.
Hiring a caddie allowed Lewandowski to walk the hilly course instead of ride, something he wants to get back to doing more regularly. Vanderdussen, also a scratch player, offered input when solicited but not when it wasnt, something not lost on his player.
He was terrific, Lewandowski said. I got to walk, and I got to walk comfortably. I told him that I will request him again.
Initially, Rancho Murieta will offer caddies only on Saturdays. If theres demand, Sundays will be added. While some might question the wisdom of introducing a caddie program in the middle of winter, Thames said its never the wrong time to do the right thing.
After it rains, carts are restricted to the path, so players end up walking back and forth from their cart to the ball all day anyway, he said.
Thames, wearing his Lou Loomis hat inspired by Caddyshacks so-named caddie master, posted a sign with caddie rules: No fighting. No spitting. No drinking. No gambling. No bare feet.
Max Creech, 15, a Pleasant Grove freshman, and Brandon Kelly, 16, a junior, joined the 11 others on the caddie bench outside the pro shop; they all kept their shoes on and stayed close.
Creech, a 12-handicapper who plans to try out for Pleasant Groves golf team in the spring, was assigned to David Bates, a member who made Creechs job easier by staying in the fairway all day. Creech said he quickly got over his jitters and admitted to wondering what he would look like caddying professionally on TV.
Kelly, a 7-handicapper who played No. 2 for the Eagles last season, was assigned Gary Ramsden, a scratch player.
Creech and Kelly said they both had a great experience and didnt anticipate the benefit of being able to step back and see up close how someone else hits shots.
It was a good opportunity to see how there are other ways to hit a shot than how I might hit it, Kelly said.
The programs first day couldnt have gone better, Thames said. Everybody got hired, 10 to carry bags and three as forecaddies for players opting to ride. Everybody hustled. Everybody had fun. One caddie received a tip greater than his fee, while all but one of the others received at least $10 above the fee. One kid got stiffed.
Next up: Getting two girls in the caddie pipeline certified and convincing players of all abilities that a caddie not only can enhance their experience but take them back to a simpler time.
It was only one day, but everybody seemed to be happy with what transpired, Thames said. Im looking forward to next week.
Call The Bees Steve Pajak, (916) 326-5526.