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  • Genevieve Ross / Special to the Bee

    Don Thames, head golf pro at Rancho Murieta Country Club, gives a pep talk to his recruits early in the morning for the debut of the club's new caddie program, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014.

  • Genevieve Ross / Special to the Bee

    Sixteen-year-old Bro Corosu, right, caddies for Carole Thames at Rancho Murieta Country Club, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. The country club launched their new caddie program Saturday.

  • Genevieve Ross / Special to the Bee

    Max Creech, 15, right, pushes David Bates' golf bag as his caddie at Rancho Murieta Country Club, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. The country club launched their new caddie program Saturday.

  • Genevieve Ross / Special to the Bee

    Jarrod Jordan, 15, right, caddies for Lou Antonetti at Rancho Murieta Country Club, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. The country club launched their new caddie program Saturday.

  • Genevieve Ross / Special to the Bee

    Max Creech, 15, left, dons his bib along with other caddies as they prepare for the first day of Rancho Murieta Country Club's new caddie program, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014.

Golf Plus: Caddies make comeback in Rancho Murieta program

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 - 10:52 pm
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 - 11:02 pm

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 Murieta’s head pro, is banking on them coming back into fashion. Saturday was the program’s debut.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Thames, who spearheaded the project. “It’s 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 doesn’t 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.

It’s 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 who’s 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 I’ve 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 wasn’t, 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 there’s demand, Sundays will be added. While some might question the wisdom of introducing a caddie program in the middle of winter, Thames said it’s 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 “Caddyshack’s” 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 Grove’s golf team in the spring, was assigned to David Bates, a member who made Creech’s 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 didn’t 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 program’s first day couldn’t 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. “I’m looking forward to next week.”


Call The Bee’s Steve Pajak, (916) 326-5526.

Read more articles by Steve Pajak



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