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By Chris Britt | SJ-R
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Carrying on
Caddying program is an investment in the future
By John Moody

Good golf professionals are about more than running a smooth (and profitable) shop or packing their lesson book - though both are near the top of the job description.

The good golf professionals know that they are stewards of the game. That during their time, they are charged with caring for and growing the game.

Pasfield Golf Course's Lance Flury is that kind of a golf pro. He's in it for all the right reasons. Not many of us can do things that endure, that resonate with those who come after us. Just as the ripple from a pebble kerplunked in a pond causes concentric circles to widen and push outward, Flury is having his own effect on those near the center of his life. There is no ego here - that's not Flury's game. He's simply trying to help people, particularly young people, just as he helps his beloved game.  

To that end, Flury has started a caddie training program at Pasfield. This is an idea that's been kicking around in his brain for years. He got some inspiration and help from Pam Sherry to get the thing started. Sherry, you see, has plans to retire from her job at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court later this year. She wants to teach golf in New Mexico after that. She was instrumental in coming up with a caddie evaluation card for players to fill out after taking a Pasfield caddie out for a round. It's based, like much of the program, on the successful Western Golf Association-sponsored Chick Evans Scholarship program. Sherry's work here also will help in her LPGA certification process.  

The call for caddies went out in the spring, and 16 responses came in. Those in the group are 14-15 years old, and they come from all over the city and surrounding area, including Chatham, Sherman, Pleasant Plains, Glenarm and as far away as Virginia.  After an application and interview process, all 16 were notified that they'd been accepted. 

They were issued a caddie training manual, put together by Flury and Sherry. In early June, they went out for a test drive. That's when the rookie loopers hit the fairways with real golfers to ply what they had learned in "class" (the classroom being the clubhouse area at Pasfield, where Professor Flury got them prepared for their caddie exam before putting them to work about mid-June). 

"Work" is the correct word, since hauling a golf bag up and down hills during steamy weather is hardly the stuff of kicks and grins. But these caddies aren't employees of the golf course. They are a volunteer force, paid strictly and solely by the gratuities earned from the golfers whose bags they carry. Flury will encourage participating golfers to tip as generously as they are able, with a minimum of $5.  

To start, caddies likely will be available for players who request them for Saturday rounds between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Flury wants to see how things go at the beginning and tweak as needed. With a long-standing and loyal men's club, Flury expects some potential jobs for his new caddies to come from this group, but he's inviting everyone to consider giving the kids a chance. 

A good caddie can make for a better round of golf. They do all the dirty work so the player just has to think about playing the next shot. They keep your golf ball and your clubs clean. And, they'll find your ball (if possible) when it's hit off line. The good ones are good company during a long day on the course.

Flury's idea is thoughtfully planned. It's professional and with a purpose. Caddies will be issued a caddie bib, a towel, a divot repair tool and a ball mark. Sponsors include: Bank of Springfield; Masco Packaging and Industrial Supply; Bunn Pro Shop and head professional Paul Loutzenhiser; and Primo Designs.

Flury sees this as an opportunity to introduce kids to the game of golf, to socialize with adults in a healthy environment and to get them outdoors. In the long run, they will have made contacts with people in the community and it may help them get a job someday - maybe just a summer job, but who knows. It could be that the time on the golf course here will lead to a more permanent career someday via a relationship established during these caddie days. 

Flury can appreciate how golf can get in your system early in life. He got his own start as a kid working at Pasfield, plus he's the father of two young golfers. His ultimate goal for this new bunch, a most honorable one, is to get a Chick Evans Scholarship for one of his caddies. 

Evans Scholars must have good grades, prove a financial need and be a caddie for two years. According to its own website, the WGA-sponsored Evans Scholars Foundation "administers the nation's largest privately funded college scholarship program." More than 9,000 young caddies have earned college degrees through Evans Scholarships since 1930. Currently, more than 840 caddies attend college every year as Evans Scholars. The program is named for its founder, golf great Charles "Chick" Evans Jr.

The hard work and thoughtfulness of one golf pro and his protege have created the potential to change a young person's life. Years from now, one or more of these first 16 likely will cite for their own children, or maybe for someone they are trying to help, how one summer in Springfield, Ill., their life got started on a modest golf course carrying a bag for tips on a summer morning.

 

Story published Friday, July 1, 2011 ( Volume 6, Number 4 )

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