Even after decades in the profession, many caddies can barely make ends meet, finds R. Srikanth
Golf in the city may be just another pastime for the wealthy, but for the caddies, the game brings home their bread and butter.
The caddies’ job involves toting golf bags, teaching amateurs the intricacies of the game and offering ‘valuable tips’ about a golf course. For all their hobnobbing with the rich and famous however, these caddies barely make ends meet. The role that the caddy plays is yet to evolve into an allied sports profession in the city. The know-how, caddies say, is still passed on from one generation to the next.
K. Akbar, whose father worked as a caddy for 30 years and has passed on the knowledge to his son who is in his third year at college, goes to a golf course on the weekends to earn some money for his family.
K.M. Selvaraj, who has been a caddy for 38 years at the Gymkhana Club Annexe at Madras Race Course, Guindy, said he started carrying golf bags at the age of 12, for 10 paise. Mr. Selvaraj has no other permanent job and depends wholly on the 18-hole golf course for his living.
Sadanandan, who is a golf coach at the club, is the only success story among the caddies here. Hailing from a poor background Mr. Sadanandan, who started his career as a caddy in 1978, went on to become a golf player and finally turned professional.
The 60-70 caddies who depend on the golf course for a living usually have next to nothing to take home on weekdays when very few players visit the course. Mr. Sadanandan, who also manages the golf course at the Madras Race Club, said only 10 to 15 members visit the course on weekdays, whereas during weekends close to 150 persons come to play.
Mr. Sadanandan said the club has fixed the caddy’s wage at Rs. 250 per round (going around the 18-hole course), but normally members pay more than the fixed charges.
P. Raghu, who has been working as a caddy for more than 24 years, rued the fact that the caddies of the club do not have a permanent job, unlike the club employees.
There are also good Samaritans among the golfers say the caddies — like the ophthalmologist who offers free treatment; the golfer who provides caddies with food and provisions during lean times and the handful of club members who sponsor the education of their regular caddies.