On Tuesday morning, as the Chandigarh Golf Club allowed caddies to caddie for its members on the course after a gap of more than six months, the 40-50 caddies present at the club collected Rs 20 from each caddie and distributed sweets among themselves to celebrate their homecoming as caddies. At the 7,202-yard course, more than 200 caddies do the caddying duty for members as well as professional golfers at different times and as the caddies started accompanying the golfers at the course, it was return of the familiar sights at the 18-hole golf course.
“It’s like a homecoming for us. While most of the caddies were given work of spotting the ball after the Chandigarh Golf Club opened in May post-lockdown, it was a difficult phase for the caddies as normally they would earn Rs 600-900 on an average day. As we assembled in the morning waiting for golfers, we collected Rs 20 each and brought sweets to celebrate. All of us have been wearing masks and following social distancing measures under the club guidelines. As spotters, we would also repair the bunkers and divots and it feels good to caddie at well-maintained course,” said Nayagaon resident 34-year-old Rajendra Kumar Yadav, who has been working as a caddie for the last 18 years.
While the Chandigarh Golf Course was closed post-lockdown in March, the club opened for members and golfers in May under the new guidelines. With rules like wearing of masks, only one golfer allowed per cart and no caddies, the club has been seeing professional golfers and members playing at the course since May. With most of the caddies coming from the nearby villages of Kishangarh and Nayagaon, the club had employed 116 caddies as ball spotters for eight-hour shifts paying them Rs 300 for the shift. As a caddie, the caddies earn an amount ranging from Rs 220 to Rs 280 per 18 holes for Class A and Class B category apart from the tips by members and professional golfers.
“Initially when the lockdown happened, it was tough for me as I had to borrow some money from friends. While the club helped us with ration and some money, some of us had to pay rent and had other expenses too. Working as ball spotters meant that there was some help and we all were waiting for caddying for the members. While working for two or sometimes three shifts, I can earn close to Rs 1,000 per day and I hope to clear my debts soon,” said 25-year-old caddie Ram Chandra from Kaimbwala.
Another caddie, 21-year-old Deepak Kumar from Kaimbwala village, too accompanied his client golfer on Tuesday. “Staying away from the golf course was the biggest stress for us initially. Even though we worked as ball spotters, we were eager for caddying. I work for a professional golfer on a monthly salary and he also helped me with monetary support. Today, more than 70-80 caddies returned without a round. We expect more and more members to hire caddies as we all follow rules and know our responsibility,” Kumar said.
As professional golf too resumes in India with Chandigarh Golf Club co-hosting two PGTI tournaments next month and Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational in December, caddies will be expected to assist the professional golfers. “Whatever the club could do, they did for the caddies and we are happy that the tough phase is past us. Some of my clients like club secretary Arvind Bajaj helped me with money. I am grateful to such members,” said 38-year-old caddie Rakesh Kumar Monty.
The club management has also decided to allow caddies for the PGTI tournaments starting next month. “Caddies play an important role for the club and we have decided to allow caddies for the PGTI Tournaments,” said Darvesh Kumar, chairman, tournament and handicapping committee.
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