Maybe it’s because I got my start in golf as a teenage caddie. Maybe it’s because when I visited Kenya 30 years ago, I saw lots of poor kids running barefoot around the rural villages south of Nairobi. Either way, I’ve always had a soft spot for loopers, especially kids trying to raise themselves from difficult circumstances by shouldering the bag.
Which is why I was so encouraged to see a recent story circulated by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO). According to the report, “From the Streets to the Greens: A new life for the street children of Mombasa,” 44 young people who were previously living in poverty are now working as caddies at the new Vipingo Ridge Golf Resort 30 km north of Kenya’s second-largest city.
In association with the European Tour Caddies Association, the fledgling caddies have been trained by Glad’s House, a charity that works with street children in Mombasa, providing them with education, training and employment opportunities.
“They have learned the rules of golf and the principles of caddying and are now ready to begin their new careers,” the story reported. On August 13, 2010, the caddies were presented with their certificates and new uniforms by Cliff Ferguson, the founder of Glad’s House.
Also attending the event were Brian McConnell, Paul Cast and Ken Herring, members of the European Tour Caddies Association who are more commonly found on the fairways of Europe working with some of the sport’s top players. These three and others have been teaching the destitute kids of Mombasa the basics of the game and the duties of caddying while sharing stories about the life of a professional tour caddie.
“It is difficult to imagine the life that these youngsters have endured up to now,” Ferguson said. “Living on the streets with no families, no homes and no support system, they would otherwise be facing a life of petty crime or much, much worse.”
The newly qualified caddies—39 boys and five girls—are now living with local foster families. Ferguson believes they can now look forward to long careers in golf and an independent, secure future.
Donald Ross once wrote a book called, Golf Has Never Failed Me. Maybe one of these salvaged kids will grow up to write a book entitled, How Golf Saved My Life.