Loopers in the Loop

Boosters try to bring caddying back to the fore.

After fifty years of operation, he says, the club needed a boost of old-fashioned, well, golfiness: "I think golfing was created with the purpose of using caddies." So in 2002, he restarted the club's caddy academy, which had lain dormant for several decades. About 25 kids showed up. By the end of the year, there were six.

Still, Alley was convinced that Columbine's new, younger members would warm to stick sherpas, so he's stuck with it, and this year, four dozen teenage boys -- and a handful of girls -- stood ready to tackle the club's three-week training program. By now, Alley says, he'd hoped to add the final ingredient to the club's successful reintroduction of jocks: a requirement that golfers must hire caddies, at least on the weekends. Membership has been lukewarm to the idea, though, and Alley has dropped it for the moment.

Nevertheless, he's enthusiastic and upbeat as he greets the season's new crop of caddy candidates. "I'm glad you're here," he tells them. "I'm glad you want to be a caddy."

Fred Harper

He immediately segues into the first -- and perhaps most important -- lesson of looping. "Josh," he says, hauling a kid out of the crowd. "Let's say I'm Mr. Smith and you're my caddy. What's the first thing you're going to do?"

Josh, who has caddied before, knows the routine. He looks Alley square in the eye, offers him his hand and introduces himself. Alley nods approvingly.

"This is important. It's real important," he says. "Next, you go pick up his bag. Then you gotta leave him to get his towel wet."

The gang divides into groups, each assigned to an instructor. As the pods advance down the course into the threatening weather, some of the advice dropped from the experienced jocks -- including Chunk Foster -- is simple mechanics. "Clean, count and arrange," Chunk tells his half-dozen students. "I put the drivers and putter on top, the three-, four-, five- and six-irons on one side, the seven, eight and nine on the other, and the wedges on the bottom.

"Also," he adds, "always count the clubs. You want to count the clubs so after your round your client doesn't say, 'You lost one of my wedges,' and then make you run around the course looking for it. I know, because it's happened to me."

But there are deeper lessons to be delivered, as well. One boy finds a ball that isn't Chunk's and offers it to him to slide into his pocket.

"Nice call," Chunk says approvingly. "That's gonna earn you some money."

In fact, it soon becomes clear that knowing how to help a golfer through his round in comfort is only a tiny part of being a successful looper. "I'm not gonna say kiss ass," Chunk counsels. "But hustle. You hustle, and you'll get good tips."

Indeed, while caddying may be seeing a modest rebirth across the country, Colorado's loopers apparently are having a difficult time understanding what the profession is all about. Each year, the Colorado Golf Association gives up to a dozen full-ride University of Colorado scholarships to qualifying jocks. This past year, however, the CGA found only eight worthy candidates. This comes as no surprise to Chunk, who admits he's discouraged. It's the youth. To a guy who's made a life of looping, today's kids seem to appreciate neither the glories nor the demands of the profession.

"It's weird," he says. "They're all so...timid. They stay behind; they don't really do anything."

Chunk sighs. "I dunno. I think they thought their job was just to carry a bag."

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