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Hopes for future as St Andrews-pioneered Caddie School for Soldiers forced to cancel American session due to Covid

Don Snyder
Don Snyder

The world’s first residential golf caddie school for ex-servicemen, which was pioneered at St Andrews, has had to cancel its first American session due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

American novelist and screenwriter Don Snyder, who established the Caddie School for Soldiers at the Duke’s Course last year, told The Courier that the programme planned for Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, in October has had to be scrapped.

However, the Kohler family and company, which owns Whistling Straits – as well as the Duke’s Course and Old Course Hotel at St Andrews – remain supportive of the school and have agreed to host a rescheduled event in the USA next May, pandemic permitting.

Mr Snyder said he was also continuing with plans to hold the next Caddie School for Soldiers at St Andrews this February.

Veterans taking part in Caddie school at the Duke’s Course by St Andrews in 2019

Mr Snyder warned in May that the coronavirus lockdown was taking its toll on “terribly depressed” ex-soldiers who were trained up to become golf caddies.

Ongoing uncertainty over the length of the coronavirus lockdown and what its easing might mean for golf had left him and many of the ex-soldiers, who suffer from PTSD, fearing that the caddying season would simply “vanish” before them.

Caddie School for Soldiers launched at the Duke’s Course in 2019, as reported by The Courier.

The second session took place in February when seven former soldiers from Canada, the United States and the UK learned the art of becoming a golf caddie.

The point of origin for Don’s initiative came in 2008 and 2010 when he was working for two seasons as a caddie at St Andrews and Kingsbarns.

Seven soldiers from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom were at The Dukes Course, St Andrews, in February 2020

Having “lost belief” in himself as a writer and with his four children having grown up, he needed to find new purpose in life and had made a promise to his son Jack that he would caddie for him in his first professional golfer tour.

He was struck by the camaraderie and rugged loyalty of caddies out on the Fife courses – no matter how bad conditions got – and when he started hearing about soldiers in America coming back from the Middle East with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), he started thinking how those caddie traits defined soldiers as well.

In recent months, Don has received support for the initiative fromThe Gary Sinise Foundation, The Wounded Warriors program, The PGA HOPE project, and the Royal British Legion.

Veterans taking part in Caddie school at the Duke’s Course, St Andrews in 2019

“All will now be sending us soldiers,” he said.

“This is very good news because we will be able to reach more soldiers who need help.

“I believe within a year we will be holding sessions each year in Scotland, America and Canada.

“And Old Collier golf club in Naples, Florida is offering to jobs to our soldiers for the winter months. They have a wonderful general manager there, Iain Mossman, who grew up in Scotland.”

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