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Caddie School for Soldiers: Will Covid prevent traumatised PTSD war veterans from finding peace in St Andrews?

Don Snyder
Don Snyder

The founder of the world’s first Caddie School for Soldiers is persevering with plans to bring six traumatised war veterans to Fife in February – despite ongoing uncertainty whether Covid-19 restrictions might prevent the month-long school from going ahead.

American author and screenplay writer Don Snyder, who launched the Caddie School at the Duke’s Course, near St Andrews, in February 2019, hopes to fly his third tranche of soldiers from the USA and Canada for four weeks of training and recuperation.

However, he has been warned by the Scottish Government that if tighter restrictions were imposed in Fife the sessions would most likely not be allowed to proceed.

After raising his urgent concerns in weekly correspondence with Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans Graeme Dey and North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie, Don told The Courier he has now changed his ‘Go/No go’ date from mid-December to January 10 when he hopes the situation will be clearer.

However, having already had to cancel an event in the USA, he remains concerned about having to let his soldiers down and hopes that even with tougher restrictions, his soldiers might still be allowed to train as a ‘school’ in isolation.

“These soldiers are fighting their way through incredible darkness and desolation and I do not want to disappoint them by cancelling our February session,” he said.

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

“However, if there is a chance that the golf courses will be ordered closed again as they were last spring, then I must cancel.

“It would be irresponsible for me to bring the soldiers together only to have to cancel our training because golf courses have been ordered closed.”

In his letters to the MSPs, Don explains how he has two soldiers on board from the UK, two from Canada and two from the US.

They are “perfectly willing” to abide by all Covid restrictions in order to carry on with their February session, including bringing the soldiers in 14 days in advance to quarantine.

The six soldiers would be living together in a big house in Elie with three mentors living together in the small cottage behind the big house.

They would wear masks and gloves and maintain a bubble so that they have no contact with anyone else.

“All soldiers and mentors will have to have a valid negative test within 72 hours of arriving,” he said.

“We will test all soldiers and mentors each week if required and we will restrict all our training to The Dukes Course.”

What do the politicians say?

In a reply to Don, Veterans Minister Graeme Dey has confirmed current travel restrictions in Scotland mean that everyone entering the country from the USA and Canada has to complete a self-isolation period of 14-days. Mr Dey also confirmed they would be permitted to live together in one house in Elie for the month of February.

Mr Dey has stated, however, that if Fife – currently in level three – was placed in level 4 which is the highest level of the protection system, then golf courses would be closed and therefore the soldiers would not be permitted to train at the Duke’s Course.

“Responding to the current Covid-19 pandemic to protect the health and well-being of the people of Scotland remains the top priority of the Scottish Government,” said Mr Dey.

Founder Don Snyder with ex-soldiers at the Duke’s Course in February 2020

“We continue to monitor the situation closely and have not ruled out introducing further restrictions.

“Decisions taken involve careful judgment as well as hard data and we therefore cannot predict what restrictions will be in place in February.

“I would therefore urge you to take this into careful consideration ahead of finalising details for the Caddie School.”

The Courier reported in November 2020 how Mr Snyder hopes to create a permanent Caddie School for Soldiers centre in the St Andrews area – if he can raise enough funds.

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