The founder of the Caddie School for Soldiers (CSS), created in St Andrews, has paid tribute to the “un-caped heroes” of the military who suffer from PTSD and carry other life-changing injuries.
Speaking at the premiere of the film Carrying On at Destination Kohler in Wisconsin, USA, ahead of the start of the 2021 Ryder Cup, American novelist and screenwriter Don J Snyder thanked the Kohler family and company for their ongoing support of CSS.
He said it was fitting the premiere, as preview by The Courier, was being held at their golf resort in Wisconsin given it was the Kohler-owned Duke’s Course in St Andrews that hosted CSS’ St Andrews launch in 2019 and 2020.
Emotional and uplifting
Described by its creators as a “highly emotional and uplifting film”, the feature length documentary Carrying On was shot during the school’s first session in St Andrews in 2019.
It features military veterans from the USA, UK and Canada who were invited to spend a month together learning not just about caddying and golf, but about how to find a way forward in their lives after concluding their service careers.
Looking back to that first winter, which prepared the veterans for a “new life of meaningful work”, Mr Snyder said: “In that first session, we witnessed a small miracle.
“Each time one of our soldiers led a golfer around 18 holes, and earned that person’s trust, he also earned back some belief in himself. And with that belief the hope to carry on.”
He added: “There are a few things you should know about these soldiers. They are intensely loyal. They never give up, no matter how rough it gets. And they have the hearts of sled dogs. All of that matters out on a golf course.”
Mr Snyder told listeners how two sessions of the school had now been held in Scotland. This year’s event in Fife had to be cancelled due to Covid-19.
Soldiers had gone on to work as caddies at The Old Course, Royal Liverpool and Dumbarnie Links.
One of the soldiers – the father of three small children – was blown up in Afghanistan and has metal rods in both his legs.
His little son bears the name of his best friend who died in the blast.
“The soldiers who come to our school are all different, of course,” he adds.
“But what they have in common is a day-to-day battle – a prolonged struggle to recover some new purpose so they can build a meaningful life for the people they have pledged themselves to.”
Mr Snyder explained that in October, CSS will hold its first American session at Whistling Straits, where a new band of brothers “will fight their way back into the light”.