Keiser Students Earn Credits in Filling Caddie Void October 5, 2015 | Vero Beach, Fla. By David Shefter, USGA

PGA Master Professional Brian Hughes (left) helped round up caddies from Keiser University and also caddied for Nathan Smith. (USGA/Chris Keane)

U.S. Mid-Amateur Home

When Mark Mulvoy, the general chairman of the 35th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship and a longtime John’s Island Club member, realized there might be a shortfall of available caddies, he placed a phone call to Brian Hughes.

Hughes, a PGA Master Professional and the program director for the golf and sports management program at Keiser University in West Palm Beach, Fla., has provided students as caddies for the pro-am portion of the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens for the past several years. Keiser students have also caddied in the member-guest at Quail Valley Club in Vero Beach.

Along with his colleague, Dr. Eric Wilson, Hughes put the word out and managed to get 50-plus students to caddie in the Mid-Amateur. Two weeks ago, the caddies went through an intensive day-long training session, which included walking both courses used for the championship as well as a tutorial in the Rules of Golf. They also received a caddie manual from the USGA.

“We figured out where our aim lines were and how the greens were sloping,” said Chris Goingo, 28, who caddied for Neil Trimm, of Madison, Miss., who qualified as the No. 14 match-play seed. “I took notes.”

Goingo met Trimm last Thursday for the first practice round and the two jelled immediately. While Goingo provided a few insights on the qualifying courses – the West will host all the matches starting Monday, while the North was only used for stroke play – Trimm mainly wanted a caddie to carry his bag.

Keiser University student Chris Goingo gelled well with Neil Trimm, who advanced to match play at John's Island Club. (USGA/Chris Keane)

“I’m 34 years old, so carrying the bag in the heat … I really just needed somebody to get the bag off my back, and it ended up working out,” said Trimm, who posted rounds of 69-75. “He’s a nice guy and I am enjoying his company.”

All of the Keiser caddies have hopes of landing jobs in the golf industry. Gooingo will graduate later this month and has an apprentice position lined up at Fairwinds, a public course in Fort Pierce, Fla. The New Haven, Conn., native was a graphics designer before changing career paths. Hughes said that 15 percent of the students come from Veterans Administration (VA) programs.

“When you think of college students, you tend to think younger,” said Hughes. “We have a very good group. They are very serious-minded about their career.”

Most of the caddie assignments were done through a random draw, although some of the caddies were matched with players from their hometown regions. Gooingo was just grateful to have the chance to see a national championship from inside the ropes. 

“I missed out on the Honda [in March], so I’m glad I got this experience,” said Goingo, whose only previous experience had been as a forecaddie for club events at Quail Valley.

Kyle Miller had never caddied before this week’s championship. He was paired with Kyle Nathan, of Glenview, Ill., who shot 5-over 148 and earned the No. 55 seed in match play.

Asked to rate his performance, Miller gave himself an “A.”

“I’m pretty proud of myself,” said the native of upstate New York. ““I knew what to do and what not to do because of [the] training. So even though I didn’t have any experience, I was ready.”

Hughes, 52, who has been a club professional for 27 years, was pleased with how everything worked out, especially given that the caddies were unfamiliar with the players and their games. He noted that being able to walk the courses without clubs two weeks earlier provided a helpful perspective.

“It is great training for them to see a great event at a top-notch facility,” said Hughes, who caddied in the 2014 U.S. Senior Open at Oak Tree National in Edmond, Okla., for good friend Ken Martin. “Hopefully they take some of this experience with them and had some fun in the process.”

Hughes landed a plum assignment. Mulvoy knew that four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith needed a caddie since his father, Larry, 68, was unable to carry for his son after having been on Nathan’s bag for all of his Mid-Amateur titles, most recently in 2012.

As it turned out, Smith and Hughes have a lot in common: both are from the Pittsburgh area and Hughes went to Clarion University, where Smith earned his master’s degree (he earned his bachelor’s degree from Allegheny College). When they weren’t discussing course strategy, they chatted about the hometown Steelers and the Pirates, who are headed to a wild-card game against the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday.

“There was a lot of talk about that big Thursday night [overtime] loss by the Steelers,” said Smith, who shot rounds of 76-73 and qualified for match play by earning one of the two available spots out of 22 players at 6-over-par 149. “We had a lot of thoughts about what was happening at the end of the game [against the Baltimore Ravens]. It was great to have him on the bag.”

Added Hughes: “He didn’t throw any clubs at me, so I’m guessing we did all right.”

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.