For each of the last three summers, Kayode Adebogun has spent nearly every day caddying at Olympia Fields Country Club. During that time, he carried countless golf bags and raked innumerable sand traps. To some, a job as a caddie isn't real meaningful, but to Adebogun, it's meant everything.
"Caddying has been life changing for me," Adebogun said.
Like more than a thousand other current students nationwide, the 18 year-old turned his job as a caddie into a full college scholarship courtesy of the Illinois-based Evans Scholars Foundation. Adebogun will start school at the University of Illinois this fall, and he'll take the lessons he learned from the golfers he assisted to Champaign.
"These people, they don’t just come out here for you to carry their clubs and assist them in their golf game – they’re actively teaching you things, actively teaching you how to grow up in society and how to paint yourself as an ideal candidate to get a successful career and be acknowledged in society as a hard working individual," said Adebogun.
But the native of south suburban Dolton isn't guaranteed a fourth summer on the course. As of now, Phase 3 of Restore Illinois only allows for one forecaddie per group. A forecaddie's main job is to locate shots from a distance, so interaction with the men and women who make up the membership at clubs will be drastically reduced.
"Having one forecaddie per group is great – it’s a start – but ultimately, we want to get young men and women carrying bags," said Tim Orbon, Director of Caddie Development for the Western Golf Association.
With that in mind, Orbon and the WGA are appealing to Gov. Pritzker to allow caddies to resume their traditional job duties.
"We’re making sure we’re talking to the local health officials and our friends down in Springfield to make sure that caddying doesn’t get forgotten, and they understand the full impact it has on young men and women and the families and the community, and we’re here to do everything and anything to make that achievable," Orbon said.
Throughout the Chicago area, there are 75 golf clubs with caddie programs. That means a lot of people are hoping Illinois decision makers reconsider the current ban on traditional caddying, especially during a financially challenging time.
"Allowing people to work as a caddie and contribute to the household expenses, or allowing them to earn and save to pay for their own activities, and ultimately to hopefully finance college and other academic opportunities, it’s really more important now more than ever," said Orbon.
For Adebogun, the fact that Orbon and the WGA are advocating on their behalf means a lot.
"You feel as though you have people actively batting for you, you feel as though you have people that are seeing your opinions and are voicing them for you," said Adebogun. "It feels as though your voices are not falling on deaf ears, so I really appreciate that, and I think that it’s amazing ."