A thought occurred to Kasey Clifford.
“When you caddie, it’s basically you playing but without swinging the clubs. You have to find your yardages. You have to read the putts,” Clifford said. “I noticed how it started to improve my own game. Caddying has helped a lot.”
Remarkable the ramifications of such a realization. For starters, it reaffirmed Clifford’s interest in caddying. She returned for a fourth season at Hidden Creek Golf Club this year.
By virtue of her occupation, Clifford connected with the J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust. Moreover, she received the Trust’s 2020-21 Sawin Family Endowed Scholarship, awarded to a caddie who attends Georgetown University, Princeton University or Williams College, or who majors in education. That last bit applies to Clifford, a rising sophomore at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa.
Westminster, low and behold, brings Clifford’s realization full circle.
Remember the part about caddying improving her golf game? Seems certifiable now. The Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) bestowed a pair of women’s golf honors upon Clifford: Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year.
“I’m thankful to have received those achievements. For a freshman, it’s kind of crazy,” Clifford, 19, of Egg Harbor Township, N.J., said. “I’m so lucky to have such a great team. My teammates and I were always in the golf center. We trusted ourselves. We trusted each other. We encouraged each other. We really had a great year. We kept our heads’ up high no matter what happened.”
The COVID-19 crisis happened. Due to the pandemic, the PAC Presidents’ Council canceled all 2020 spring seasons on April 3. As a result, the 2019 PAC Fall Championship, which took place Oct. 7-8, 2019 at Avalon Golf & Country Club in Warren, Ohio, exclusively determined 2019-20 PAC postseason award recipients.
Clifford carded rounds of 88 and 78 to earn medalist honors in the event. In doing so, she led the Titans to a second-straight PAC title (fifth overall). Clifford is the second women’s golfer to earn PAC Player of the Year honors (Kelsey Phillips, 2016-17, 2017-18).
“We knew coming into the year that Kasey was a pretty good player. She’s an extremely hard worker,” Matt Torrence, who is in his fourth season as Westminster’s women’s golf coach, said. “In my opinion, she should be competing every year for that conference championship at the individual level. She’s that good of a player right now. She put it all together late in the season and shocked herself.”
An abrupt end to a bubbling collegiate golf campaign naturally shocked Clifford. She and her Westminster teammates traveled to Las Vegas, Nev. for the program’s spring break trip. Then the news came.
“We had the two-week notice to come home [because of the COVID-19 pandemic]. We didn’t get any competition in this spring,” Clifford said. “It was very strange. Usually, I would be in the library for about four to five hours every day. I had a routine at school. Then we were sent home. My brother Joe and I turned our dining room into our library. We were in there during classes. We made it work, but it was definitely very difficult.”
Given an uncertain climate, Clifford didn’t know if work would, well, work. Caddying as a profession floated in limbo until golf reopened in New Jersey in May. Clifford and her fellow Hidden Creek caddies started serving as forecaddies since restrictions remained. She started toting bags at June’s outset. Clifford now loops four to five days a week.
“I love caddying. I meet so many different people every day,” she said. “Everybody is so nice at Hidden Creek, and they’re always willing to take caddies, which is great.”
Clifford arrived at Hidden Creek by way of fellow club caddie Ed Ritti, her golf coach at Ocean City High School. She hesitated at first. After all, Clifford just started playing competitively her freshmen year at Ocean City.
“I was scared. I thought, ‘How am I going to do this?’ I got to tell these people where to putt, and I don’t even know where to putt,” Clifford said. “But I’m very glad that Mr. Ritti helped me out. He always has helped me out. I carried one bag for half the summer, then I started doing two bags at the end of that summer. The rest is history.”
“Kasey has the unique ability to adapt to any player that she has in front of her. That’s a very important trait as a caddie,” Dave Henry, who is in his first season as Hidden Creek’s caddiemaster, said. “You have to know when to be personal, to be a storyteller. Then you have to know when someone just wants to have their bag carried and have reads. She’s very good at that.”
In addition to caddying, Clifford spent the past two summer volunteering at Greate Bay Country Club. She teaches children the game, thereby connecting her passions for education and golf. Those Greate Bay clinics, however, won’t start until September because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Caddying commands Clifford’s full attention until she returns to Westminster on Aug. 17. Hidden Creek isn’t complaining.
“She honestly, from my short experience, is extremely well-received and beloved around here,” Henry, 36, of Ventnor City, N.J., said. “She’s created a bunch of members who want her as a caddie every single time. I assign loops and tell my caddies to be there 45 minutes before tee times. Kasey is consistently here an hour before the tee time. It’s so nice having that reliability.”
“I remember in April, we were thinking, ‘Are we even going to have jobs this summer?’ Everything was a blur,” Clifford added. “Now we’re out at Hidden Creek almost every day. We need to think positive all of the time because things do change.”
Good thing Clifford didn’t change her mind on caddying in the first place.
Celebrating Amateur Golf since 1897, GAP, also known as the Golf Association of Philadelphia, is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The Association’s 288 Member Clubs and 75,000 individual members are spread across the Eastern half of Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.
J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust
The J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust was created in 1958 by the Golf Association of Philadelphia through the efforts of then President Walter A. Schmidt; Leo Fraser, President of the local section of Professional Golfers Association of America; and Albert Keeping, Golf Professional at Gulph Mills Golf Club. It was named in honor of Philadelphia’s premier golfer of the era, J. Wood Platt. Not only was Mr. Platt an accomplished player, but he was also the Trust’s co-founder and first contributor. To date, more than 3,800 young men and women have received $23 million in aid from the Trust.
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