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Tee Box with a View: The Irish Caddie

by Peter Fibiger

To volunteer (verb): “To offer or give freely of your time, services or resources. To give unasked.”

As I write this, National Volunteer Week is one week past. This year’s theme was “Volunteering is Empathy in Action.”

“What can this have to do with an Irish caddie?” you might well ask. So I beg your indulgence as I eventually return with an answer.

All along the path of my checkered working life, I’ve had occasion to volunteer my time to various boards of various organizations. From tourism associations to chambers of commerce and ultimately to my longest-term commitment, the Pacific Northwest Golf Association, I have sometimes pursued these opportunities, while at others I have been invited to participate.

I am first to admit that both my desire and my willingness to commit was often founded on self-interest. There is no one in business who can’t appreciate the value of personal relationships to be found around board tables, in business mixers, and social events such as golf tournaments, Christmas dinners, or other special events that are part and parcel of an association’s landscape. That can be especially true when your profession revolves around sales and marketing, as did mine.

While it’s true that any successful sales person will always be working to establish sincere working relationships with their clients, it follows happily that in many instances those relationships evolve into lasting friendships.

It is no different when you’re volunteering.

Following his round at Ardglass in Northern Ireland, Peter was given another example of the meaning of “volunteering” by a local caddie.

It is at those times that the self-interest I mentioned earlier gives way to an opportunity to become more than someone who volunteers a product, talent, or service. Instead, working in common with colleagues, many of those colleagues become friends; friends with whom to share support, encouragement, and ideas as together you work to ensure the well-being of a common enterprise.

Through volunteering, I have found many of the people I respect most and many of the friendships I hold closest in my life. That is particularly true of my time with the PNGA, wherein I count both fellow volunteers and staff amongst my favorite folks. Together we worked on any number of substantial issues.

But volunteering your time and care is as evident in small gestures as it is in larger undertakings. The impact can warm a heart in the very same way.

As an example, I offer my promised story of the Irish Caddie….

In the late summer of 2016, I joined a group of fellow addicts on the golf tour of a lifetime to Northern Ireland. Among the gems on our itinerary, which included the 2019 site of The Open Championship at Royal Portrush and the world-renowned Royal County Down, was the venerable Ardglass Golf Club.

Sections of the clubhouse at Ardglass Golf Club date back to 1405 AD.

Two of our foursomes had hired caddies, and I fell into conversation with one, who asked about our trip to date. After sharing with him my suspicion that I had died and come to heaven, I tempered my comments with a minor complaint: the 2-foot deep fescue at Ballyliffin Golf Club had nearly exhausted my supply of golf balls.

Afterwards, as I was nurturing my new-found attraction to the wonders of a Guinness, that same caddie wandered into the bar at the centuries-old clubhouse and presented me with a bagful of found balls that he had kept in his locker.

“There,” he said. “You’ll be well-stocked for the fescue at Royal County Down tomorrow.”

That gesture, understanding my plight and volunteering his trove without a thought of reward beyond my profound appreciation, remains as one of the most memorable occasions of a trip rife with unforgettable moments. And as they might say over there on the Emerald Isle, it “puts paid” to the notion that volunteering is indeed empathy in action.

Peter Fibiger served on the PNGA Board of Directors for 18 years, including 12 years on the Executive Committee and more than a decade as the PNGA Communications Committee Chairman. He also served as PNGA President from 2018-2021. He lives in Victoria, B.C., and he’ll tell a few tales over a Guinness. Click here to read the full article on Peter’s impact on the PNGA and the golf community.