A Succesful Revival
November 30, 2022
By Jack Mendesh
Keller Golf Course, home to the PGA Tour’s St. Paul Open from 1930-1966, featured a robust caddie program that catered to both the PGA Tour players and public play. Once the St. Paul Open was disbanded, so was the caddie program with the rise of carts and more lucrative caddie opportunities elsewhere. That is now changing with the help of longtime Keller Men’s Club member, Dan Magnuson.
Magnuson is an Evans Scholar alumnus who grew up caddieing at Hillcrest Country Club. Historically, Hillcrest had one of the largest and most active caddie programs in the state. In 2017, the course was shut down permanently. Hillcrest was located within just three miles of where Keller is. With no course in the area running a caddie program, Magnuson saw an opportunity to start one at Keller.
“We are talking about the same geographic area, the opportunity for these kids is big…Frankly, no one was reaching out to them. I wanted to give these kids the same opportunity that I had growing up and give something to back to the Evans Scholarship that was not just money,” Magnuson said.
With that, the caddie program at Keller was reborn. To start, Magnuson reached out to directly to high schools and middle schools in the area including North High, Johnson High School, Hill-Murray telling them his background of being an Evans Scholar and retired grocery executive. He then gave them a pitch on restarting the caddie program at Keller using materials explaining the benefits of being a caddie – learning how to interact with adults, responsibility, being on time and most importantly the opportunity to earn an Evans Scholarship. From his initial reach out, he received numerous responses from principles, kids and parents showing their interest in the caddie program. In the end, they trained 12 caddies, some of them never having seen a golf course before. By the end of the year, 11 of the 12 caddies had at least one loop with six to seven caddies making up their core group getting loops regularly. They amassed 125 loops during the season with the caddies only available to their men’s and women’s club members. Nest season they are planning on opening the caddie program to the general public with the goal to surpass 200 loops for the 2023 golf season.
Keller is one of only a few public courses in the entire state to run a caddie program. Magnuson says it is not as hard as you think to start a caddie program at a public course.
“Getting it started is probably easier than you think. Kids are looking for work and parents are looking for ways to keep their kids occupied during the summer. Secondly, make sure you have support from your local pro, your course specific leagues."
Mark Foley, the head golf pro at Keller, has been very supportive along with the Keller membership says Magnuson and without the support, he does not believe the program would have been able to get off the ground. Magnuson encourages all courses, especially public courses, to start a caddie program if there is any interest to provide opportunities to deserving kids.
It takes one caring adult to make a difference not only in one kid’s life but an entire community. With the addition of the caddie program at Keller, Magnuson has created the same opportunities he was afforded growing up for kids in the same neighborhood he grew up in.