Erin Hills

The Lessons I Carry

A summer on the bag transformed a student from rattled to ready

Editor’s note: Meredith Kent is a Junior on the Harvard Women’s Heavyweight Rowing team. Her essay is part of a larger collection highlighting the experiences of female caddies on the ground at Erin Hills. You can watch “The Ladies of Erin Hills” here.

My first loop at Erin Hills was a disaster. I met my player, part of a financial services group on a company retreat, at 7 a.m., and he spewed cigar smoke all over me while knocking back the first of many Fescue Rescues, the course’s signature drink of Jameson and ginger beer. The round went south from there, as he filled it with lots of cussing, club throwing and an average tip. I walked off the course, took off my gross caddie bib and sadly thought, “I guess this is going to be my summer.”

I was at Erin Hills on the advice of my dad and a bit of bold honesty. In March of my freshman year at Harvard University, I began looking into internships at finance firms and was intimidated by the competitiveness of the recruiting process. Being from a small town in Wisconsin, I did not grow up having a large network that was hardwired to Wall Street, unlike many of my peers. I called my dad, trying to find ways to become a more interesting candidate. He suggested applying to the Erin Hills caddie program, given the culture of golf in the finance profession. I knew the game, and had played when I was younger, but definitely did not think I was good enough to caddie at a major-championship level golf course. But I applied, and in my interview I confessed, “I don’t know everything about golf, but I am a D1 rower and have awesome upper body strength, so I could probably carry two bags for 18 holes.” To my surprise, they said I was in. 

After my rough baptism, the next few weeks improved significantly. I began to learn the nuances of the job; I studied the course intently, watched my players on the range to get a sense of how they played and interacted with others, and came up with multiple talking points before the round to engage each player. It all gave me confidence about giving my players the best experience, and I began enjoying the walks so much more. I started getting better tips and, more importantly, more business cards. 

I also gained a better understanding of golf and why so many are completely hooked. Everyone talks about the values the game instills, and that’s true. But I found the little lessons were just as important: I got thicker skin, and learned to alter my sense of humor between serious players and bachelor party rounds. This experience was more than a job—it was an opportunity to become multifaceted and gain an edge on my peers.

One particularly enjoyable event that summer was the Barstool Classic, with Sam Riggs, a Harvard grad, as the face of the event. Being a huge hockey fan, I was psyched to be in a mixed group with a couple ex-NHL guys, and impressed at how well they played despite the amount of Trulys they picked up at every hole. Many players in the event also worked in finance and were well connected. The magic of golf and how it brings people closer together was evident. I received career advice and a plethora of internship and post-grad job offers.

Fast-forward to today in my sophomore year, and my caddie experience has been vital in building my network and receiving opportunities that I was able to leverage to achieve a better internship offer. During the recruiting process, it was clear how much my caddie lessons shaped my interview prep. I had almost every interviewer ask about my time at Erin Hills. One of my interviewers even reached out to me weeks later asking who he should request as a caddie for his company outing.

While my intent walking into Erin Hills was only to build my network, I received so much more than that. Caddying taught me to have patience and conviction, to visualize many outcomes in a given scenario, to embrace the hustle, and learn how to build rapport with pretty much anyone. To me, being a caddie is now synonymous with being a successful student at Harvard University. I’m no longer intimidated—I’m ready to get ahead. 

I am forever grateful to Erin Hills for giving me the life-changing opportunity to step into unfamiliar territory and come out with incredible skills and life lessons I will carry with me the rest of my life.