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The Prior’s Tale

Mike Kiely has Palmer and Nicklaus stories, but they pale in comparison to the impact he’s had on the more than 4,000 caddies under his 
watch at Canterbury

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Whirling through enemy territory, hanging off the side of a United States Army helicopter, wasn’t the most natural place to develop a deeper appreciation for golf. But there was 21-year-old Michael Joseph Kiely, who would go on to become one of America’s iconic caddie masters, white-knuckling from the landing skids of a chopper flying into the teeth of an escalating Vietnam conflict. Serving as a chaplain assistant in late 1965 was a world away from the rituals of Catholic school and the fairways of his home at Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania. But his heart never left. 

“Vietnam was getting pretty intense then,” Kiely says. “There wasn’t enough room inside the helicopter for me, so I just held on for dear life outside as we took off, my rosary in one hand and M14 rifle in the other. People were shooting at us. I never prayed so hard in my life. 

“I met a lot of guys who didn’t believe in God on our way to Vietnam, but they sure did when we got there.”

Chaplain assistants serve to protect the chaplain, wielding a weapon while the chaplain remains unarmed. Kiely’s duties also included numerous church scheduling and setup responsibilities, along with driving the chaplain’s jeep, which occasionally functioned as a makeshift altar when soldiers were on patrol. 

Some considered it a cushy job, especially when Kiely had time for several rounds of golf at the outset of his 20-month Army stint. But taking the chaplain assistant role almost certainly meant a ticket to Vietnam, which became reality when Kiely’s 4th Infantry Division Artillery deployed, serving in Pleiku and Cam Ranh Bay, among other locations. Nicknamed the Ivy Division, the 4th had oversight on the largest assigned area in Vietnam and was the first line of defense against rapid infiltration by the North Vietnamese.

Like so many young men just out of high school, Kiely had been anxiously searching for the next step in his life. Religion, golf and basketball were his world in the early 1960s at Lancaster Catholic High School. Kiely—who began caddying at the age of 10 and had a decent junior-golf résumé, but not much interest in college—set his sights on becoming a golf professional.

But a short stint in Miami Beach to begin his career left him sour; it was extremely competitive for teaching pros, and making a living on the fringes of the professional tour was far from lucrative. The No. 50 money winner in 1965, Paul Harney, took home just $17,604, and that included a victory at the Los Angeles Open.

As Jack Nicklaus won his second Masters, in April 1965, Kiely was back home working as a shop supervisor at the place where he’d learned the game, Lancaster Country Club, in the small, south-central Pennsylvania town 80 miles west of Philadelphia. Walking through downtown that spring, Kiely came across an Army recruiting station. The Vietnam War was ascending, with U.S. infantry entering the fray for the first time. Kiely enlisted.

Sent to basic training in Fort Dix, New Jersey, Kiely found a life-service calling that prevails to this day.

“The only way out of a basic-training day was if you went to church,” Kiely says. “So me and a couple guys went to a nearby church and got there 30 minutes before Mass. The priest asked, ‘Anybody know how to serve Mass?’ I had done that at home for years. So I stayed after and helped clean up. The priest gave me a ride back to base and told me, ‘You know, I’m the base chaplain; you can be my assistant. It’s a good job.’”

Kiely joked that he “served Mass in one hand and shot with the other” as he earned marksman and numerous other Army service medals. Golf also remained vital. The 4th Infantry brought the pieces of a fabricated chapel to Vietnam to assemble in time for Christmas Eve 1966. Next to the chapel? A makeshift driving range that golf pals back home in Lancaster helped stock by shipping clubs, balls and bags.

As the calendar turned to 1967, that hometown golf connection changed Kiely’s life. Tommy Murphy, the head professional at Lancaster Country Club, was an early tutor for Nicklaus as an assistant professional at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, under legendary instructor Jack Grout. Murphy had accepted the head job at Canterbury Golf Club in Cleveland just as Kiely was joining the Army, and wanted some Lancaster people with him. A Navy veteran, Murphy wrote a letter to a high-ranking general in charge of Vietnam personnel, who happened to be a golf enthusiast. Murphy’s note requested that Kiely be sent home early. By March 1967, Kiely was headed back to the States with an honorable discharge, bound for his first—and still only—full-time gig.

“I was so close to making a career out of the Army, and I didn’t want to leave those guys there,” Kiely says. “Thanks to Tommy Murphy getting in the middle of it, I guess it all worked out. His letter finished with, ‘Report to Cleveland by April 1.’”

Thus began a career spanning six decades as the caddie master at one of America’s foremost clubs.

Beachwood, Ohio, is more than 100 years old, and the majority of its homes were built from the 1950s through the 1970s. It feels like a small Midwestern town, not one a mere 11 miles southeast of downtown Cleveland. Adjacent to similar Cleveland “inner-ring” suburban neighborhoods, Beachwood’s 5 square miles feature kids on bikes, family activities, nearby Fortune 500 companies, John Carroll University, the Cleveland Clinic and a bustling championship golf course at its center, making Canterbury Golf Club and its surrounds an idyllic place to raise a family. 

The 1921 Herbert Strong–designed course winds over rolling terrain and has hosted just about every major professional and amateur event. That includes the 1932 and 1937 Western Opens (won by Walter Hagen and Ralph Guldahl, respectively), the 1940 and 1946 U.S. Opens (Lawson Little, Lloyd Mangrum), the 1964 and 1979 U.S. Amateurs (Bill Campbell, Mark O’Meara), the 1973 PGA Championship (Nicklaus), six senior majors (two won by Arnold Palmer) and, more recently, a few Korn Ferry Tour events (including a Bryson DeChambeau victory in 2016). 

Known as a low-handicap-players’ club made up of a wide array of prominent Cleveland executives, doctors, lawyers and financial professionals, walking is encouraged and caddies are a must. Canterbury lives by its historic designation as one of only two clubs to host all five rotating U.S. amateur and professional majors. (Oak Hill in Rochester, New York, is the other.) The red-brick clubhouse shows that off with rooms dedicated to its stars: the Picard Dining Room, with former head professional and 1938 Masters champion Henry Picard’s green jacket on display; the O’Meara Grille, honoring his 1979 victory over John Cook; the Palmer Room, with Arnie’s honorary membership plaque and a photo commemorating his early 1950s Coast Guard service in Cleveland; and the Nicklaus Room, with an expansive, signed PGA flag hung on a wall.

Despite that rare air, stodginess is not a trademark. While it debuted as a men-only club in 1922, a women’s golf committee forced Canterbury to open the course to women in 1923, three years after the 19th Amendment had granted them the right to vote. Instead of a cordoned-off campus like most upper-tier private clubs, Canterbury has no gates or guardhouses at its two entrances—only understated “Private” and “No Trespassing” signs. Neighborhood residents often can be seen walking or biking along the periphery or on the thoroughfare road, just 2 miles west of Interstate 271. Young people are always welcome.

“Among all the places that have caddie programs, where Canterbury is located as a neighborhood club is different, with more of a youth-based nature to it,” says Tommy Lamb, Kiely’s nephew and a caddie for 30-plus years on the PGA Tour with more than 20 victories, mostly with Jay Haas and Haas’ son Bill. “The community is a pretty diverse socioeconomic group of children—some wealthy and some not. It’s not a majority-adult caddie group, but lots of kids. I think Mike relishes the fact that he can get kids from the Catholic schools, the Jewish schools, the public schools. That’s very unique—an element that Mike has embodied. He’s been able to mold a whole lot of young men and women.”

The sun rarely shines on Canterbury without someone in the area—often Kiely himself—spinning a yarn about the ubiquitous caddie master. There are tales involving the majors, Palmer, Nicklaus and noteworthy Clevelanders, and even more about the un- famous or young who have had their paths altered by walking into his. More than 4,000 caddies (including nearly 20 family members), 10 Evans Scholars and countless members testify to Kiely’s influence. He has earned Hall of Fame honors with the Northern Ohio Golf Association, the Ohio Golf Association and the Caddie Hall of Fame, and a room at Ohio State’s Evans Scholars House is named for him. Wearing the title “Mr. Canterbury” and often calling himself a “dressed-up caddie,” you can understand the mantra he often recites to green caddies each spring: “God. Family. School. Sports. Canterbury.”

Kiely can be an intimidating figure to a youngster. He is often loud and boisterous, with a string of expletives tossed around if he is stressed or thinks a caddie hasn’t performed admirably. But that first impression melts when people see Kiely recognizes hard work and persistence by pairing kids with Canterbury members who may become mentors or network connections for life. There is a tremendous soft spot in his heart for those who aim to make it, evidenced by a quickness to shed a tear that offsets that sometimes-tough demeanor.

“The postscript to every Mike Kiely story is the next day all is forgiven,” says Jonathan Reitz, a mid-1980s caddie at Canterbury and a prominent executive coach in Cleveland. “He does not hold a grudge. And he has taken a lot of grief from knucklehead parents and caddies through the years. I never was concerned when Kiely was cussing at me; I was concerned when he wasn’t cussing at me.”

Kiely boasts that he never cut a kid for a youth basketball team he coached as long as the player showed up and tried hard. The same holds true when determining his caddie corps each spring, a group of approximately 90 with two-thirds college age and below. In 2020, that number included 12 young women, many carrying double (a $180 18-hole fee). He constantly monitors the caddie bench adjacent to his office at Canterbury and recognizes those who sit for hours daily, sometimes never getting a bag, but returning the next day to try again. The bench is a common rite of passage for Canterbury caddies, usually followed by the patented Kiely pep talk before the first loop: “Give them a handshake. Look them in the eye. Say, ‘Yes, sir.’”

“Mike is more important than the head pro; I might not even see the head pro when I come to play golf, no offense to the pro,” says Bob Fairchild, the 16-time club champion, frequent national amateur competitor and longtime Cleveland auto dealer. “You pull into Canterbury, there is Mike. You see him two or three times on the golf course when he’s riding around in his cart saying hello, watching you play, and then when you’re finished. That’s about a half-dozen times, at least, every round. And he can always tell you what the chef is making good in the kitchen.”

Kiely’s gift is in the family atmosphere he has created. Sons, daughters, cousins and grandchildren have followed each other through the years, and the Kiely family tree extends similarly. Two of the caddies went on to full-time careers on the professional tours: Lamb on the PGA Tour and John Lynch on PGA Tour Champions (a decade with Chi-Chi Rodríguez). All three of Kiely’s children—Mike Jr., Chris and Colleen—grew up in the caddie yard.

The biggest impacts come when a young person from another walk of life gets a chance. Daylan Jernigan was a star football defensive back at powerhouse St. Edward High School west of Cleveland and grew up in impoverished east Cleveland, far from Canterbury in more ways than geographically. Colleen Kiely, the youngest of Mike’s children and a former captain of the women’s golf team at Northwestern, works as a vice president of institutional advancement at the private Catholic school. She helped Jernigan, who had just finished his freshman year at Ohio State, to get a caddying gig during summer 2020 even though he had never been on a golf course. He carried the bag incorrectly off the first tee but was a quick learner, working his way to a prosperous summer.

“It’s the best money I’ve ever made,” Jernigan says. “I was used to working at a pizza place, making minimum wage. I have been at Canterbury just about every single day since early June, driving about 30 minutes from my home in Euclid to get there around eight in the morning, paying my dues to get a bag. It’s taught me even more about how to interact with different people.”

Jernigan said his first impression of Mike Kiely was “full of energy, always talking, challenging me to caddie better than the guy working in my group. I could tell he’s the soul of Canterbury.”

Jernigan is an accounting major and hopes to intern with a CPA firm one summer, a goal he thinks the Canterbury experience has helped him further.

“The daily interactions you get with the upper echelon of the members, and then a few minutes later with the working-class guys, the older caddies and the kids, is invaluable,” Colleen says. “I think that a young man like Daylan is experiencing that. The skills I learned as a caddie were dignity, respect, talking with people and listening. That’s what the caddies were taught by my dad.”

Kiely is always on the lookout to teach his caddies life lessons.When Austin Carr joined the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers out of Notre Dame in the early 1970s, the 6-foot-5 guard wanted to learn how to play golf and found his way to Canterbury. Kiely offered to give him some lessons and let him play on one condition: Carr would have to give the caddies a basketball clinic at the hoop set up behind the caddie facility. The future All-Star agreed and was soon on the asphalt court, teaching jump shots on the way to becoming a single-digit-handicap golfer a few years later.

Don’t be fooled by his tough exterior: Kiely will stand up for his caddies and is known to be quick to shed a tear.

Caddie masters became a necessity in the late 1800s as caddying and club- and ball-making developed into more-established trades for the working classes in golf-mad Scotland and Ireland. The caddie master often was selected from among the caddie ranks to make sure the rambunctious corps behaved properly and performed its duties to meet the expectations of the higher class of club members. (The title “caddie master” often is modernized today to “caddie manager,” a title used by the Western Golf Association, which administers the Caddie Hall of Fame and Evans Scholarship.)

The first documented caddie master was Old Tom Morris. After winning three of the first five Open Championships, and a stint at Prestwick Golf Club, Morris returned to his native St. Andrews in 1864. He was hired to shape up the rugged Old Course as its “Keeper of the Green” and tasked with overseeing the caddies.

“Caddies were an unruly bunch, unkempt, frequently drunk, more curse words than any words in a sentence. They were of the lower classes,” says Roger McStravick, a St. Andrews historian and author. “[Old] Tom Morris became the greatest golfer of his era, but his circle of friends and environment were caddies. That was his class, his people. In 1864, Tom Morris was put in charge of the caddies. A code of conduct was developed: Caddies had to be older than age 11, attend Sunday School, and no drinking. You could see Old Tom’s influence. From then on, there was a person to look over the caddies. And from that point forward, we’ve had a caddie master.”

Donald Ross, the famed course architect, moved to Massachusetts from Scotland in the late 1800s. In 1900, he was hired in Pinehurst, North Carolina, to serve as the resort’s professional and caddie master. He supervised the all-Black caddie corps and vastly improved their facilities, designated a caddie shack for women, established a standard for academic and health guidelines, conducted child-labor-law discussions with state authorities and demanded ample food services through the 1920s, according to author Brad Klein’s book, Discovering Donald Ross.

Most prominent in the United States was the famous Augusta National caddie troupe, led by caddie masters John Henry “Leven” Williams and Freddie Bennett. They were former caddies who moved up to a higher ranking with the immense responsibility of pairing players and caddies during the Masters and regular member play. For nearly 60 years, from the mid-1940s through Bennett’s retirement in 2000, they ran point on all caddies. Williams, who earned his nickname either because 11 was the caddie number he wore before taking the office job or because he was the 11th of 11 children, was partly responsible for getting Ben Hogan and Pappy Stokes together for the Hawk’s victories in 1951 and 1953 and Willie “Cemetery” Perteet with former U.S. president and Augusta National member Dwight D. Eisenhower. Bennett put the teenage Nathaniel “Iron Man” Avery with Palmer in 1955, and he was on the bag for all four of Arnie’s victories. Bennett also fostered the Nicklaus-
Willie Peterson duo (which produced four of Nicklaus’ five wins) and first-year Masters winner Fuzzy Zoeller with Jariah Beard in 1979.

That tradition continued through Carl Jackson, who started caddying for Ben Crenshaw in 1976 and won two Masters titles with him. But, perhaps more importantly for Jackson, there was Jack Stephens, Augusta National’s fourth chairman, for whom Jackson caddied and worked beginning in 1962. As Jackson aged, his relationship with Stephens and his son, Warren, resulted in a new job, with Jackson becoming the caddie manager at the exclusive Alotian Club in Little Rock, Arkansas, when it opened in 2004.

It should come as no surprise that Kiely also has an Augusta connection. Fred Ridley’s first job out of law school was in 1977 with Cleveland-based sports-management firm International Management Group, famously founded on a handshake deal between Mark McCormack and Palmer. Ridley, who won the 1975 U.S. Amateur, was still an active amateur competitor and needed a place to stay golf-ready during his three years in Cleveland. He chose Canterbury, but it was often early evening on weekdays by the time he could get away from IMG’s downtown offices. “He was a nice young guy,” Kiely says about the current Augusta National chairman. “I told him he could hit balls if he helped me pick the range, and then we would play a couple holes.”

At this point, the jokes made at Canterbury comparing Kiely and Lou Loomis, the fictional, gruff, gambling caddie master played and scripted by Brian Doyle-Murray in the go-to golf film Caddyshack, are countless. They’re funny because they’re true: Both characters share much common ground.

First, there’s the daily routine. Nearly every morning before pulling into his job at Canterbury, Kiely attends 6:30 a.m. Mass at Church of St. Dominic, located across the street from his residence and just a five-minute drive from the club. He occasionally goes in sweatpants and a golf shirt, waiting to shower and properly dress in the Canterbury locker room as he has done for nearly 50 years. It’s a ritual rooted in surviving Vietnam, giving thanks for a longtime job, gratitude for the life of his son Mike Jr., and the sorrow over losing his wife, Maureen, in 2006. The fictional Loomis was based off of another Lou—Louis Janis, the caddie master at Indian Hill Club in northern Chicago from the late 1950s through the 1960s. Ed Murray, the oldest of the six Murray brothers and the model for Caddyshack lead caddie Danny Noonan, first met Janis while serving as an altar boy when Janis was attending Mass and asked if anyone had ever caddied. Ed pursued the new gig, as did the other five Murray brothers, including comedian and golf icon Bill.

Then consider the workplaces. Where Kiely hangs his hat every day has a cinderblock interior with white walls, green shelving, a workbench for club repairs, an ancient brown office desk, and alphabetized bins for storing members’ bags. The expansive single room is attached to the massive three-story clubhouse via a busy and covered breezeway that leads the front of the clubhouse and the parking lot to the putting green and the course. But the focal point is a 1950s-era sliding glass window, fronted by an old cash register, located at the far end, from where caddies get their assignments and payment. The key document is a three-layered, carbonless form that spells out the pay levels for category A, B and C caddies and concludes with an area for member evaluations. Note the similarities to Caddyshack’s separate caddie facility on the movie set that resembled a red barn with white-and-green interior: The closed-off office was Loomis’ perch and included a makeshift snack bar, a rotary phone and a jumbled desk. A doorway—fortified by metal wiring—resembled Kiely’s sliding glass and was the checkpoint for caddies with their assignment tickets for the day. The facility, adjacent to the clubhouse, was where caddies hung out, fought, cursed and planned the day’s hysteria. Both had basketball hoops in the outdoor area.

Finally, sample some of the wisdom that comes out of their mouths. During an early scene in Caddyshack, a fight erupts among the caddies and Loomis must break it up. With the entire caddie group listening, here comes the lecture, delivered by Doyle-
Murray wearing a straw fedora, pastel golf shirt and Sansabelt pants:

“I’m going to put it right on the line. There’s been a lot of complaints already. Fooling around on the course, bad language, smoking grass, poor caddying. If you guys want to get fired, if you want to be replaced by golf carts, just keep it up. [Pause.] Pick up that blood.”

Kiely’s dialogue may be even more spectacular. In 2005, Canterbury started an Ohio high school boys’ tournament in late summer to honor him, called the Kiely Cup. A commemorative T-shirt was unveiled, with 24 “Kiely-isms” printed on the back. Some selections:

“If it doesn’t grow, pick it up.”

“All I want to see is assholes and elbows.” 

“What do you think, you’re a member?” 

“You’re fired. Be back tomorrow at 7 a.m.” 

“Caddying is about the two S’s: safety and hustle.” 

One of the high points of Kiely’s long haul at Canterbury came early in his career, before and during the 1973 PGA Championship. It was the confluence of golf history, with Palmer aiming to fill the only void in his major championship résumé and Nicklaus trying to surpass his hero, Bobby Jones, for a record 14th major title (amateur and professional). (At this point, all four major championships still banned the use of outside caddies. The ban was lifted in 1975, when the PGA Championship at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, and the Open at Carnoustie opened their doors to outside caddies. The U.S. Open followed suit one year later at Atlanta Athletic Club. The Masters was the final major to allow outside caddies, in 1983.)

But the Palmer camp had a plan. The effort began about a month before the tournament. Earnest “Creamy” Caroline, Palmer’s regular PGA Tour caddie, showed up in Cleveland and asked for a conference with Kiely.

“It’s two o’clock on a Sunday,” Kiely remembers, “and Creamy says he wants to buy me lunch. We sit down at the bar, and he hands me an envelope with a note in it and $500. I asked, ‘What’s this about?’ Creamy goes on about how Palmer has never won the PGA. Tells me, ‘You gotta get me in your caddie corps, get me on the list to caddie in the PGA.’ He said he would work on the nine-hole ladies’ day, pick the range, caddie for other members, anything.”

Kiely was emphatic that there was no chance for Creamy. A local “nervous kid who was a so-so caddie” was instead drawn to caddie for Palmer. Creamy hung around the spectator ropes that week, giving input from a distance. Kiely tried to stretch the selection to get a more accomplished club caddie on Palmer’s bag—even suggesting a change mid-first round. But Palmer stuck with the youngster, even though he went on to miss the cut.

“I told Arnold, ‘I could be a small part in helping you win the PGA. Let’s make the change right now, do it behind the scenes on the range,’” Kiely recalls. “I learned so much that day. Arnold just looked at me and said, ‘Mike, how would you feel if you were carrying my bag and I all of a sudden fired you? We’ll work together.’ Anybody else would have said for me to make it happen.”

Meanwhile, Nicklaus ambled the 150 miles up from his native Columbus to Cleveland as if it were merely a club championship. Just a year before, he’d been at Canterbury for National Golf Day, a PGA of America initiative, along with Lee Trevino, Kathy Whitworth and JoAnne Carner. They’d completed their 18-hole target scores despite a rainstorm, with Kiely holding two umbrellas over the golfers even as they played. Nicklaus knew Canterbury. 

“By Tuesday night of PGA week, 95% of the players had played a practice round or two, and Nicklaus still isn’t there,” Kiely says. “It’s six o’clock that evening. My car is sitting in the parking lot, running. I’m getting ready to go home. Then this big station wagon pulls around. It’s Nicklaus, with a carload of kids. He gives me a hug and asks if he’s holding me up. One of his kids had a baseball game, and another kid had something going on. We hit some balls—his kids and me—and he goes on to win the PGA.”

The Nicklaus children made more memories as the week went on, especially then-4-year-old Gary, who climbed into Dad’s lap for a press conference one day. After the second round, at the urging of oldest brother Jack II, Gary took off under the ropes onto the 18th green. Nicklaus swooped up his second-youngest and walked off the green, both wearing wide grins. “It is my favorite picture ever,” Nicklaus has said numerous times over the years.

A short time later, Nicklaus signed the large red, white and blue PGA flag that hangs within the Canterbury clubhouse: “Mike, Thanks for taking care of me at Canterbury Golf Club and helping me to win my 14th major championship. Good luck to you, Mike and Chris. Jack Nicklaus.”

Wonderful stories, to be sure. However, another from that week is more telling about Kiely’s relationship with the club.

But first, some family history. Mike Kiely Jr. possessed, by all accounts, the most promise as a golfer among the Kiely offspring. As a prep, he was ranked among the top amateurs in Ohio and was considering a professional career. As Christmas Eve came in 1987, the 17-year-old was out with his girlfriend, and a drunk driver ran a red light and slammed into their vehicle. The driver and Mike Jr.’s girlfriend suffered minor injuries. Mike Jr. flatlined three times at the scene of the accident. At the hospital, because of the traumatic brain injury, doctors weren’t hopeful. He survived after months in a coma and rehabilitation, but wasn’t the same person; he suffered both mental and physical limitations, even though playing golf still came naturally. 

“There was no life behind his eyes,” says Chris, who was 15 then and now is the caddie master at Boca Rio Golf Club in Boca Raton, Florida. “He got back to the point where he finished high school. It was a tough, dark time.”

Still, the Canterbury membership welcomed him to caddie when he was able to return home, no matter his challenge of keeping up. The membership also established an annuity, with contributions from all over northeast Ohio—a fund that still pays out more than 30 years later.

Nearly 20 years after the accident, Maureen Kiely died at age 59 following years battling multiple sclerosis and cancer. It was particularly emotional for Mike, as she was the first reason for making Cleveland home after meeting her soon after his Canterbury hiring. Once again, the Canterbury membership was there to lift up the Kielys.

Now, back to Sunday morning’s final round of the 1973 PGA Championship. A predominantly Catholic group of caddie mothers had voiced their objections following the third round that their teenage sons would miss Mass on Sunday morning as they prepared for the final round. Kiely arranged for Mass at the caddie facility, drafting members and friends to participate. A priest came from St. Dominic. Peter Carfagna, a former Canterbury caddie who grew into a prominent attorney and became instrumental in IMG’s success, helped organize. Players and members heard about the gathering, and 100-plus participated in the impromptu service.

Not only did Kiely meet his promise to the caddies’ parents, but he also grew strong roots that morning. A collection plate was passed through the crowd, unbeknownst to him. Approximately $15,000 came from it, enough for the Kielys to purchase their first house.

“This is my life, this place; it’s me. It’s not a job,” Kiely says, on the verge of those famous tears. “I can’t do anything else but what I’m doing now.”

The comparisons are plentiful between Kiely and fictional caddie master Lou Loomis from Caddyshack—most notably their daily routine. Like most jokes, the humor is embedded in truth. But the most common thread that ties the two? Their career isn’t just a job; it’s their life.