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AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — A white caddie barn is one of the newest additions at CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora.   

It’s where the teenage caddies check in for work, and on a warm June morning, the barn was abuzz.

Vivian Johnson had just enough time to apply sunscreen to her arms before heading to the first tee with Ed Mate, the executive director of the Colorado Golf Association.

“This isn’t like an average job that most teenagers get,” Johnson said. “And I think it’s just a great learning experience.”

It’s a shame Johnson doesn’t get paid for mileage. Six days a week, she slings a golf bag over her shoulder and carries it the length of CommonGround’s 7,145-yard championship layout.   

Depending on the ability of the golfer she’s assigned to, the distance she walks each day can range from 6-8 miles. “Yeah, I’m a little tired for sure (afterward), but it makes it all worth it when I get my loops done,” Johnson said proudly.

A loop is short for an 18-hole round of golf. That’s caddie lingo from a 15-year-old, who is still unsure what to make of the game.

“I don’t play it myself, (but) I’ve been starting to learn about it,” Johnson said. “I think it’s an interesting sport. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I think it’s pretty cool.”

Caddying leadership program teaches youth

Johnson is one of 20 students enrolled in the Solich Caddie and Leadership Academy. The two-year caddie training program is designed to teach young men and women life lessons through caddying.

Since it was founded at CommonGround Golf Course in 2012, more than 300 young people have graduated from the program and have gone to college.

“It’s just an amazing testament to what this game can do for young people,” Mate, who once caddied at Denver Country Club as a teenager, said.

There’s a joke among golfers that golf is a “four-letter word.” For the caddies at CommonGround, that word is hope.

“(Graduating from the Solich) does give a lot of kids hope because it gives you an opportunity to go to college for free,” she said.

She’s speaking from experience. Her older brother Andrew graduated from the Solich and eventually found a job caddying at Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver.   

Last year he was awarded a full grant for tuition and housing at the University of Colorado, Boulder, for his work on the course and in the classroom.

“Seeing my brother win an Evans Scholarship is pretty inspiring and I definitely want to go for it because it’s pretty nice to get your whole college paid for,” Johnson said with a smile. “It would definitely take a lot of weight off of my parents.”

The caddies at CommonGround are paid for each loop, and they receive tips, but the ultimate payoff is a free education. 

If all goes well, Johnson will become the second member of her family to score an Evans Scholarship.