• Image about Sankaty Head Golf Club
Aspiring caddies from around the country converge on Nantucket Island, Mass., each summer to learn not just caddying skills but lessons about hard work and respecting others.
Photography by Jensen Larson

Mark Heartfield, Sankaty’s head golf professional and the current keeper of the Sankaty Head caddy tradition, has overseen the golf course and the camp for 24 years. He confirms that the mess hall and one cabin, from holes 11 through 13, are almost totally rebuilt and that they will be ready to welcome another group of boys this month, after the traditional alumni weekend. With word-of-mouth advertising only and veteran caddies getting the first chance to return, there’s usually only eight to 12 open spots for the hundreds of applications received each year.

“When I first came here, there were several caddy? camps. Now we are the only one,” ?Heartfield says.

Nearby Nantucket Golf Club, which costs nearly eight times more to join than Sankaty, uses professional caddies. Others use seasonal caddies on loan or a national caddy-supply company. And nationally, most clubs don’t even have caddies anymore, having long since fallen victim to the motorized golf carts. But at Sankaty, caddies still come and stay, live and learn.

To make sure the club doesn’t fall victim to a new century of golf trends or golfers, Sankaty has established the 15-member Sankaty Head Foundation Inc., which doles out more than $100,000 in college scholarships each year and ?ensures the camp remains as it always was.

Nonprofitfacts.com lists Sankaty Head Foundation Inc. as a charitable trust with assets of $3.7 million and an income of $1.2 million. Some of the club members and summer residents, like former General Electric chairman Jack Welch, who caddied elsewhere as a kid, and former Dow Jones board member Bill Cox, are some of the foundation’s biggest supporters. And a few former Sankaty caddies are now club members.

Camp director Peter Montesano, a former camp caddy himself, still holds to the schedule begun in 1930 by founder ?Donald Smith, who worked at the Worcester, Mass., YMCA, and by Navy veteran Norm L. ?Claxton, who installed military discipline during his tenure as director (1963 to 1985). Campers are still roused by a clanging bell at 7 a.m. and given one hour to shower, get dressed, have breakfast, and police the area inside and out before their caddy work begins.

“We always had morning chores to do. There are certainly no maids or cooks there,” Donovan remembers.