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5-Star Addition

New Broadmoor Caddie & Leadership Academy planned; led by former Broadmoor head pro Mark Kelbel, program builds on success of Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy and WGA Caddie Academy

By Gary Baines – 3/16/2020

George Solich fondly remembers the days in the 1970s when he and older brother Geoff “Duffy” Solich caddied at The Broadmoor, and the Colorado Springs club had one of the most robust caddie programs in the state.

“When I caddied there, there were a lot of caddies — 150-plus,” the younger Solich noted recently. “It was just part of the DNA and fabric of the club.”

Similarly, in recent years the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy has become woven into the Colorado golf community — as a very highly regarded, emulated program that debuted in 2012.

With that as background, George Solich has been planting a seed for roughly five years now, and this year it will be sprouting.

Plans were recently finalized to launch The Broadmoor Caddie & Leadership Academy at The Broadmoor Golf Club, with the program using many of the successful elements of the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy, while also incorporating some unique features. After laying the necessary groundwork, the BCLA plans to begin operations shortly after Memorial Day (May 25) and operate into early September this year. 

The Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy, a flagship program for the CGA since the Academy’s debut, has chapters at the CGA-owned CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora, Meridian Golf Club in Englewood and in Grand Junction. The program has produced more than 10,000 caddie loops over the last eight years, with more than 225 kids have worked as a Solich Academy caddie.

The Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy promotes the use of caddies through a subsidized system — by paying their base fees through an educational grant, with participating golfers having the option of adding a tip. But the caddying itself is just a part of the program. There’s also a hearty leadership aspect to the Academy. Each youngster who participates not only caddies but is required to attend weekly leadership classes and do community-service work each summer.

All of that will be incorporated into the new Broadmoor Caddie & Leadership Academy, which is expected to feature about 35 caddies in 2020, with perhaps 20 newcomers and 15 returnees. The hope is quite a few of those will become candidates for the full-tuition and housing Evans Scholarship for caddies. The Evans Scholarship, administered by the Illinois-based Western Golf Association, has had one of its scholarship houses at the University of Colorado since the 1960s. 

Organizers turned to a familiar face to lead the Broadmoor Caddie & Leadership Academy in its formative years — Mark Kelbel, who served as PGA head professional at The Broadmoor from 2001 to May of last year. Kelbel has joined the CGA staff — in his case working from Colorado Springs — as the program director for the BCLA, reporting to managing director of programs Erin Gangloff, who has considerable experience with the Solich Academy. The CGA will serve as the host non-profit for the BCLA. (For more on Kelbel in his new role, CLICK HERE.)

For both George and Duffy Solich, helping lay the groundwork and supporting this endeavor was a natural. As noted, the two oilmen and philanthropists both caddied at The Broadmoor. Both subsequently earned Evans Scholarships and were presidents of the CU Scholars during their college days. Their surname is on the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy, for which they give considerable support — financial and otherwise. And both are active in the volunteer leadership of the Western Golf Association, with Duffy being the WGA state chairman for Colorado. 

“It’s pretty cool going full circle — both Duffy and I — as former caddies at The Broadmoor and me now a member of The Broadmoor,” George Solich said. “No. 1, I love the place. No. 2, it always was considered the place for caddying in Colorado. It’s still No. 1 in the number of (Colorado) alumni to the Evans Scholars Foundation. All of the touchpoints here really make it super special.”

Ed Mate, executive director of the CGA, said George Solich has been broaching the subject of what has become The Broadmoor Caddie & Leadership Academy for years. Mate said Solich wanted to incorporate the best practices of the models of the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy and the WGA Caddie Academy. (Indeed, Mate said the WGA has indicated it will provide support for the BCLA.)

George Solich “challenged us — the CGA, where we say the ‘C’ stands for caddie — to think about that,” Mate said.

“This is a passion project of George and Duffy Solich. Much like the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy, this is a pay-it-forward endeavor on their part. … Of course, George and Duffy started their caddie lives at The Broadmoor, so this is near and dear to both of their hearts.”

The previously existing caddie program at The Broadmoor will be folded into the Broadmoor Caddie & Leadership Academy.

While it is certainly hoped that The Broadmoor Caddie & Leadership Academy bolsters caddying, produces more Evans Scholar candidates in Colorado, and teaches kids valuable life skills, George Solich makes it clear there’s more to it than that.

“The concept was really not, ‘Let’s go help some kids by doing a caddie program,’” George Solich said. “The concept was, ‘Let’s go build a great caddie program that matches the five-star, five-diamond brand of The Broadmoor. Let’s build the business around that. That (will require) great recruiting and targeting of kids, incredibly good training, really good operations, and staffing this thing so it’s not an afterthought. It’s putting a strong, sustainable base — that this is part of the fabric of the golf operation and will be, to the benefit of making the golf experience at The Broadmoor for the hotel guests and the members top-tier, the best in class for any resort in the country. 

“The natural offshoot of that is, we’re going to help kids by doing a great job of putting this caddie program together. Certainly that’s one of the goals. But the goal is to build a really great, sustainable program that is revered through caddie circles across the country — again that matches The Broadmoor brand as best in class.”

Kelbel will be overseeing all aspects of the BCLA — including caddie recruiting and training, serving as an ambassador for the program, and handling the leadership training of the caddies in the Academy. That last facet includes imparting the “Cowboy Ethics: Code of the West” curriculum and financial literacy training.

“This (program) is exciting on a number of levels for me,” said Kelbel, the Colorado PGA’s Golf Professional of the Year in 2017. “Mentoring and coaching has taken on a new meaning for me. I have a non-profit that’s geared toward at-risk teens. The ability to have a positive influence on younger people’s lives is an amazing opportunity. I’m very excited about it. And all the right people are involved.”

Said Mate of Kelbel: “He’s uniquely skilled at communicating with young people. It would be a mistake not to put that best foot forward when it came to that piece of the program. I’d much rather have Mark doing that than the mechanics of caddying part. He’ll do great at both — and it’s not an either/or — but that’s really exciting to me. … I feel extremely confident because of Mark Kelbel. He has almost 20 years with The Broadmoor. Frankly, the headwinds would be extremely more daunting if it wasn’t for Mark. He knows how to navigate there.”

Kelbel will have two caddie manager assistants to help with the BCLA.

The Broadmoor, of course, had an existing caddie program, including some professional caddies, who will continue working at the club. Going forward, the former program will be folded into framework of the BCLA. Though it’s hoped that a significant number of Evans Scholar candidates will be produced by the Academy, the pro caddies and others who might not qualify for an Evans Scholarship will play crucial roles as existing well-trained caddies. That role figures to include serving as mentors for newly recruited and less-experienced caddies.

“We’re going to be very, very vigilant in who we recruit going forward so we can meet the criteria we’re looking for,” said Mate, who noted the best practices of the WGA Caddie Academy model will help in that regard. “It’s not just for the Evans Scholarship. We feel like the best way to impact a community is to take kids who are going to benefit the most — and those are the ones that just so happen to meet the Evans Scholar profile,” which requires financial need of its applicants. 

There will be at least a couple of ways — in addition to incorporating pro caddies into the mix — in which BCLA will differ from the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy. One is that, unlike in the SCLA, where most of the caddies “graduate” after a couple years at CommonGround or Meridian to caddying jobs at other clubs in the area, that won’t happen at The Broadmoor. 

“Here this is the program,” George Solich said. “You don’t need to graduate them anywhere because this is the place you want to graduate them to anyway.”

Another difference is that most of the Solich Academy youngsters are trained primarily to be traditional caddies, as opposed to forecaddies. At The Broadmoor, they’ll be trained to be both as quite a few members or guests at the resort want to take carts, so forecaddying will significantly increase opportunities for the BCLA caddies and satisfy the needs of more golf customers.

George Solich funded a feasibility study for The Broadmoor Caddie & Leadership Academy, which was conducted this offseason by Steve Czarnecki, an Evans Scholar alum and former manager of USGA charitable programs who now serves as executive director of the Colorado Springs Youth Sports non-profit. A business plan was developed, and the Soliches, Mate, Czarnecki and Broadmoor director of golf Russ Miller recently met with Jack Damioli, president and CEO of The Broadmoor, who approved of the plan.

The plan to put the BCLA on solid financial footing during its foundation-building years involves underwriting it for a five-year period, said George Solich, who hopes the Academy becomes “one of the best caddie programs in the country.

“As we go raise money for this through interested parties and foundations — including my own foundation (the Solich Fund) — we’re asking for a five-year commitment. We really believe that we have a great model that underpinned us on how to do this, with the Solich Academy. We’re tweaking it where it will fit the brand of The Broadmoor and the needs of the golf operation there.

“We’re certainly going to be asking the Colorado Golf Foundation to help support it. And we’ll ask the Western Golf Association to help support it, but we anticipate we will be looking at several foundations to help us commit to this five-year pledge. My foundation, the Solich Fund, will lead the way and we’re going to make what is hopefully a matching gift that we can get matched to underwrite the five-year budget for this program. And the chances of success there are 90 percent.”

Of course, as with new programs of all sorts, organizers will have to be nimble, making changes as warranted.

“The idea is we’re going to walk before we run and we’re going to run before we sprint here,” George Solich said. “So we’ll start out with an appropriate number of kids that we can ensure are well trained and will do a really good job. As this program is adopted and there’s more need, we will grow it sufficient to fill that need. We’re going to do it with a very business-minded approach to making this work, having sustainability for this program that is going to be here for a long time.

Solich is among those who certainly have high hopes for the new endeavor.

“The Broadmoor Caddie & Leadership Academy, if we do it right, will be the gold standard of how to go do this,” he said. “When you look at great resorts around the country, the really great golf operations at great resorts have great caddie programs and great caddies. That’s what The Broadmoor really wants and that’s what we really want: To  say, ‘When you come to The Broadmoor to play golf as either a member or hotel guest, this is an enhancement to your experience.’ And it isn’t just the altruistic side about helping a kid; it’s the business side about providing a fantastic product that matches the fantastic product of The Broadmoor golf courses and The Broadmoor Hotel.”