WASKESIU LAKE, Saskatchewan – Determined to create another memorable week, Matt Chemago was armed with only a bus ticket, a tent, and a fishing rod. No, this isn’t the beginning of an outdoors tale in the Canadian wilderness, but rather a young man setting the table for a week on PGA Tour Canada.
Many associate “Life on Tour” with private jets, luxury hotels, fancy dinners and playing for multi-million-dollar purses. That can certainly be true on the PGA Tour, where millionaire stars like Rory McIlroy and Sam Burns often make up 150-player fields that include the absolute best in the world.
However, the stories on the feeder tours, like PGA Tour Canada and the PGA Tour Latin America – equivalent to Double-A baseball — aren’t lathered in glitz and glamour. In fact, most of the players are siphoning money in the search of their big break.
At last week’s event, the Elk Ridge Open, you often saw six players to a small cabin (with one shower) and players bunking together in hotel rooms.
Many players carry their own clubs to save on costs or hire a local kid for $35 (Canadian) a day. Your math is correct, that’s less than minimum wage. The stories are legendary.
Even for the caddies. That brings us back to Matt Chemago.
When the second stop of the 2022 PGA Tour Canada season hit Chemago’s hometown of Edmonton, he signed up to loop as he had over the past several years. He was assigned to Luke Schniederjans, a former Georgia Tech star.
Things went well in Edmonton, aside from Chemago’s breakfast (a muffin) getting swiped by the course dog on the range prior to the final round. After a 23rd-place finish by Schniederjans, Chemago made his boss for the week an offer he couldn’t refuse.
If Schniederjans would have him, Chemago said he’d loop for him at the Tour’s next stop here at Elk Ridge. Schniederjans obliged and agree to pay his looper $500 for the week.
Chemago didn’t drive, but rather bought a ticket for a NINE-hour bus ride to Waskesiu Lake.
He arrived in town with nothing more than that tent and a self-proclaimed ability to fish. His campground, on beautiful Waskesiu Lake, is a 10-minute drive from the course.
He didn’t have a bike, much less a car. His idea was to barter fish for a bike rental. One gracious local offered up a new Specialized bike for the week – no fish needed as payback.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature delivered nothing but rain and some cold temperatures last week – every day, all day. Schniederjans played nine holes on Thursday and never hit the course again as the Tour cancelled the event late Saturday morning.
Was Chemago’s effort for nothing? No chance.
Schniederjans took the kid, a stranger less than two weeks ago, out of the cold, saturated campground and offered warmth in his cabin.
“It was great to meet and hang with Matt the last couple weeks out here in Canada,” Schniederjans told the Journal. “Almost everybody that I have come across up here has been very nice and generous and he was no exception.
“It’s obviously very helpful to have someone carry my bag for the two weeks, but it was also great to have someone with such a chill and easy-going perspective on life.”
Sunday, the Elk Ridge Resort put up $43,000 for an 18-hole shootout for players who were still in town. Chemago got one more – perhaps, last – chance to carry the bag for Schniederjans.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Chemago said. “To be around these guys – they operate at such a high level. With Luke, he’s a fantastic human being, first and foremost. His golf game is phenomenal. I thoroughly enjoyed this.
“I’m comfortable (in the tent), but it was a very nice gesture and indicative of Luke and who he is as a person.”
PGA Tour Canada’s next stop: Prince Edward Island. The event begins Thursday.
Chemago won’t make this trek – Schniederjans’ father, Ollie, will meet his son on the island and take the bag. However, when the Tour returns to this part of Canada, who knows.
“We’ll see where things go. If (Luke) wants me, I’ll be there,” Chemago said.
PEI is “just” a 44-hour drive from Waskesiu Lake.Some players – and maybe a caddie or two – may try that route. No matter their choice of travel, it won’t be easy, and it certainly won’t be cheap.
However, the guys on this Tour – and their caddies — will do anything to keep the dream alive.
Contact Roy at Roylangiii@yahoo.com