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Cute caddies cause shouts of "phwoar" across UK fairways

Sarah Stacey, MD, Eye Candy Caddies tells us why the US phenomenon of cute caddies is turning UK golfers green with envy and here to stay.

Established golfers at Royal Blackheath Golf Club - the oldest club in England - got more than they bargained for last month when they teed off to support the club's 14th annual charity golf day. 60 great-looking girls wearing the latest designer golf wear, took to the greens, causing quite a stir in the fundraising event.

A pretty accident? Had a troop of models descended on the course in error or is it a sign that Royal Blackheath is applying a rigorous 'beauty apartheid' for the first time in its near 400 year history? No, thankfully not the case in either situation, but it could be a sight for more eyes as Sarah Stacey, MD of Eye Candy Caddies, explains.

"Cute caddies, of which Eye Candy Caddies is Britain 's first glamorous caddy academy, are certainly taking the UK golf scene by storm", says Sarah. "We took inspiration from the US but toned it down for the UK marketplace so that rather than bikinis, blonde highlights and botox, my girls are more tasteful but equally pleasing on the eye. The results show that we made the right decision" she continues.

Set up in April 2005, Eye Candy Caddies is credited with being the first UK company to marry the Royal and Ancient game with beautiful people, and now includes 350 girls and guys on its books at last count. We are a regular sight on any number of UK courses from Royal Blackheath to Coombe Hill and Hillside to The Belfry. Evidence suggests that the UK golf scene is welcoming glamorous caddies with open arms. So where did the inspiration come from?

"I've always had an entrepreneurial eye for business so when my husband, Guy, a golf professional himself, joked that he wished his caddies looked half as good as the models I was managing, I thought that he was on to something!" explains Sarah.

"I wanted to have some fun and anybody visiting our website at www.eyecandycaddies.com will see that we do have a tongue in cheek sense of humour but for me as a business professional, I wanted to keep our standards high and that means keeping it all tasteful - a wink is one thing, but smutty is just not our scene".

So, how does the Eye Candy Caddy-brand of humour manifest itself? "We do try to inject some humour - more 'Carry On' than Benny Hill - in all that we do and as an example, everybody who hires one of our caddies gets a bag tag triumphing, 'I played a round with an Eye Candy Caddy' but that's all part of our word-of-mouth buzz and it certainly helps ensure we're remembered and recommended," she explains.

"Since we started, I would say that we've helped hundreds of golfers and of that, I'd estimate that our repeat bookings rate is around 62% - which is unusually high for the corporate hospitality sector and such a young company", explains Sarah. "Creating and protecting our own brand of caddying is the most important thing".

But in a marketplace where imitation is a supreme form of compliment, Sarah has seen other copy-cat organisations try to mimic her success. "Others may try to follow our format but Eye Candy girls really do stand out from the crowd - not just in terms of our girls' looks or their professionalism, but in terms of our combined standards".

"Every Eye Candy Caddy undergoes a proprietary training program designed by Guy (now General Manager of Ealing Golf Club) as part of their induction process so that each and every caddy understands the etiquette of golf. That could be when to offer suggestions, something simple like how to rake a bunker or when to say or do nothing. All in all, it's about allowing my clients to be confident that when they're playing a round with us, the caddy will add rather than detract from an enjoyable day" she pledges.

So who is the target audience for cute caddies? "As you might expect, we do a roaring trade at corporate golf events and even the occasional stag do, but most women I speak with, are surprised when I tell them that it's not a male-only phenomena," explains Sarah.

"I have 30 boys on my books, and they prove extremely popular with the growing band of female golfers we meet in business", she continues. Stacey's squad also features a 4 handicapper, Caroline Ardy, who admits that combining her love for the game and meeting people from diverse backgrounds makes for a novel way to earn a living.

"When I tell my friends that I get paid to walk some of the UK 's best courses, they're usually green with envy," explains Caroline. "Playing at The Royal Blackheath and helping encourage the players to dig deep to beat the £20,000 fundraising target set by organiser, Simon Earl, has got to be one of my caddy highlights so far" she ends.

The event held on Friday 9 th June, 2006 heralded more than a breakthrough for what some see as the stuffy bastion of the sport. Together with the 24 teams playing Texas Scramble, the girls helped to raise funds for good causes including disabled children, Victim Support and Greenwich & Bromley House Hospice.

Organiser, Simon Earl, himself a member of The Royal Blackheath Golf Club, attributed some of that success beyond the players and the club, to the girls themselves:  "They caused quite a stir and really helped get the teams to dig deep which can only mean good news for the causes involved" he observed.

So from stirring up the oldest club in England in order to bring in the money, are there any more boundaries yet to break for Sarah? "Oh god yes. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I get a real buzz from developing fresh ideas and in the spirit of a challenge, I want to be known as the woman who created and took Eye Candy Caddies global. As a business, we may be a fledgling but we've already had serious interest from markets such as Spain , Portugal , France , Dubai and the US , so I see the world's golf courses as my playground!" she promises.

In an uncertain world, one thing seems sure for Sarah Stacey. If golf is the future, then lets make golf gorgeous!

Golfers can find out more information on Eye Candy Caddies or arrange an introductory offer, by visiting www.eyecandycaddies.com or calling Sarah or her team on telephone 020 8866 4500 or 07932 001 801

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