For years, Ashton Casper has caddied for his father, Bob, a professional golfer, and his grandfather, three-time USGA champion Billy, in tournaments. But at the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Soldier Hollow Golf Course, Ashton is the main attraction among the Caspers.
Billy and Bob visited the course, where Ashton is helping to coordinate the volunteer effort at Soldier Hollow as a P.J Boatwright Jr. Intern for the Utah Golf Association (UGA).
"It was a great experience for me to feel like I had them on my home turf, to be able to show them around for once," said Ashton, 28. "It’s great to have my grandpa around, with all the people that come up to him and tell him about how they’re big fans."
Ashton is one of 122 members of the P.J. Boatwright Jr. Internship Program working at state and regional golf associations around the country in 2012. These internships are funded by the USGA, which has pledged $1.45 million to the program this year.
Since the creation of the program in 1991, the USGA has provided more than $18 million in grants to fund more than 1,800 interns in order to help the golf associations serve golfers at the local level.
"We couldn’t do what we do without the Boatwright Internship Program," said Bill Walker, executive director of the UGA. "I consider it a staff position. Ashton has been given a lot of responsibility. This program is where the golf administrators are coming from."
Walker is a former Boatwright intern, as are heads of some other golf associations, including Mark Peterson of the Golf Association of Philadelphia and Matt Vanderpool of the Tennessee Golf Association. In addition, many USGA staffers got their start in golf administration through the Boatwright Internship Program.
"I am excited for [Ashton]," said Bob, co-host of Real Golf Radio, a syndicated weekly radio program. "That’s really where his desires are. It’s a great opportunity to grow.
Growing up in Springville, Ashton wanted to be a professional golfer, the way his father and grandfather were.
"I learned a lot from playing with them, watching them and carrying their bags in tournaments," said Ashton. "My grandpa taught me a lot about playing the game and course management."
But after playing collegiately at Dixie State College and Utah Valley University, stints that sandwiched a two-year Mormon mission to Brazil, Ashton decided to focus on a different aspect of the game.
"Playing was always the dream," he said. "But being involved in the golf industry is still a fulfillment of that dream. I absolutely love being on the administrative side. There’s a big difference between working to work and working while doing what you love."
In May, Ashton received deeper insight into his job when he joined 80 other Boatwright interns during a three-day orientation session at the USGA headquarters in Far Hills, N.J.
"It gave me a great idea of the work that goes into governing the game," he said. "One of my favorite things was going to the Museum. I was able to see, for example the golf balls of Harry Vardon, Ted Ray and Francis Ouimet from the 1913 U.S. Open.
"I saw grandpa’s name on the Hall of Champions, and I saw his Caliente putter that he used to win the 1959 U.S. Open at Winged Foot."
That victory actually played a key role in bringing Billy, who grew up in San Diego, to Utah. After the win, the Utah Golf Association invited Billy to play in the Utah Open at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington.
"There wasn’t anything there when we played it," recalled Billy. "You can’t believe the growth. That all started it. That started a lot of things in my life."
The Caspers moved to Utah in 1972, when Bob was 14.
"It’s just such a great place to raise a family," said Billy, who has 11 children, 34 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. "I love the people and tranquility, and the beauty is almost unsurpassable."
While Billy was playing golf around the world, Bob was exploring his new surroundings, both on the course and among the area’s numerous outdoor recreation options.
"I love the mountains," said Bob. "This is where I learned to play golf and compete. There’s a lot of golf in this state. To have the USGA come here highlights the state’s golf."
At Soldier Hollow, Bob seemed to know everybody as he walked around, while Billy held court while sitting on a cart near the clubhouse. While talking to a visitor, Billy acted as a de facto tourism spokesperson.
"The weather’s not good today," he said. "There are a few clouds."
When a Rules official that he knew walked by on his way to the first tee to walk with a match on the hilly Soldier Hollow course, Billy quipped: "With the shape you’re in, you’d better hope the match only goes 13 holes."
All the while, Ashton was busy coordinating volunteers’ shifts and shuttling them to and from their posts. As he watched Ashton hard at work, Billy talked about how his recent visit to the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club engendered a high level of appreciation for the effort that goes into conducting a golf championship.
"I was amazed at the Open this year," said Billy. "All the back-lot facilities were absolutely staggering. It was a community in itself.
"It’s amazing to me to have a grandson who is interested in getting involved in this end of this great game. I knew P.J. Boatwright well. He made such a great contribution to both professional golf as well as amateur golf."
After getting to Soldier Hollow every day at 5:30 a.m. and putting in 16-hour days, Ashton doesn’t have much of a break before helping to conduct the Utah State Amateur next week at The Country Club in Salt Lake City.
The busy schedule leaves little time for Ashton to reflect on the role golf has played in his family, as well as the impact his family has had on the game. But his ongoing efforts and his passion demonstrate that you don’t have to win the U.S. Open to make a difference in the game.
"I have some big shoes to fill," he said. "I feel I’m doing it in a different way, and I hope I’m pulling my weight."
Hunki Yun is a senior writer for the USGA. Contact him at email@example.com.