Caddie Billy Foster found a way to help U.K. nurses on frontlines of pandemic with charity auctions
Billy Foster has been caddying for 38 years and recently stepped up for the United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) nurses and staff fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.K. with a busy week of fundraising and raffle auctions.
In just those seven days in early April, Foster raised 34,648 pounds, just short of $50,000, and he spent no less than 12 hours each day working on these raffles and auctions on his phone answering questions on WhatsApp, Instagram and by text. With many of the auctions he had people messaging him directly on Instagram with their bids, and he would roll out several items for each day.
“We’re in a game that we’re very fortunate to be in,” Foster said. “I think (the pandemic) is sort of a wake-up call for everybody and I just thought it would be a good thing to do to give a bit back. We’re very lucky and we need to get some funds out there for the people that need it the most.”
And some of those people, the nurses, responded to Foster’s efforts with a nice photo of them giving a thumbs up to show their appreciation. Foster added it to his Instagram story during his long auction week.
“That’s just Billy for you, such a generous guy,” Brooks Koepka’s caddie Ricky Elliott said. “We’ve all got a lot of time on our hands and he’s doing something positive. He’s one of the best.”
Foster gave up his Leeds United Club football signed by the team from nearly 45 years ago that went for 3,500 pounds. Signed Ryder Cup flags from the European teams in 2014 and 2016 went for 3,000 pounds. Foster even put up his framed caddie vest and photo with Tiger Woods from the 2005 Presidents Cup when he looped for the superstar.
Attention any @LUFC and football fans out there. My former caddie Billy Foster is auctioning this ball from 40yrs ago with autographs of Don Revie, Billy Bremner and co to raise money for our hero’s at the @NHSuk . Bids close next Monday. Details below⬇️https://t.co/Jz17EvjAKf. pic.twitter.com/tOqcYVc49J
— Lee Westwood (@WestwoodLee) April 6, 2020
“Some of those auction items that he gave away, they would have been close to his heart,” Elliott said, “but Billy’s heart is even bigger than we know.”
Foster says he’s still kept some keepsakes from his 38-year looping career, but he felt compelled to make a difference for others with the items he did give up.
“I don’t want to let them go but then again you look at where it’s going and what it’s raising money for and it was more sweet than bitter because it was going to a good cause,” Foster said. “I was more than happy to let them go.”
Other caddies have taken notice of Foster’s generous spirit, including another English caddie he’s known for nearly 40 years, Bernhard Langer’s looper, Terry Holt.
“(Billy’s) just so down to earth, and he’s so in touch with real people and with real life, and he’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get dirty and help people,” Holt said.
Mark Fulcher, who started his impressive caddying career in 1985, says he’s known Foster for over 25 years and was happy to see the efforts the 54-year-old made for NHS nurses.
“It’s extraordinary,” Fulcher said. “The way he carries himself speaks for itself. If there’s a hall of fame of caddies, he’s got to be considered, no question.”
What should be the question is did Foster know what he was getting into when he started on this commitment that led to 12 hours of coordinating auctions on his phone for a straight week?
“Well, I thought, this is hard work,” Foster said. “But I would do it again another time. No doubt. Every time there’s something that comes up and it’s an emergency, a real special charity, I won’t think twice about doing it again. It gives you a lot of satisfaction.”
And Foster’s not new to fundraising for a good cause.
In 2009, he did a charity walk carrying a Tour bag from Loch Lomond Golf Club to Turnberry for the Open Championship (75 miles) and raised $100,000 for a children’s cancer unit.
“So this year, I thought, this (epidemic) is serious stuff, people are struggling to get things together,” Foster said, “I just thought (auctions) it would be a good way of raising a few dollars and getting it out there to the frontline nurses for whatever they need, meals, ventilators, whatever they wanted to use it on.”
“It kind of puts into perspective and sheds a light on human nature, it’s really good to see,” Xander Schauffele’s caddie Austin Kaiser said of Foster’s efforts.
Foster is not the only caddie doing good work for others during this pandemic. Tommy Fleetwood’s caddie Ian Finnis put together some online raffle auctions on Instagram in April as well to support European Tour caddies and their families. It’s original goal was 30,000 pounds, and it finished with 125,000.
Caddie peers have taken notice.
“There’s no motivation other than to help people, so it’s one of those things where you can see that Billy and Ian’s hearts are in the right place,” Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott said. “Sometimes people do charity work and they sound the horns and trumpets saying, ‘look at me, look what I’m doing,’ but obviously these two guys have nothing to benefit other than the ‘feel good’ that you get from helping other people, so I think that’s incredible what they’re both doing.”
Tony Finau’s caddie Greg Bodine called Foster’s efforts “inspiring” and he’s hoping to start some auctions online as well.