Caddie Ian Finnis reflects on raising 125,000 pounds for fellow caddies and families

Ian Finnis, Tommy Fleetwood
Caddie Ian Finnis recently auctioned off several unique golf items to help raise money for caddies in need. Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

During tough times it’s always encouraging to see others taking action to help their friends. Tommy Fleetwood’s caddie Ian Finnis did just that last month with his raffle auctions on Instagram to benefit his fellow European Tour caddies and their families.

The looper who lives in Crosby, England, just 10 minutes from Royal Birkdale, set up a GoFundMe page and started off with modest fundraising goals.

“My mindset was I wanted to do it and it just kept going,” Finnis said. “People were just egging me on. Then I thought, ‘I can do this, I can get 20,000-30,000.’ I never once thought I could get 125,000. It’s an unbelievable number. Fifty-thousand would have been surreal, but 125,000 pounds to me, especially with people not working, wow. I wasn’t expecting it to be honest.”

RELATED: Why Tommy Fleetwood’s caddie Ian Finnis auctioned off his three mementos from a U.S. Open record-tying 63

The husband and father of three started his efforts by calling players and caddies to ask for help. A few days in, they became the ones calling him.

Many players, including Rory McIlroy, gave up items like his signed Tour Championship bag from his 2019 win, as did caddies like Mark Fulcher (Fooch) and Ricky Elliott who gave caddie bibs from Ryder Cups. Other players, like Paul Lawrie, offered a round at Carnoustie (where he won the 1999 Open Championship) with him for three lucky fans.

Finnis and Fleetwood also offered a round with them at West Lancashire near Finnis’ home.

To Finnis it was these prizes, and their accessibility to the golf masses, that helped drive the raffles.

“My personal thought on why it did so well is because the prizes were brilliant. And also, every single golf person in the world could have a go at that raffle. It was 10 pounds each, maybe one or two tickets, whatever they wanted to do. But I would say the majority of golfers out there could afford 10 pounds, even right now.”

During the final live raffle draw at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night (April 25) on Tommy Fleetwood’s Instagram, Finnis felt encouraged by the fan interest and engagement.

“I think there was like 2,000 people watching on that Saturday night, people were excited to watch it and see Tommy. I remember saying to Tommy afterwards, ‘it’s giving people a little bit of hope isn’t it?’ And people are missing golf. Tommy agreed,” Finnis said.

And the returns on Finnis and Fleetwood’s efforts came in other ways than what you might expect.

“There were so many people messaging afterwards saying ‘I didn’t win a prize but I enjoyed the whole buildup to it and seeing the prizes you had, and the live draw, it gave me something to hold onto in the golf world,” Finnis smiled. “People were asking Tommy questions live and it was a good feeling. A lot of people told me afterwards they really enjoyed it, which is a nice thing to hear isn’t it?”

Webb Simpson’s caddie Paul Tesori loved seeing the participation from players, caddies, and fans in Fleetwood and Finnis’ raffle draws, and he’s not surprised by their desire to help others.

“Ian and Tommy both are just spectacular human beings full of life, full of positivity, full of joy and energy,” Tesori said. “What Ian just did, it takes a ton of energy.”

Though energetic, it’s not like Finnis (who goes by ‘Fino’) has no responsibilities to balance even during a pandemic. He’s raising his three kids Zara, Freddy, and 1-year-old Zak, who Finnis reminds needs 24-hour supervision. But the former assistant pro at nearby Formby Hall Resort & Club gets up at 5:30 a.m. six days a week to work out, usually with his dog. And he had a drive to see this fundraising through.

“I told my wife Rachel that this (raffle) was going to take a lot of work, but I didn’t realize how much it would be getting the draw going, getting the winners, answering a million questions about what the link was, how do we donate,” he said. “A lot of older people on there that didn’t understand internet. I must have sent the link to the GoFundMe page about 2,000 times.”

READ: Caddie Billy Foster found a way to help U.K. nurses on frontlines of pandemic with charity auctions

But don’t get him wrong, Finnis is not complaining.

“It was all good, it was for a good cause. The caddies are all happy, so that’s the main thing.“

Finnis understands that these challenging financial times are hitting home with so many of his fellow caddies, but those especially in Europe.

“I did (the auctions) basically because I knew there were going to be a lot of caddies out there who are going to really be struggling, especially in Europe,” Finnis said. “They don’t play for as much money as the PGA Tour for one, but also not every player is making a lot of money playing out there, so imagine how much the caddies are making. A lot of people don’t realize that caddies are living week by week and waiting for that big week, hoping for the big week and that might never come, never come.”

So, it helps when one of their own steps out and helps them during these months of financial uncertainty due to the pandemic.

“If they’re suffering, we’re suffering,” Elliott said of Finnis’ efforts to help European Tour caddies. “I think it just goes to show we’re a family out there aren’t we? It’s one thing saying it, but for Ian to actually do it, I take my hat off to him, it’s an incredible effort.”

Fulcher feels strongly about Finnis’ efforts as well, and has done some raffles with fans in his own efforts too during this pandemic.

“I think what’s really impressive about Fino is that he did it for his fellow caddies,” said Fulcher, who is currently on the bag for Francesco Molinari.

And those on the receiving end of the prizes, Fulcher can certainly empathize with because he was a golf nut as a kid, going to watch the pros at tournaments at Woburn Golf Club in England.

“How much enjoyment they’ll get from it is brilliant,” Fulcher said. “I know that when I was a kid, a budding golfer, (raffles) like that were just unheard of.”

Fulcher remembers a time he visited Woburn and was given a ball from English tour pro Howard Clark. Fulcher laughs that he slept with it for three weeks, it meant that much to him to have a piece of the game he loved.

“It’s just really nice to see how much enjoyment (the raffle items) give to the recipient, and I think that’s lost sometimes,” Fulcher said. “We’re always talking about money generated, but the people who are actually getting the stuff — for example the bib that Fino gave — that’s part of history, it’s fantastic.”

Finnis, of course, gave up his caddie bib, the scorecard, and glove from Fleetwood’s U.S. Open-tying 63 in 2018. And in a show of appreciation the recipient felt compelled enough to reach out to Finnis after the fact.

“The lady that won it sent me a message and said my son is only 12 years of age and he’s Tommy Fleetwood-mad, and he’s getting a frame to putt it in his room,” Finnis said. “and I thought ‘You know what? He’s going to really enjoy that every day seeing that every day in his room.’ Whereas in my house it was in my cupboard and never getting views.”

Another caddie who took notice of Finnis’ efforts is veteran Billy Foster.

“It was really a good effort by Ian,” Foster said. “It takes up a lot of your time to do that, but Fino’s a lovely fellow and it was great work raising all that money for the caddies.”

Foster would know about the time these raffles take, as he did one of his own that went to help the U.K.’s National Health Service nurses on the front lines.

For caddie Ted Scott, Finnis’ hard work says more about his heart and character than anything else.

“It obviously reveals what kind of person he is and where his heart is,” Scott said. “I think a person like that who’s trying to help charities and co-workers, it shows his heart is bigger than things that could be sentimental.

“Ian is an incredible man, a great family man, a great caddie, a great friend, and this obviously reveals more about who he is, what a good person he is.”

Xander Schaufele’s caddie Austin Kaiser calls Finnis the ‘big, friendly giant’ as he’s likely one of the tallest caddies in the pro ranks.

“He’s 6’6″ and looks like he could just beat the hell out of anyone,” Kaiser said. “But he’s really a softie. He’s one of the nicest guys out there. I admire the hell out of him for raising those funds. Good on him for it.”

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