One young person supported by CLIC Sargent had a dream ‘inside the ropes’ experience at the Irish Open Pro-Am on Wednesday when he got the chance to become a European Tour caddie for the day carrying the bag of European Tour winner Michael Hoey at Royal Portrush.
Chris McKeown, from nearby Coleraine in Northern Ireland, has received support from CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading charity for children and young people, since he was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in his shoulder shortly before his 21st birthday.
Now 25, and still receiving treatment for his condition, McKeown was gifted the unique opportunity after an anonymous CLIC Sargent benefactor purchased the experience for £6,000 in an auction held at the CLIC Sargent Race Night in Windsor on Monday evening, and it was seemingly a day to remember for the Northern Irishman.
“It’s been a great experience, really something,” said McKeown. “Michael’s a nice chap and it’s not every day you get to do something like this. Golf is not something I know that much about but it’s definitely something that you pick up on!”
McKeown also took time to praise CLIC Sargent – the Official Charity of the 2012 Irish Open – for both their work with himself and his family, but also their efforts with similarly affected families throughout Northern Ireland.
“They are brilliant. They help out lots of families who perhaps don’t have as much and help you travel and everything. If you go to Belfast then they have social workers who can give you everything you need, and if they can’t do it then they know who can.
“I’ve been with them for five years and they’ve been there for me every step of the way.”
Hoey, four-times a European Tour winner, was pleased to support CLIC Sargent and happy to be able to help give back to both the charity, and indeed Chris.
“I was asked by The European Tour if I would be happy to give up the caddie spot to the charity and I thought that would be perfect,” said Hoey. “It’s really nice to be able to do things like this because sometimes you don’t realise that we’re fortunate to be out here playing, able-bodied, and it puts in perspective playing with someone like Chrissy.
“He’s very chilled out; he didn’t know much about golf before today so we’ve been teaching him a bit more today and Owen [Craig, Hoey’s caddie] has been great because he has had personal experience with cancer so we’re both just really appreciating being able to give something back, and to raise £6,000 from it is brilliant.”
Craig, representing The European Tour Caddies Association, added: “Chris is doing a good job, he’s really enjoying it and he’s a friendly young lad. When he first picked up the bag he was a bit awkward, having never picked one up before, but now he is picking it up perfectly just like I would so he’s really got used to it already.
“It’s fantastic that the Tour gives back to different charities and the fact that all the money raised is going to a local part of this charity is even better.”
All funds raised at the 2012 Irish Open will support CLIC Sargent’s Northern Ireland Homes from Homes Appeal, an exciting project to build two new free self-catering accommodations to enable children with cancer and their families to stay close to the treatment centres at the two main Belfast Hospitals.