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From Kabul to Cabot: How caddying saved Luke Cyr

Luke Cyr Luke Cyr

For Luke Cyr, October 30, 2021, is the day when everything came to a head.

For 12 years he served in the Canadian Armed Forces, which took him on multiple tours of duty in Bosnia and Afghanistan – hot spots where the horrors of war were indelibly etched into his memory. As part of the infantry, Cyr spent plenty of time outside the wire, away from the safety of the forward operating base. It’s where his life was always under threat and where he witnessed the terrors of conflict, seeing things that can never be unseen.

The pains of those days started eating away at him when he returned home, leaving him unable to get away from the recollections and struggling to find a purpose to his life. Nowhere seemed right. Nothing seemed to fit. There was no way to escape the sense that his world had no meaning.

And so, on that day, he tried to end his life.


On a sunny, crisp October morning on the first tee of Cabot Links, Cyr is standing in his white jump suit. He’s tall, fit, and it’s not often he doesn’t have a smile on his face.

He’s chatting with the golfers who he will guide around a course that is ranked as one of the best in the world. The talk is light, peppered with smiles and laughs. Cyr is sizing up the players and they are doing the same with him.

For the next four-plus hours he will show them where to hit their shots and which clubs to use to do it. He’ll also tell them places to avoid and throw in some local knowledge on the greens when it’s time to putt.

Cyr does this almost every day, and often twice, throughout the golf season. It is not hyperbole to say that being a caddie has given his life meaning.

“I feel like I'm on top of the world,” he said, “especially when your golfers are praising you.”


The road from Kabul to Cabot is a long and twisted one. When he was on the ground on one of this three tours of duty in Afghanistan, Cyr never imagined he would become a caddie, walking over the transformed dunes of Inverness, N.S., looking out at the ocean waves, looping for golfers from all over the world.

When he left the Army in 2010, he returned home to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and searched for other employment, looking for something to act as his second career. But that was far from easy. He found himself depressed, anxious and sometimes angry.

Although he wasn’t fully aware of it, Cyr was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and trauma-related injuries, not uncommon ailments from veterans who have served in combat.

For a while, Cyr trained as a personal support worker (PSW), helping the elderly, in Pembroke, Ont.  But he never got comfortable. He quickly found that working with people near the end of their lives didn’t fit well for him.

He continued to search but never found anything that seemed to fit and, instead, looked for a fix to relieve his pain. He did volunteer work and joined different groups. He thought different relationships might be an answer but that, too, failed. His world became a dark place.

“Being over there is what it was. It was our job. It was what we did. When you came home, you realized you weren't the same person anymore,” reflected Cyr. “It doesn't happen overnight. It just slowly takes away from you. You didn't feel like you belong. And that was the hardest part.”

He looked for an escape, whether it be drugs or alcohol, anything to fill the void. Bit by bit, the world began to close in on him. There didn’t seem to be any purpose. Or any hope. He decided there was only one option left.


Thankfully, that option wasn’t successful. Cyr refers to October 30, 2021, much in the same way a recovering alcoholic talks about the last day he had a drink. It’s a demarcation point in his life. A rebirth day if you will.

He was admitted to a psychiatric facility and then spent time at the Robbie Dean Centre in Renfrew, Ont., which provides counselling for those suffering from distress. It was while Cyr was getting treatment that a door finally opened.

He was contacted by Sean Sutherland, with whom he’d gone through basic training with. Sutherland was a golfer and knew that Cyr was too. He told him of a program being offered in Scotland that trained former soldiers to become caddies.

“I told him that I couldn’t golf anymore,” said Cyr, who had suffered an arm injury in Afghanistan. “He said I didn’t have to golf, I just had to caddy. He wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I went.”

The Caddie School for Soldiers was started in 2019 as a non-profit organization. It’s funded by donations and supported to a large extent by the Kohler Company and Peak Scientific. Each session brings six soldiers – two from the United Kingdom, two from the United States and two from Canada – to train for a month in St Andrews, Scotland, all expenses paid. They are schooled in the art of carrying clubs and learn everything from how to read a putt to how to pace off yardage.

But it’s about much more than that. It’s about giving them a purpose, finding responsibilities and healing. The caddies all live together and share stories, knowing only as soldiers do, what they’ve done and where they’ve been. After their training, they leave with a renewed sense of belonging and a desire to get to work.

For Cyr, that meant Cabot Cape Breton. The founder of the Caddie School for Soldiers, Don Snyder, reached out to Ted Stonehouse, the director of golf at Cabot, and asked him if they could use some of the school’s graduates. The answer was an enthusiastic yes and shortly after that Sutherland and Cyr were headed to Cape Breton, where they lived together that first summer in a recreational vehicle.

From the first bag he picked up at the Nova Scotia course, Cyr knew he was in the right place, doing the right thing.

“Your self-esteem is through the roof,” he said. “You're happy. And I love being on those fairways. My therapy is out there on those fairways.”

Some of the success Cyr has enjoyed doesn’t come from what he learned at the school but from his natural, effervescent personality. He tells the story of meeting a player on the first tee who told him he’d played golf all over the world and had never had a good experience with a caddie.

Cyr figured he might be in for a long day but decided to just be himself.

“When we walked off the third green, we were best friends and was wondering how he could have me caddie for him the rest of the week.”


Last year, Cabot Cape Breton had seven Caddie School for Soldiers graduates working at the two-course facility. They were all among the top-ranked caddies.

“It’s been a hugely successful relationship for us,” said Stonehouse. “Most of the veterans are so thankful and appreciative of being here, and we know how well they do their jobs. It’s also about getting these guys out of the basement and giving them a purpose and allowing them to get back to a sense normalcy.”

The members also look out for each other, knowing that not every day will be a good one for everyone. They care for each other, share with each other and stand by one another.

Next summer, Cabot is expecting to have 17 graduates of the program on the property. As for Cyr, Stonehouse said he is overjoyed to see how he has taken to Cabot and how he has grown personally.

“He’s great at his job and it’s exciting to see someone so enthusiastic,” Stonehouse stated. “It’s easy to see he loves being here and we work with him to make sure he doesn’t take on too much.”

That work overload Stonehouse is talking about isn’t just referring to two-a-day loops. Cyr is anxious to give back in whatever way he can. Last year he started a foundation that raises funds in a variety of ways, from donations to auctioning off experiences at Cabot Cape Breton to convincing pizza restaurants to donate a portion of every slice. All the money is donated back to the Caddie School for Soldiers and the Robbie Dean Centre, the two places that set him on his road to recovery.

He also began speaking to high schools about mental health, sharing his journey in hopes of helping others.

“I'm not going to stop,” Cyr said, “because I want to get to people before they get to that point where I was, at where I got to that last moment, and it was an act of God that saved me. That's why my mission statement is giving those who have retreated to the darkness a chance to embrace the light. Give them my story. Remove the stigma. Get people talking. That’s my goal for the rest of my life. You save one life, you save the world.”

He also has goals of trying to set up a caddie school in Canada for first responders and give them a pathway to the journey he’s made.

It may seem hard to believe but Cyr does have quiet moments, away from the course and all his other endeavours. At those times, he turns to poetry, which he found he had a talent for while going through therapy. He posts some on his website, others on his Instagram account. The poems are personal and raw, a way to share his inner feelings and to allow what used to be bottled up inside find a way out. A lot of his journey is found in them, and they expose the arduous road he’s travelled.

Is it too much to say that caddying saved Cyr’s life? Maybe, but what can be said with certainty is that carrying that bag full of clubs has given him a reason to live.