NJ Golf Community mourns the passing of longtime Spring Brook Caddie Manager, Chris McAndrew
Chris McAndrew, the long-time Caddie Manager and Director of Outside Operations at Spring Brook Country Club, passed away last Thursday, leaving behind a legacy of warmth, generosity, and many memories.
McAndrew, a native of Ireland who came to the United States at age 3, was a graduate of Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y. He worked for 23 years at Spring Brook after holding a similar position for 10 years at Rock Spring Club in West Orange.
He was also a big proponent of the New Jersey State Golf Association’s Caddie Scholarship Foundation, steering many caddies from both clubs toward the NJSGA’s fundraising arm.
Tony Santillo, the head PGA professional at Spring Brook, worked side-by-side with McAndrew for over two decades.
“Chris had a heart of gold. He would do anything for anybody. Working together for 23 years, I could see the impact he had on a lot of people, whether they were members or guests – as well as the countless caddies and bag room workers. He really took a special interest in kids that came from troubled families,” Santillo said.
According to Santillo, each summer Spring Brook would host children from the St. Peter’s Orphanage in Denville, treating them to a day at the pool and lunch as well as a golf clinic on the range. It was an important day, especially for McAndrew.
“Chris himself was adopted so he had an affinity for kids that had lost a parent. He loved talking with them because they’d never been to a country club. He really took to the quiet, shy and reserved kids. He wanted them to feel comfortable… and a lot of young people looked at him as a second father.”
Five years ago, McAndrew underwent back surgery that confined him to a wheelchair for a period of time. That couldn’t keep him away from Spring Brook, though.
“He spent 33 years as a caddie master, lifting bags up and down off bag racks. Plus, he was a caddie at Wykagyl Country Club before that carrying heavy bags up and up all those hills. His back could only take so much,” said Santillo, who remembered that McAndrew was known by two nicknames at Spring Brook.
“One member called him 'Smiley' for the way he handled pressure when he was interrupted by many people who wanted tee times at the same time, and another called him 'The Natural,' because he had such a natural golf swing,” Santillo said.
Dan Meehan, former NJSGA president and long-time Spring Brook member, noted that McAndrew was an integral part of the Spring Brook “family.”
“Chris McAndrew was usually the first person you saw when you arrived at Spring Brook Country Club over the last 23 years. He was a terrific caddie master, having honed his skills for the prior 10 years at the Rock Spring Club. He quickly got to know the members, knew with whom you liked to play with, and always had a quick joke or story to greet you.
“He was excellent in training caddies and very encouraging to the students to apply for a Caddie Scholarship from the NJSGA. As a native Dubliner, he became a valued member of the Irish team in the annual match with the Italian team at the club. He will be missed,” Meehan stated.
Added Bill Frese, former Rock Spring member and immediate NJSGA past president:
“I was shocked and saddened to learn of Chris’s passing. He always had a smile on his face and was integral to the success of the golf program at Rock Spring Club after he joined us in 1985. He’d greet us in the morning, help set up games and made our guests feel like members.
“Over time he built a strong caddie program, primarily with high school and college students. He was demanding of our caddies but also very caring, and was their strongest advocate as they pursued scholarships provided by the NJSGA Caddie Scholarship Foundation.
“Chris always had a soft spot for the disadvantaged, so it was no surprise to many of his friends at Rock Spring when he resigned to devote his time to educating special-needs children. Golf was in his blood, however, and when our paths crossed, he would often tell me how much he loved working with Tony Santillo and the members of Spring Brook,” Frese recounted.
Fellow Ireland native Niall Handley of Essex Fells bonded with McAndrew. After shooting 69 and earning the medal in an NJSGA Amateur qualifier at Spring Brook, it was McAndrew who introduced Handley to a “Transfusion” – the popular drink that includes grape juice and 7-Up.
“The next year, I went back to Ireland, walked into a bar and asked for a Transfusion, which the bartender had never heard of. I told him of Chris and how he taught me the drink. The next day, I walked into the same bar, and the bartender asked me if I’d like a ‘McAndrew.’ He had named the drink after Chris,” Handley said.
“We’d share our Irish heritage on Facebook. He embraced me when I came to the club, and always went out of his way to make sure everyone had a great experience.”
Santillo talked about the giving side of McAndrew.
“He’d see a flyer on a wall at his local deli for a charity golf outing for someone and would donate a foursome at Spring Brook out of his own pocket. He also donated anonymously to various charities.
Santillo shared his thoughts on his longtime friend: “You can’t put into words how much he’s going to be missed. It’s hard for me to lose a co-worker and a friend that’s been a constant in my life for so many years. He knew you by name, and which caddie went with which golfer. He was full of the intangible things that cannot be replaced. He also knew the right thing to do in any situation. On top of that, ask anybody you talk to and Chris’s legacy is his heart of gold. He’d give his last dollar to a caddie or a bag room worker. He was that kind of guy.”