By Tony Regina
Hard work is a value embraced by Michael Reilly. A value others notice within Reilly and embrace.
Hard work is responsible for his pursuit of caddying. It’s responsible for his continuation in the field. And it’s responsible, in part, for his receipt of the J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust’s most distinguished honor.
Reilly is the 2021 Francis C. Poore Caddie of the Year. The recipient of the Francis C. Poore Caddie of the Year Award is selected based on three factors: academic excellence, a high level of community involvement and a long, distinguished record of service as a caddie.
“I’m very grateful to receive this distinction,” Reilly, 21, of Rydal, Pa., said. “I’m just grateful for the J. Wood Platt [Caddie Scholarship Trust] in providing me with a golden standard over the years. Caddying’s been the motivating part of my life. I’ve learned the importance of having a positive attitude, respect, relationship building and hard work.”
Ah, there it is again. Hard work and Reilly go together like cereal and milk.
“My parents [Mike and Nancy] recognize the importance of hard work, so they wanted me to start working as soon as possible. They thought caddying was the best avenue to start,” Reilly, a senior at Villanova University, said.
A Reilly refresher is necessary here. GAP Magazine spotlighted the La Salle College High Alum in its Winter 2019 edition. His father, Mike, is North Hills Country Club’s general manager and former golf professional (2007-17). Michael became a North Hills caddie at age 11. He moved to Philadelphia Country Club in 2017 after ClupCorp purchased North Hills. The corporation’s nepotism policy prevented Michael from caddying at North Hills.
Michael is one of five children in the Reilly family: twin sister Jean, twins Mark and Robert, 16, Peter, 18, and Sally, 14. His mother Nancy died of cancer in 2018.
“Losing her was definitely a challenge. It kind of forced me to take on a bigger leadership role within my family,” Michael said. “I think J. Wood Platt and Philadelphia Country Club, they were just a big support system through that time. There was a lot of support there from the other caddies, staff and members [of Philadelphia Country Club]. I received many emails [from the Trust] saying they were thinking of me and our family.”
A flashpoint in Reilly’s history with the Trust involves Nancy. He received a barrage of texts from his mother while caddying in the Silver Putter Tournament at Sunnybrook Golf Club in 2018. Nancy shared a picture of the Trust letter informing Michael of his scholarship status.
“Receiving the J. Wood Platt caddie scholarship has been something I’d been working toward since I started caddying,” Michael said. “Hanging on the wall next to the caddie shack door [at North Hills] when I first started was the J. Wood Platt poster. I was always reminded by my parents that in order to receive the scholarship, it took a lot of hard work. I think that was kind of shaped through my caddying experiences. Once receiving the scholarship, there was a certain standard I had to live up to.”
Given his caddie résumé – Francis C. Poore Caddie of the Year Award notwithstanding, it’s clear that Reilly met, moreover surpassed, said standard. He earned recognition as the William T. Walsh Endowed Scholar for the 2019-20 academic year. Named in honor of a former GAP President, longtime Philadelphia Country Club member and Trust advocate, the William T. Walsh Endowed Scholarship is awarded annually to an exemplary Philadelphia Country Club caddie.
“Any caddiemaster will tell you the one thing you look for is reliability. No problem for Michael. He’s always reliable,” Ryan Plower, 35, of Lafayette Hill, Pa., who completed his first season as the club’s caddiemaster, said. “He’s always willing to go twice. You ask caddies to go twice, sometimes you get goofy answers. With Michael, it’s simple. ‘If you need me to go, I will go.’ He’s an all-around team player.”
When Reilly needed to pivot from North Hills, Philadelphia Country Club felt ideal. Club pedigree enticed, for sure. Moreover, Reilly sought to attend nearby Villanova, his parents’ alma mater. Caddie and college pursuits soon materialized. Reilly relied on that hard work ethos to transition rather seamlessly.
“I loved becoming more familiar with [Philadelphia Country Club] and learning how to caddie there,” Reilly, an economics major at Villanova, said. “The members are great, and I’m grateful for how they’ve been to me over the years. Through caddying, I’ve met a lot of great people and great mentors. The community and the network of relationships I’ve gained over my time caddying is incredible.”
“He would always pick my brain on different things he should be thinking about; it was more than just talking about golf,” Tripp McCulloch, 44, of Newtown Square, Pa., a Philadelphia Country Club member, said. “I frankly would like to him to see him be successful in whatever he decides to do, and if I can help, then that’s a bonus. He has been one of the caddies that has caddied for me most often, to the point where I started requesting him whenever possible. I think all of my best rounds this season were with Michael on my bag. He’s just a really nice kid to be out with.”
Reilly is set to graduate from Villanova in the spring of 2022. If time and opportunity allow, then you may still find him in the fairways at Philadelphia Country Club.
“Caddying has been a motivating part of my life. I’ve learned the importance of having a positive attitude, respect, relationship building and hard work,” Reilly said. “From the time I received the J. Wood Platt Caddie scholarship, and even before then, those were the ideals that stuck with me.”
Hard work and Reilly. Go figure.
Celebrating Amateur Golf since 1897, GAP, also known as the Golf Association of Philadelphia, is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The Association’s 288 Member Clubs and 75,000 individual members are spread across the Eastern half of Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.
J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust
The J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust was created in 1958 by the Golf Association of Philadelphia through the efforts of then President Walter A. Schmidt; Leo Fraser, President of the local section of Professional Golfers Association of America; and Albert Keeping, Golf Professional at Gulph Mills Golf Club. It was named in honor of Philadelphia’s premier golfer of the era, J. Wood Platt. Not only was Mr. Platt an accomplished player, but he was also the Trust’s co-founder and first contributor. To date, more than 3,800 young men and women have received $23 million in aid from the Trust.