Caddie, 83, takes money after battle with golf club

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 July, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 July, 1996, 12:00am

An 83-year-old man scored a hole-in-one for caddies yesterday when a judge ruled he should be treated as a golf club employee.

Cheng Yuen has served a string of prominent figures, including tycoon Li Ka-shing, during his nine years as a caddy with the Royal Hong Kong Golf Club.

But he said he hated the game and once had to spend a week in hospital after being hit on the head by a golf ball.

The judge's ruling means he will be allowed to keep more than $33,000 the club was ordered to pay him after his dismissal last October.

It could also lead to better working conditions for 600 caddies serving golfers at the club's two courses.

Mrs Justice Verina Bokhary said caddies were an integral part of the club and deserved to be respected.

'They do hard, honest work for modest reward,' she said.

The judge rejected as 'unrealistic' claims by the club that such workers were independent contractors.

Mr Cheng, who has 10 grandchildren, arrived at the High Court wearing shorts and sports shoes.

Although caddies are not compelled to turn up for work, he said he was at the club by 4 am almost every day and usually did not leave until 5 pm.

He was normally hired for four hours a day and paid $180.

After the hearing, Mr Cheng, who has never played golf, said he had to take the club to court because they had treated him unfairly.

He became a caddy at the Deep Water Bay course in September 1986.

'I worked very hard, carrying golf clubs, which weigh 14 kilograms. It was very tiring but I wanted to earn more money,' he said.

Mr Cheng, who lives with his 82-year-old wife on a Chai Wan public housing estate, said he had no plans to go back to the golf club.

Eric Wong, the club's assistant personnel officer, said it might take the case to the Court of Appeal.