Seeing Bali Through Sunlini's Eyes
Sunlini was my personal caddy on the beautiful ocean side Nirwana Golf Course in Bali. As we made our way from one scenic hole to another I found out quite a bit about her life. Sunlini is twenty six years old. Her parents are farmers. She was able to tell me about local agricultural methods as we passed the rice paddies that line some of the holes on the front nine of the course. I was particularly interested in the colorful flags and scarecrows that have been set up all over the wet terraces to chase away preying birds. Sunlini only went to school for seven years but she speaks English, Japanese, Korean and a little German, since these are the main languages of the golf course clients.
Sunlini has a boyfriend who works in an art shop in the nearby town of Tanalot. She says it is difficult for them to save enough money to get married. Times have been hard in Bali, particularly for those employed in the tourist industry. Since the terrorist bombing in October of 2002, the number of visitors to the island paradise has dropped off dramatically. Resorts, golf courses and hotels are less than half full.
Sunlini had quite a sense of humor. She warned us that sometimes there were cobras and crocodiles on the course. On one hole my husband Dave was in the bush thrashing about looking for a missing ball. Sunlini assured him this was unnecessary since it was his caddy's job to find the ball. When he persisted in his search she finally yelled, "Cobra's coming!" This got Dave laughing and out of the trees fairly quickly. Later when he took his shoes off to wade in a shallow pond to find another errant ball she joked about crocodiles that might bite his toes. On one hole Dave's first shot was a little less than the perfect drive. He tried to make the best of things and commented that, "At least I'm not in the bush." Sunlini responded, "Well not yet."
Sunlini is a deeply spiritual person as are most Balinese. Every aspect of their lives is governed by their desire to please the gods. She explained that the temples built on the golf course brought protection and good fortune to golfers. The most dramatic temple can be viewed from the twelfth hole. Set on an island just a little out to sea, Sunlini told me it had been established by a Hindu priest in the 16th century, who desired a quiet place to meditate. I read later that Greg Norman, who designed the Nirwana course, was adamant about including a clear view of this island temple as part of the layout of the back nine. It has made the twelfth hole at Nirwana the most photographed golf hole in the world.
Sunlini was a veritable fount of information about local customs and religion but she was also an expert on playing the golf course. She told me the yardage for each shot and helped me select the best club. She told me whether to swing using full or half power. She read my putts, telling me exactly where to aim and how the ball would run. Having a personal caddy like Sunlini certainly spoils a person. She wiped off each club as it was used. She raked the sand traps after I'd been in them. She located all my missing balls. She kept my score. I wish I could have her with me every time I golf.
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Published on 11/1/08