My tips have been consistent and poor this week. And I am beginning to think there may be an inverse relationship between them and the amount of effort given to the job. I mean Derek came off yesterday with a big smile as he’d received a hundred and ten quid having barely talked to his player the whole way round. Whereas I am doing my utmost to be cheery and positive and sociable. And this is falling flat as I’ve been getting the minimum sixty more often than not.
Yesterday was probably my worst and most stressful round to date. There was one guy I just didn’t like the look of. Kind of a fiery eyed highly coloured complexion chap who doesn’t do eye contact.
They were playing a texas scramble and I was the only caddie allocated to the group. So the idea is that the best drive is chosen each hole and they all play from that point. Thereafter they all play out their own ball.
There is another four in front playing and I guess there is a lot of money on this. Certainly there is an atmoshere of seriousness and these guys don’t look like they’re out to enjoy the scenery.
So I immediately begin to get slightly anxious. I’m in the firing line here. This is confirmed after they have all hit there third shots into the first green. I’ve got four guys at different positions on one of the most tricky greens on the course and they’re all asking me, in quick succession, to read their lines!! Shit. I am new to this and I’m a crap putter. I can’t read these greens yet and they think I’m Tiger Woods or something. This is not fair. I mean the fiery eyed guy has about a forty footer which looks like it has a double break, is downhill, and if he doesn’t get the right side of the first mound he could end up in a bunker! This could turn into a nightmare. I’m probably going to get paid sixty bucks and I’m going to have five hours of interrogation from four pretty unsavoury looking Americans.
Fortunately fiery eyes didn’t make a hash of the first and I miraculously gave the old chap a good read on the third whereby he somehow sank a ninety footer. My credibility was luckily enhanced and I somehow blagged it round the other holes. However I was a nervous wreck coming off the eighteenth and I tell you I earned my sixty bucks.
There is a widely held conception amongst the caddying fraternity that a yum yum from Fisher and Donaldson is the ultimate in patisserie delight. I tried one this week and was most unimpressed. Give me a fudge doughnut any day!
But life can’t get much better than this – a round under your belt on The Old Course, the sun shining mid morning, a jaunt up North Street to Salvatore’s for a double shot ‘forte’ americano and a fudge doughnut. You can’t really beat that. I mean some people might contest that the fifth pint of Old Rosie has a certain transcendent effect. Maybe so but I’m a new wave style caddie and I’m going for the caffeine and sugar high.
It’s graduation week here and lots of self conscious students are strolling round town with proud parents in tow. And of course they are all talking about the historicity of St Andrews, the University’s position on the Guardian ratings list and Suarez’s penchant for biting.
Well all I can say is that it was poor, but just can’t blame him for having a bit of a taste for Italien, even though there is World cuisine out there.
I’ve got ten loops under my belt now and am beginning to read lines with some confidence. I met a very interesting caddie yesterday who strolled into the shack with designer sun glasses,deep tan, floppy Rupert Brooke hair and was most elegantly attired. I mean he looked like he should be on some red carpet at Cannes. Anyway he immediately took out a bottle of cologne and offered me some. Now this kind of surprised me a bit. I mean if I was going out on a hot first date and doing my utmost to impress the young lady (well now not so young!) I would indeed splash something scented on. However if I’m going out to carry the bag of some sweaty seventeen stone male American then no. I just ain’t doing that.
I have effectively become a full time caddie at The Castle Course by being put on the caddie list there. This is a lot more convenient in that I will now be allocated a time the day before.
It has been an eventful week and it’s lovely to be back in St Andrews. I kid myself that thirty years haven’t passed since I ambled round here as a young student. For things are essentially unchanged. Fisher and Donaldson’s still sell the best fudge doughnut in town and Salvatore in The Coffee House the best americano.Tesco’s still has pretty checkout girls, Luvian’s a vitally important landmark in Market Street. Ma Bells, The Whey Pat and the Dunvegan are still going strong, students still walk purposefully towards the library, while tourists wander down Granny Clark’s Wynd to The Old Course and midnight faeries can be seen in the garden of Deans Court.
Other caddies are still curious of my background as I’ve kind of pitched up well into the season. I start off saying what I have done in my life , get going for a bit and then consider that it might be better telling them what I haven’t done. I get quite worried about having to do a CV ever again as no one is really going to believe it now.
Anyway I am presently a caddie and enjoying it. I like being outdoors and meeting people. Well most people! I had quite a boorish american chap a couple of days ago who was taking his golf far too seriously and never asked a thing of me. At that point I just turn off and admire the scenery. But I wonder about someone like that. I mean not being able to share and find out and explore another person. I mean I might have been a fascinatingly bright PHD student at the Uni, doing unbelievable things in string theory and on my way to an early professorship and a prize from Sweden. And he has missed out.
Anyway I did meet a nice American chap the day after who I got on royally with and who invited to me his chalet in Big Bear mountain. And that is cool because I’ve never been to America, albeit I’m wary of bears.
Some people may consider that a caddie merely carries a set of golf clubs around the course. However I now realise that there is much more to it than that. A major factor is being able to read the lines of putts. This is not good news for me because I am possibly the worlds worst putter. Now this can be very stressful, and especially, for the novice caddie in front of his compatriots. The worst thing is that my fellow caddies seem to see the lines very clearly and proffer advice confidently. Things like ‘ two inches outside the right of the cup ‘. Now the issue is that everyone else is watching and listening to your advice. So I’ve been taking a rather uncommitted approach and let my player make his own mind up and then confidently affirm it. Of course this can be disastrous and hugely embarrassing. I mean when he reads it left to right and I agree in my most reassuring manner and say ‘ yes left lip ‘ and then the ball proceeds to end up three feet left of the hole ! I mean that is calamitous.It will be the talk of the caddy shack for days. Unbelievably,I’ve noticed some caddies try and blag this by saying ‘ you pulled that badly !’ Now that takes guts.
Yes it’s a very delicate relationship out there and tact is of the utmost importance as far as I can see.I heard a story last week of a group teeing off the first and one bloke hitting a pretty bad shot only for the caddie to say ‘that was atrocious’. I believe that the chap was less than happy about this and I can’t help feeling that it was a bit early in the round to test if the guy had a sense of humour.
It was Sunday morning and I was enjoying my second cup of coffee and the phone went and it was Matt, my Caddiemaster, asking if I could make it to the Jubilee for a 1010 tee off.Problem was though that I don’t drive and live in Crail and the first bus is at 10am! So I end up blowing twenty quid on a taxi.However I think this is showing real commitment to the cause. I don’t want to be turning down jobs and I need the money.I think Matt is quite impressed by this or feels sorry for me and says that he has got another bag for me in the afternoon.
It is an interesting dynamic when you meet up with the players and your fellow caddies on the first tee. At this point an experienced caddie is summing up a huge number factors including each individual’s likely character, playing ability and tipping potential.But I also learned another thing. I had my hand on one of the bags which was owned by this genial looking psychiatrist chap when Colin, an old hand caddie next to me, said ‘ dinnae take that one! first rule of caddying! – don’t take the heaviest bag.’And he was completely right for this bag had to be one of the heaviest ever to have been carted round the fabled links. Heaven knows what was in it.Poor young Angus a student trainee lugged it round the 18 long holes of the Jubilee and I hope was justly rewarded.
In the afternoon we had a group from Aspen who were great golfers and obviously had a bit of cash.I met Neil who was the biggest looper last year which means he had done the most rounds out of all the caddies (300!). This week he had done three days on the trot doing three loops a day! Except today he was slightly fragile as he had done 18 tequilas in Golf Place on Saturday night. This is the mecca for caddies who like a swally as they get a discount and it’s about fifty yards from the 18th on the Old.
I also meet Dave Hutchison whose another stalwart of the caddie world here in St Andrews.He explains that there are about thirty caddies who basically get the early slots on the Old which enables them to clock two or three rounds a day.
I think the feeling in our group is that we could be in for a big tip here.Coming off the 18th one of guys says ‘now what is the pay?’ at which point Neil indicates that it’s forty five plus gratuity.He then adds ‘ sixty if we’re bad and seventy upwards if your happy’ which I thought was rather brazen if not a good shout. We were given sixty and Neil walked away in disgust muttering ‘muck’ to himself.
My first job on The Castle and we’ve got four jet lagged Manhatten Fund Managers on a business trip. They seem an eclectic bunch. One guy Larry has to be on something. He’s pacing up and down the first tee like Basil Fawlty on heat. Luckily I haven’t got his bag. I’ve got big mellow Brad who is already sampling an Eden Brewery ale and giving a bit of crack.
I am introduced to Tam who is a caddie of the old school from St Andrews.You know the chain smoking, wizened dour Scot who can be seen of an evening in The Keys and can drink for Scotland. I’ve been warned that I won’t be able to understand a word he says but that he is a demon at reading putts.
After a few holes it is apparent that hyper Larry is in desperate need of golf lessons or a fix of some sort. However he is taking things very seriously indeed. I mean I know you should line up a putt. But to walk up and down a forty footer three times when your looking at a triple bogey is pushing it. At one point hIs caddie indicates that he should hit his ball to this mound whereby it would run down to the hole. And Larry puts on this very serious expression and asks ‘ to the top ?’. And I think hey Larry if you want your ball to run down that wee slope to the hole then your going to have to hit it to the top first pal. That is basic physics mate.
Later things got better as Larry started making noises about the fact that he was having to share a room for four days. I mean he doesn’t do that with his wife! He’s paying eight thousand bucks and ‘doubling’ with a guy he’s never met. I thought well you’ve got a point but imagine how the other bloke will feel when he finds out he’s sharing with you.
First day of caddying over. I ‘shadowed’ in the morning with three crazy Americans who were into sewage in a big way by all accounts. My fellow caddies were lovely. Richard an ex policeman (who doesn’t know me !), Jamie a good looking chain smoking Cockney and Dave from Dundee.
The Castle course is stunning for views of St Andrews. The proverbial ‘haar of kirks… bullseye centred at the outer edges.. one inch in front of beyond’ is beautifully caught here.
After a couple of nips at the turn the tune changed a bit though. Jim, our characterful Texan, said that this might sound a bit gay but he just wants to get inside Simon who was three feet away.( from the pin I mean!). I exclaimed that there should be no more whisky for you sir.
Anyway a great round was had by all and I was given a twenty pound tip from Jim which makes me think I should really be getting into sewage.
As we came off the course our Caddie Master looked slightly stressed and explained that they needed sixteen guys down at The Old Course immediately. There were suddenly serious expressions on the faces of my fellow caddies. It was Friday evening and beginning to rain and the Spain vs Holland World Cup match on. As such all three declined and I suddenly found myself in the infamous Caddy Shack at The Old Course being thrown a bib and instructed that there were four Americans coming off the first green who I had to take care of.
Oh my God there is no one else with me and I haven’t played here for thirty years. Shit! Further there is a buggy and I have to drive it. The last time I drove a buggy, at my home course in Edinburgh, I lost control in the car park and crashed into Tom Costello’s brand new Mini Cooper.
Luckily young Ross pitches up and I am relieved. However I find out he is an emergency caddie and has never played the course. But he has got a map! So I let Ross drive the buggy and I take the bag of a very genial ex-Mayor of Debraska and mutter something about being new but having been here at University.
Well luckily for Ross and me these guys were exceptionally mellow and forgiving and rewarded us handsomely. I walked off the 18th ninety pounds richer and thinking that could have gone a whole lot worse.
So here’s how it all started. I left Crail at 8am on a sunny Friday 13th of June, and of course , I naturally picked up a bridie from Penman’s to help me on my ten mile pilgrimage and job search into St Andrews.
My first stop was at St Andrews Bay where I enquired of a lovely man John Kerr about caddying prospects. Much to my surprise he immediately picked up his diary and pointed to groups for the following monday.’ Can you do them?’. ‘Yes but I’ve never seen the course’ I volunteered. This seemed no issue and I found myself walking away two minutes later with a course map and a job in the bag.
I strolled along towards the Castle course and thought I’d try my luck there too. The Caddie Master was a rather more gruff chap who looked me up and down and asked me about my credentials. He took my number and said he would speak to his boss. Not holding out much hope on this one I wandered into St Andrews. I got there by 11.30 which is not bad for an old man who is the wrong side of fifty. Meandering down Market Street my phone rang and it was the gruff chap asking if I could pitch up tomorrow at 11 am !
I thought I would treat myself by going to The Central for a pint of real cider. And so it was only 11.40am and I sat back with Old Rosie feeling rather pleased with myself. I’d walked half way round North East Fife, had two interviews and job offers, and been to the butchers.