A big group of caddies were in the shack this morning and the talk was all about the Texan party.
Peter recounted how his man had a putt on the infamous 4th green which has a huge valley in it. Seemingly the chap hit a putt from the top of the green and it ran off the putting surface. The guy then looked at Peter and said ‘you could have told me it was (swear word) downhill!’. He then just said ‘sand wedge’ in disgruntled tones. Peter then walked intentionally slowly back to his bag to get the requested club. I thought at this point he should have presented the man with his chicken salad piece and do a kind of Manuel in Fawlty Towers miscomprehension act. I mean what a make or break that could have been.
Young medic Rory said his man had serious temper issues. Early on he threw his club which hurtled through the air marginally missing him but less marginally Andrew. Rory was not quite sure of the guy’s intention and was highly sceptical (as there had been a massive clubbing issue on the approach shot which he subsequently duffed). All the caddies made a point of being a safe distance from this chap the rest of the round.
Rory said his man had a sudden transformation walking down the 18th when he got much more mellow and tried to be amiable. And Rory said that it was amusing that the subject of their conversation was anger.
And I am convinced that this group were on an anger management course. However I am not at all sure that competitive golf is a good way to tackle this. Well at least not when innocent well meaning caddies are around.
I’d heard all the stories about the golfers that caddies fall out with and end up wishing they’d never met. But I’ve not had a bad experience to date. Well until today that is.
And it was strange because, this morning, Hannah and Peter were recounting a tale about some Texans they had out on the Old yesterday. And it really wasn’t a good one. In fact ex-CID Peter (who doesn’t do fools) I think had reprimanded one in fairly forceful terms. Hannah said as we ventured out that if she hears another Texan accent again she thinks she will do a runner.
Well funny enough we have a group of twelve Texans on the first tee. Peter and Hannah go off front and I am paired up with Chris and three other guys who don’t take caddies. It turns out each four is playing as a team.
All was fine on the first as my group got two good birdies and a par. However things gradually deteriorated over the next few holes. Tensions began to grow between the guys and my Chris began to play decidedly badly. On the sixth he had a very hard chip which he unfortunately hit just over the back of the green, much to his frustration. He asked me to bring over a pitching wedge which I handed to him. He laughed at me in derision saying ‘how am I going to hit it with that?’. I should have stated the obvious that it was a golf club and indeed the one he had asked me for. I ain’t getting paid to get nuances in all this or be a mind reader! I mean if you’d asked for a 60 degree lob wedge you would have got it.
Anyway we got to the par 3 eighth. I gave Chris the yardage of 157 yards to the pin and he comes out with the question ‘does it play long or short?’ I volunteer that it plays long and immediately regretted saying it! (I should have remembered that 157 yards is a 157 yards). And of course he hits it straight over the green and over a fence! And he kind of looks at me like he might kill me. I give this ‘caddie querulous look’ which just hides what I feel, as I am thinking ‘not that long you dumbbell’. Ralph kindly adds that the wind died down as he hit, but I can see Chris is not buying that.
Anyway he finally gets a three foot birdie putt on the fifteenth which is his only opportunity to contribute to the team in the entire round. He asks me the line and I give right lip. He gets over it and slams it an inch outside the right lip, through the break and three feet past the hole. He is upset. He then announces to the others ‘He said it was on the right but I read it as straight!’ There is a deadly embarrassed silence from the other guys as they know that he stormed it. And I reflected that this was one of the reasons that I gave up on primary school teaching.
I heard from our caddiemaster at the half way house that Peter, up front, was having some problems with his Texan chap. And you know what: I was not surprised by that.
It had been dreary and wet in the morning for our first round on The Castle and we were somewhat lacking enthusiasm for a second loop as we sat in The Old Course shack. It was the end of a rather hard week and the shack was nearly empty. I guess more experienced caddies had taken a taken a more insightful look at the weather forecast than I had.
Anyway we were allocated a group on The New Course and were pleased to see eight smiling Singapore gentlemen who were obviously in good spirits. And I think it was whisky, definitely malt and with peaty overtones.
I was matched up with Gilbert who was of dark Indian extraction and who looked fun. His friend Shappy gave me the scorecard and said don’t let him (Gilbert) near it. And I soon realised why as Gilbert could not keep his score. He got it wrong every time. Now this was partly understandable given the great number of shots he was taking. But it always erred in his favour. Moreover if he had a really bad hole like a twelve it would be classed as a ‘double bogey’.
Anyway on the fourth he drew out this monstrous cigar and started to rummage around in his golf bag for something. He then brought out this long shaft thing which was not a golf club. And of course I should have known: it was a three foot long cigar stand!
Anyway this did nothing for Gilbert’s golf, as it got progressively worse and we zig-zagged up every fairway from one patch of wet rough to another. It was exhausting. And on the fifteenth tee Gilbert said this is awful and I agreed. He said he hadn’t even had a drink yet this round. And I thought that maybe he should and can I please have one too.
The chat about the St Andrews caddy world at the moment is that ‘turbo Neil’ did 18 loops last week. Now that is a significant number of rounds of golf. In fact eighteen.
Now this was quite timely as Alan and I were discussing recently how we would like to get into the two loops per day world of dedicated Old Course caddies. We both agreed that it would be a great idea and of course the money would not be unwelcome. (Alan is of a similar vintage to me having just knocked up a half century.) However that was the morning of the day of the thunderstorm when the sun had shone and all was bright.
We were out again the next morning and our thoughts had suddenly altered. And quite amusingly, we both independently had sudden u-turns in our perspectives. We kind of reasoned that one round was a very civilsed way to spend part of the day. It would allow us to free up the rest of the day and be able to live the dream. You know have coffee and chocolate brownies in Taste and the odd pint and pub lunch in Greyfriars.
And of course it wasn’t that we are lacking fitness to manage the two rounds per day. We were both manifestly agreed upon that.
I had just got back from a few days in Edinburgh and was glad to have been given a double loop. However I had left behind my Goretex waterproof jacket (which is most unlike me!). Now I knew this should have been an omen.
The morning round went swimmingly in a lovely offshore breeze, albeit we were late for our second loop. It was my first time out with cologne Tom. He was wearing his designer shades, dress shirt with cuff links and pin striped trousers. I’ll give it to him that he did have waterproofs over his pinstriped trousers.
We were out with three Swiss golfers who played excellently and we sped through the first nine. It was looking like a quick and uncomplicated round. However a huge black cloud spread itself over St Andrews. It kind of hung there and let spill over the town. We thought we were going to get a lucky escape. And Tom said to me that he never brought out a waterproof jacket, which I thought was marginally unwise.
Anyway we got on to the 8th green and there was a white flash and blast of thunder over the bay, and rain. And it was like being put into a power shower at maximum with the cold tap on. So we trudged the ten minutes back to the clubhouse hoping that our chaps would call it a day. But no. They went for a drink, Tom somehow reappeared in a rain jacket, the cloud passed, we made our way back out to the eighth green , resumed our round, and got stuck behind four of the slowest American golfers ever.
We finally finished at 8.50 pm in the falling dusk and I rushed up to my bus stop to see the hourly to Crail edging away up the hill.
I will never look at the Swiss again in the same light. It will be darker and more foreboding. Maybe expecting rain.
We had four older chaps from Tennessee yesterday on The Castle. I caddied for a kindly little fellow, Steve, who was bemoaning the fact that they couldn’t get a beer before 10am on The Old Course yesterday. I kind of explained the strictness of our licensing laws which he acknowledged. He then went on to say that he couldn’t understand why the guy wouldn’t accept US dollars. However I thought I wouldn’t try and state the obvious on that one.
Now Steve was one of the most mellow and laid back blokes that I have caddied for yet. However there was a period, a few seconds, before he hit the ball, that something extraordinary happened. All I can say is that he induced in himself a kind of a semi-epileptic fit. His head would go into a set pattern of spasms and culminate with one huge twist of his neck at which point he muttered something to himself, I am not sure what, but all I can say is that it sounded like ‘deputy dawg’! And then he would hit and normality would prevail.
This made for a bit of interest on a human level, for which was not otherwise a noteworthy round. Well apart from the fact that Steve asked what sort of grass we had. Peter whispered to me, quite correctly, that it was green. Meanwhile Jamie declared confidently that it was a type of rye grass. And I am sure it is.
It is my wont if I have a late morning tee off at The Castle to have a stroll round St Andrews. I have got into the habit of going to a wee cafe on North Street called Taste. They serve excellent coffee and the most sublime chocolate brownies. It is usually full of students, has a few comfy chairs, a sofa and free papers. What a place to pass an hour away and to people watch.
Anyway I had just got my coffee and brownie, and my attention for some reason was drawn to this rather elegant older American couple. I don’t know why. They seemed to be looking for someone. Anyway at that point this young man walks in and of course you know who it is. It’s Oliver Horovitz! I mean who else could it have been. I mean it wouldn’t be any other student or travelling tourist or wayfarer or young golfer up for The Boyd Quaich! No it was my man Oliver. It had to be. The infamous Harvard graduate caddie. The writer, the film maker, ‘the wonderful Oliver Horovitz’ (Waterstone’s).
Let’s face it, no one else was going to walk in at that point. I mean Stan was never going to walk in. Not in a million years would Stan have walked in. And I am beginning to think there is something very uncanny going on around here.
I should have got up and said ‘Hi Oliver have you seen Stan?’ and just waited to see his expression. I mean it would have been immense. And then I could have introduced myself and told him about my blog, and having read and enjoyed his book. I mean that would have been choice. Albeit he may not have got my wayward, suspect and abandoned sense of humour.
Anyway I went up for my first round in a few days and had a delightful few hours with four fun Canadians. Turns out the chap I caddied for, Andrew, had also studied economics here . Uncannily, as me, he also had forays into the golf and ski tourism market! He had finally got big in funeral care for a listed Canadian company and had obviously done very well. I told him I had eventually got into cut flowers. And it just shows that a BSc from St Andrews in Economics can lead to a pretty grave end.
As the evening drew in there was a lovely sea breeze off the glistening sea. The air was fresh and pure and dolphins were dancing out in St Andrews Bay.
Yesterday was a double looper and I had times at 1110 and 4pm on The Castle. This I knew was tight and was proven as I left the 18th green after a five hour round, and had to leg it up the first fairway to meet my duo. Turns out it’s a lovely American father and son pairing. They are most forgiving as the second caddie, a young medic Angus, sheepishly pitches up on the fourth green.
Turns out they are staying at The Dunvegan which is strange, because nearly every person this week I’ve asked have said they are residing there, and it’s small. Four rooms I think. But a great hostelry.
Anyway Frank, the father, was saying how Will is reading the golf book ‘An American Caddie in St Andrews’ by Oliver Horovicz which is rather hot at the moment. And they were sitting in the bar last night and Frank says ‘Isn’t that Oliver over there?’. And yes it was. He was in with some bloke from The Golf Channel (who was also staying at The Dunvegan!). Anyhow they got the book down and it was kindly signed by Oliver. It was surmised that Oliver was not caddying anymore but Angus coolly negated this, by saying that he had been out with him yesterday on The Old Course!
It’s a wee place St Andrews
But not that wee in my book and this is why. I am living in a much smaller place called Crail and I’ve never met a man called Stan. Now I have been coming here on and off for twenty years and never come across him. He is a lecturer at the Uni and a good pal of my buddy Eileadh from Edinburgh, whom he supervised for her PhD years ago. Pygmies or something.
He by all accounts can be seen in The Golf of an evening, is quite distinguished looking, and likely to be wearing boots of a fashionable variety. Well I have never seen him. Everone else has, even Joe, and he is blind.
Anyway this week my mate from Edinburgh Professor Holligan, or Chris, was up. And we were having a coffee outside Costa and somehow we got chatting about Stan. Chris had done some research with him years back. Small world I thought as Chris doesn’t know Eileadh!
Next day I met Josh on the bus into St Andrews. He is doing a PhD in something medieval. Oaths I think. Anyway, we were having a lovely chat about various sports and we got on to cricket, which is obviously a passion of his. He said he played for the University Staff team. Now I am kind of drawn a bit to get the old whites out again. I used to be a good swinger. I enquired if they were a reasonable team and he said yes not bad, being in quite a high division, and he said they have this guy in the side who nearly played for Middlesex. And yes it was Stan!