Quite a fun round yesterday morning as we had a very pleasant group from down south and I had an ex R and A captain who was an amusing and lovely chap. It was quite refreshing to go back to good old fashioned gowff. Small and light golf bags, no fuss, quick play, much couth behaviour and lots of ‘giving it a spanking, titanic shots, Holy Moly’s and splendid strikes’.
It was interesting to hear a bit about the role of an R and A captain. Hamish had to do a total of fifty five speeches in his term. That is more than one a week! (I think?). It included an introductory talk at The Masters opening dinner. And I am sure he did a very good job too.
In the afternoon we thought our group were Spanish as they spoke very fast and animatedly in the said tongue and one looked remarkably like a young Ballesteros. We all began shaking hands introducing ourselves and there was indeed a Jose and Lorenzo and Juan. So I thought I would confirm their nationality when Jose says ‘no, Venezuelan’ and I am next paired off to a smiling chap who says ‘I am German’, and I said ‘are you?’ with some surprise because he looked the most South American of the lot.
But Germen enlightened me and it turns out they are a bunch of young Venezuelan ex-pats living in Miami. And I would never would have got that.
He wasn’t my favourite player in the group anyway as there was an amiable elderly attorney who was a very decent guy. And he had referred to me as Kevin which really gets my goat. Suppose he got the ‘K’ right and the ‘e’ for that matter but after that it’s a whole different name.
I was caddying for a fourball and as such had to advise the clubbing to all. It had gone fairly well until the seventeenth, which is a beautiful par 3 over a gorge to a cliff edge green with a stunning view of St Andrews in the background. I guess it’s an important hole as it’s always photographed and rightly so. You know the one you can show the grandchildren and then add the fact that you birdied it or had a par at. However it’s a tough par 3 and requires a very well hit shot.
So I advised that the yardage given the following wind was a hundred and sixty and I gave the line which is a tree in the far distance. A perfect shot would land to the left on the fairway and take a bit of time to feed down to the green. So this chap, who has basically had a few very bad holes, stands up and hits a lovely shot on the tree with his 160 club. Of course I couldn’t see it land because I had put the wrong strength contact lenses in. However this chap thinks he’s overcooked it and seen it go into the rough. He basically slams his club into his bag and declares ‘He said hit it 160’ and there is no doubt that I did, and I told the others too. There is a momentary lull and quietude, and slight air of awkwardness and embarrassment, until suddenly the ball trickles twenty five feet past the pin. The chap has a massive guilt hit and his tone of voice changes dramatically and I feel pleasantly vindicated.
I had a chap the other day who was in a bit of difficulty. He really wasn’t hitting it at all well. He was obviously not enjoying himself and there was much on his mind. It was walking up the fifth, I think, that he admitted he’d been to a not inexpensive week’s golf school and come away with fourteen swing thoughts.
Now that is crazy. It is simply unfair and not right. I mean I only have one thought about my swing and that is that it’s crap. But he has fourteen to think about. This is verging on mental torture, especially if the chap has a high powered job and possible onerous family responsibilities into the bargain. So I am going to advocate the practice of yoga in my golf school, and ‘the glass of red wine’ swing thought mantra. And it shall come very competitively priced indeed.
It was funny in that I had bumped into Cologne Tom in Greggs, as I had gone to fetch a tandoori chicken baguette for my lunch. He was having a small breakfast of tea, 2 bacon rolls and 2 iced buns. I got the customary handshake, huge grin and ever radiant Tom. Like me he hadn’t got a round booked and we wished each other a good day.
Of course I then couldn’t resist the temptation of a chocolate brownie and coffee in Taste. My phone went and it was Dave from the Caddie Shack asking if I could do a 13.52 on the New. I said yes and thought there may be some poetry in the man.
There was a huge group around the first tee and Tom was there, and in my group. But also Oliver Horovitz and a nice young Scottish caddie unremarkably called Scott. I thought that this could be an interesting round.
We had a lovely bunch from Nebraska and they were over to celebrate Rick’s sixtieth, who I was caddying for. He was a very tall and mellow attorney who said he hit it about 220 but rarely in a straight direction. This was confirmed off the first tee as he hit it 50 yards left over the gorse, and up the second fairway of The Old. Oliver said ‘I know you are eager to play it but we are on The New today’. We had a wee chuckle and he, rightly, intimated that it may have warranted a ‘fore’. Rick looked at me and I kind of said that it was quite a tough call but ‘legally yes!’
Tom was out with a big character chap called Phil and they got on famously from the start. On the fourth green Tom, as is his wont, pointed to a spot on the green as an indication of the line of the putt. Phil hit right over the spot and it missed by a reasonable margin. He looked at Tom who flung his arms up to the heavens, smiled gracefully, and declared beautifully and sincerely ‘I still love you’.
I knew it was going to be an interesting round.
Rick was great fun and after he holed his first long putt of the day on the fifteenth he gave me a high five and this six foot six, sixty year old Nebraskan attorney flung his hands high and danced round the entire green repeatedly shouting ‘a bogey!’ An amused couple walking on an adjacant fairway looked across smiling and I enthusiastically exclaimed ‘he just got a bogey’.
We all finished in great spirits and the round sped. Tom and I ambled back over the eighteenth fairway of The Old to the bus station, and caught sight of Oliver fifty yards ahead. Tom asked me his name again and then shouted ‘Oliver’ who waited for us. Then Tom comes out with ‘was that your first round caddying today?’ and quick as a flash Oliver says ‘yeh first round ever’. There was a pause and we laughed, but I am not sure who was the most perplexed of us all.
I had a laugh today as I was out with Jimmy again, who is a massive character. And I had to tease him because he somehow picked two lovely cerise pink golf bags on the trot. Now you have to picture Jimmy to get the context of this because he is thick-set and has large black gothic skeleton tattoos up each substantial leg. He has a very broad Fife accent, a wicked sense of humour and a wry smile. The tourists must love him because he is a real piece of Scotland, and a sizeable piece of Scotland at that.
He was telling me how he caddied at the Dunhill last year and was taken over to Carnoustie in the guy’s private helicopter, which Jimmy loved. He apparently said to the chap after he got a very reasonable tip ‘Ya (small swearword), you didnae have to pay me as well!’
Seemingly the guy was quite taken with our Jimmy, phoned him at Christmas and wants him back this year.
Of course I do what most caddies do on their days off. I go and do some ski teaching and tend to my flower shop.
Now it was great to get back into the skiing after a wee spell off and I was very pleased when I saw my class list as there was only one name on it. Even better it was a beginner’s lesson, which I like the most. I don’t feel comfortable teaching more advanced skiing and like some other things I have big issues with the way it is taught.
I think this all comes through bitter experience trying to learn the dynamics of the golf swing. I mean in my long golfing journey I went through probably thousands of attempts to find the philosopher’s stone of a golf swing. I went through mental turmoil over it for decades. Worse still I got into some very bad habits trying to dissect and adjust for the dynamics of a very natural thing. I spent thousands on golf lessons and many hours reading golf instruction books. And now and again I would believe that I had got it. I had cracked it and found the way. I would be on a high for days and the future looked great. But no, it was always a false dawn.
So I can’t tell you how satisfying it was with wee Johnnie after an hour yesterday. I had him skiing down from the halfway and starting to turn. And you know, I hadn’t told him to extend his outer leg to exert pressure while rotating his heels, flex his ankles and knees, and angulate his upper body from his leading hip. I just said ‘now you follow me’. And he did.
It was always going to be a tough relationship from the outset. Cologne Tom was out with Pancho, a hot-blooded South American.
All seemed well the first few holes with, I think, Pancho being a tad surprised that he should have such a colourful character as his caddie. There was much smiling and seeming bonhomie. However, when Pancho stood back from his ball on the fourth, after someone moved slightly, we knew that he was taking this seriously.
And then the bad putting started and the relationship with Tom went into a rapid decline. There were fewer smiles and let’s say much less dialogue. Pancho looked more and more troubled while Tom put on an air of redemptive acceptance.
Walking off the ninth green Pancho seemed very peeved and there was much gesticulation and animated talk with the other players. He implied that Tom had got the line totally wrong again and you could say he then went in the huff.
After another bad miss on the thirteenth, Tom tried to point out the underlying weakness in Pancho’s putting stroke (which was indeed lousy and I think the root of the problem). But I am afraid that was like trying to proffer a Middle East peace deal over a quick cup of tea. Nevertheless I will give it to Tom that it was a valiant (if misplaced) attempt.
We caddies discussed it all going up the sixteenth and Tom suggested that a bottle of 21 year old malt might be the answer. Rather down to earth, ex-stonemason Jimmy, said ‘I would break it over the (short swearword)’s heed.’ Some pause and reflection as Jimmy uttered seriously, thoughtfully and earnestly. ‘but I’d drink it first’.
I was not going to caddy on Sunday as the weather forecast was not good. However I got a phone call to ask if I would come in for a lady playing in The St Rule’s Invitational.
The St Rule’s Club has an interesting history. It was established in 1896 as a ladies’ club for ‘light refreshments, the reading of newspapers and a place of shelter near the course’. Its formation was encouraged by Captain Boothby, the then Captain of the R and A, whose wife was a founding member. It has an enviable position at 12 The Links overlooking the 18th green on The Old Course with views of the West Sands and up to the Angus hills. The Ladies Golf Union now rents the upper floors and has a close relationship with the R and A by all accounts. It now has about 500 members with just over half playing in the golf section. It has ‘associate gentleman members’ who must be R and A or New Club members. And I will be finding out how to be an associate gentleman member. However I am slightly concerned about the possible prerequisite of being a gentleman.
Anyway I was caddying for Jules from Troon to make up the quartet with Alison, Dotty and Tiffy. It was not a nice day with severe grey and damp weather looming over the Links, but this was alleviated by the great spirit these ladies competed with. They played quickly, without fuss or any self indulgence. Dotty, who is on The Links Committee as a greens convenor, was chastised a bit about some of the ‘Himalayan’ surfaces on The Castle, but all in fun. And I was most impressed by vigorous May Richardson up front who at age 83 romped round, with her trolley, in just over four hours.
There was a lovely acceptance of playing golf for the game and not as a honing tool for the competitive instinct. You could say that it was golf without testosterone. Which I suppose it was.
I caddied for a lovely gentleman yesterday, Danny from Minnessota who was out on a business trip for a week. He didn’t play well but was most accepting and treated me with the utmost respect. In fact I think he said ‘thank you sir’ every time I handed him a club. Now that was a lot of thank you sirs.
Anyway we got on to talking about the game and he said he loved it and made the important point that it was a game against yourself. But he also said it was illuminating from a work perspective as it gave an opportunity to see people, colleagues and customers, in a very different light. He implied that you’re in a position where you are exposed and can’t shift the blame. There are no excuses, or support mechanisms, apart from the sometimes (hithersaid) vulnerable caddie.
He added that he had been very amused by the antics of a fellow senior collegue who had by all accounts really let himself down in front of the CEO. And all over a two and a half foot missed putt. On the 18th and for a bogey at that. And I would surmise that the chap had a double bogey on that hole.
Anyway it was a delight to caddy for Danny, and thank you sir for such wise reflections on our auld game.
Went straight down to the Old after a morning round on The Castle and had to run up to the first tee to meet my group. I was met by a beaming Californian chap who introduced himself as ‘Romaine as in the lettuce’. I smiled and said I was no good at remembering names but that I would not forget that one.
We were out with three other mellow chaps, Rick, Joe and Earl. They all hit very impressive shots down the first and could obviously play a bit.
I am out with two old hand caddies, Charlie and Alec, whom I have never met but look like they know their way round here. I could learn a bit today I thought. And I did. Romaine asked me on the fourth what the peculiar stone at the side of the fairway was. And I said I didn’t know, but luckily Charlie overheard and illuminated us. It is a march stone which delineates a boundary and there are several on the Old Course. They go back centuries and were used to divide the land for golfing and rabbit shooting.
Rick, an inquisitive attorney, asked Charlie if he had caddied here long. He said ’11 years and twenty five at Gleneagles’ and there was a slight pause and he added in his broad Scottish tongue ‘and a lot of Guinness under the bridge!’ We all chuckled. Then Rick asked me and I explained that it was my first year, but there had still been a lot of Guinness under the bridge.
Anyway it was a glorious afternoon and we all came to the great 17th tee which everyone wants to hit their best drive down. Romaine hit a beauty splitting the fairway. However Rick hit a terrible one which rebounded off the wall and went into the rough. This may have have affected Earl, for he hit the most incredible shot. It started off high and powerful going straight towards the hotel. Except it turned and missed it. But it missed on the right! It was last seen gaining height and going towards the Madras hockey pitches. He looked shocked and intimated that it could be dangerous, which I affirmed. However I could only think that it was one Earl of a shot and maybe the march stones were slightly misplaced.