Hole In One

It is lovely to know on the first tee that you are going to have a pleasant and fun round with your group. This happened yesterday as I was introduced to father and son Sean and Brian, and their friend John. Also they were great golfers which is always a massive plus.
Sean had a bit of a bad back though and I said there was only one thing for that and it was whisky. Indeed that is why whisky was invented.I mean no sane person would play golf without the knowledge that there was a wee dram awaiting at the end of a sometimes purgatorial eighteen holes.
The guys had been in the Keys Bar the previous night and were most taken by the barmaid, who gave them a free tasting of four malts. They only wished they’d remembered what they were called, and indeed where the Keys Bar was, as they got in tow with a few caddies of the antique kind. It was seemingly a great night.
We got to the uphill 12th which is always a slog, and I was sure Sean asked if there was beer on the course, and I replied ‘I hope so’. However he looked decidedly perplexed at this for some reason. We had seen a pheasant though! On the par three tenth in fact. Sean thought it was a grouse but I said that was wishful thinking. Again he’d looked perplexed at this.
Anyway Sean’s golf got rather hot and he hit a wonderful shot into the par 3 thirteenth which was going straight for the hole and laid up only a few feet short. John hit a pretty good shot too but we couldn’t find it and he dared me to look in the hole, but alas nothing!
We get to the stunning seventeenth signature hole par 3 and it is a beautiful evening, with luminous light across St Andrews and the bay. I give the guys a line on the tree in the far distance and John and Brian hit lovely shots on to the half hidden green. Sean hits a rather sub-optimal shot though and we proceed to the green. Brian and John ahead can only see one ball and joke about the other being in the hole. And of course it is! And Brian screams in delight and jumps high in the air and even half deaf Kenny walking down the sixteenth hears him and looks across. There is much hugging and filial declarations of love and numerous high fives. Actually quite a touching scene to be honest.
It was almost surpassed down the eighteenth though. It is a long par 5 dog leg and plays in front of the clubhouse, which was packed as there had been a St Rule’s outing. All the guys hit excellent drives and were placed in a line across the fairway with good chances of hitting the long par 5 in two blows. John hit first, and a beauty, towards the pin two hundred odd yards away. Being a bit hyped up he shouted loudly ‘get in the hole’ and it seemingly landed on the green not far from the pin but went over the back. Then Brian hit an equally good shot which was going right for the hole! John with his twenty thirteen vision shouts ‘get in get in’ and the ball finishes up looking remarkably close to the hole. Then my man Sean hits an amazing shot towards the green and on target. I think what the heck and shout at the top of my very loud voice, which I think could be heard in Market Street, ‘get in!’ We all have a chuckle and walk down the eighteenth fairway in great spirits as several ladies venture across from the clubhouse looking, most curiously, towards the green.
And of course we topped the whole round off in great Scottish and golfing tradition.

R and A captain plays into office

I had, since being a kid I think, heard about the great tradition in St Andrews of the playing into office of the R and A captain. What happens is that he plays a ball off the first tee of The Old Course at 8 am to a single cannon being fired. All the local caddies spread themselves across the fairway and a prize of a gold sovereign goes to the caddie who manages to grab it and duly return it to the him on the tee.
So I headed down yesterday to partake in this great tradition and was surprised by the huge gathering of R and A members in front of the clubhouse. I walked along to the shack and saw a large number of the Old Course caddies starting to head to the first fairway. I felt a bit conspicuous as the only Castle Course caddie who had come down for it but was welcomed with a friendly smile from Rob the head caddie master.
We all started to take up our positions on the 1st and I was surprised that the great majority of guys had gone for the right side of the fairway. I heard someone say that ‘he hits it with a fade’ and this I think explained the dispersion. Anyway I thought as the new captain was an ex-Walker Cup player he would be more likely be hitting a draw and a long one at that. So I moved over to the other side of the fairway and spotted Oliver Horovitz who had taken up a position about 30 yards ahead of me and slightly wider. There were few other guys near us. I said hello to Oliver and exclaimed ‘you’ve won this before haven’t you?’ which he acknowledged.
Anyway George Macgregor came down to the first tee and placed his ball down. All eyes were keenly focussed and there were a few seconds of absolute calm and then the swing and a huge bang as the cannon went off. I couldn’t see a thing and the ball must have been in the air for a good few seconds when I saw Oliver in front of me kind of shoogle his feet and take the position of a man in first slip. He put his foot out and partially stopped the fastly rolling ball. This was the first sight I’d caught of it as it ricocheted though his legs and went on down the fairway. I moved like I’d never moved before and Oliver took chase. So it’s me against Oliver Horovitz, how funny. He of New York best seller list fame with his book, and me, as yet undiscovered caddie blog writer, in a race to the wire. Harvard graduate versus St Andrews, youth versus age, scratch golfer versus hacker, film maker versus florist, USA versus Scotland, Beastie Boy’s brother versus dodgy violin player. Beauty and the Beast!
I reckoned it was fifty fifty at this point as the ball was about twenty yards from both of us but still moving towards the Swilken Burn. Oliver took off like Usain Bolt and I am not sure about me but I was doing a thing I hadn’t done for a decade, I was sprinting! And given the angles we were running at I would say I was now the hot favourite. My heart was pounding and I thought a few more strides and I would make a glorious dive for it. But then all I remember was my feet going from me on the dewy grass and a quick sight of an overcast sky and a thud sound as my fifteen stone body weight was uplifted and thrown remorselessly on to the hallowed turf. I looked up a bit shaken, I will say, because I wasn’t expecting such a dramatic end. And I could now only watch, to see Oliver grab the ball and triumphantly head back to the crowds on the first tee.
Today I am feeling rather sore and wish I’d worn my golf shoes.

seven hundred pound blue bottle on the seventeenth

It’s always nice to hear of the other caddies’ anecdotes. For instance Cologne Tom (it had to be!) and I think Matt were out with a group of Japanese golfers. Seemingly, on the stunning cliff top seventeenth green, they brought out a large hip flask and some little glasses and proceeded to pour out wee nips of Johnnie Walker blue label whisky. There was much smiling seemingly and a Japanese toast of some ancient variety involving a kind of group high five with fists and some poetic incantation.
They googled the whisky later and it seemingly retails at about £700. I can’t think of a more special place to drink a wee dram and I reckon our Japanese friends thought so too. Although they said they had an ‘old whisky’ in another flask and I must admit I am curious to know what that was.
On a different front Alex, our plus 2 handicap caddie, was playing a district Alliance match in Forfar. He was alerted to a whistling noise quite early on in his round. It was a kind of tuneful whistle, clear and melodious, and Alex wished the guy would resist. I personally am not averse to whistling but I do think there is a time and place. Anyway Alex is a serious player and this was a serious game and the whistling continued. It was on the 12th par 3 that he was just set to make his shot and at the vital moment when people should stand still and be silent there was a very loud and clear resonance. Alex stood back annoyed and with some incredulity looked up to the tree behind him to see a parrot.
A Brazilian hyacinth macaw I believe.

The Keys Bar

This little bar half way up Market Street is a real old fashioned drinking den. It is renowned as a caddie bar and I thought it would be important for my blog to visit and enjoy the ambience and a pint of something (or two pints of something actually).
And right enough there were a couple of stalwart old timer caddies invested at the bar as well as one of the St Andrews caddie masters practising his darts throwing. It’s R and A autumn meeting week and a relatively quiet time for the caddies in town. The season is winding down now as the tourists are replaced by students who are here in droves. Two smart young gentlemen in boating jackets strolled into the Keys and ordered Bombay Gin and tonics while old Tam sank another Tennant’s.
It was lovely to sit outside in the warm breeze and beautiful September light, while young freshers ambled eagerly along and members of the University Dance club jived on the pavement. It’s a remarkable place St Andrews.

Pierre Pierre ooh la la

I knew he was going to be a bit of a handful on the first tee as he didn’t look at me when I asked his name while he was keenly practising his swing. He just muttered ‘Pierre’. Luckily I got the bag of affable Jean Claude and Kenny was left with Pierre.
It was on the fourth after a very bad drive that the odd behaviour started. Pierre hit it terribly and his ball only went twenty five yards into some very thick rough. He somehow found it and attempted to hit an ambitious shot up the fairway. He addressed it with great and serious purpose and took one almighty swing. There was a good enough contact and much flying turf and Pierre looked up in great expectation to the sky and fairway. There was a lull for a few seconds as the rest of the group looked hopelessly up the fairway with growing realisation that the ball might not have travelled very far. I guessed it hadn’t gone anywhere and was rather pleased that I was able to come up with the correct French ‘il bouge pas!’ (it didn’t move). Pierre looked across at me, in I would say an unsavoury way, and frantically in addition to some disbelief, searched the thick rough. He found it , picked it up with a furious expression on his face and stomped up the fairway without a word and ahead of us all.
A few holes later he had somehow fallen out with Kenny after ending up in a bunker. He fluffed his first shot and angrily claimed it wasn’t a bunker to the amusement of the group, for it was certainly a deep hole with a lot of sand in it. After this he decided to take his own trolley up the fairway and leave poor Kenny trailing behind him in obvious embarrassment. At this point Gary our ex-RAF caddie, 6 foot 5 rugby second row, had words with the guys and suggested that he should take over Pierre’s bag. Pierre’s feathers were slightly smoothed but not without a few other small incidents.
He was finally pleased with himself on the 18th as he hit a rather impressive shot from the rough behind the green to about five feet. Gary said ‘good shot’ but Pierre sprang across the green and explained that there had been a big clump of rough behind the ball and that ‘it was actually an excellent shot’.
Ooh la la!