Strolled into the South Street branch of F and D this morning and I think caught the girl slightly off guard by saying ‘one please’. She, slightly nervously, reflected and presumed the item in question was ‘a roll?’. Which I suppose was a fair call as it was earlyish. But I replied incredulously ‘No, a fudge doughnut!’.
The reason some St Andrews students never leave this town, the staple diet of many a discerning caddie, the mecca for fudge doughnut afficiandos throughout the world. Yes, foodies come here from every continent to eat at the Peat Inn. But equally they come here for a Fisher and Donaldson fudge doughnut. Sea air, lovely scenery, great golf, history, a top University. No no. Come on.
Caddying beginning to tail off a bit now. Was impressed yesterday as our young student caddie Neil reprimanded a six foot four bear of an American surgeon chap, for angrily throwing his club. He was notably appeased and looked down sheepishly, and not without a huge amount of respect for gallant Neil.
It’s something that’s very important for the enjoyment of a round and that is the mix of caddies in your group on any given day. It is a big factor and can be a complex one at that. There are just such vast differences in the personality make-up of us caddies as a lot.
We are indeed a strange and eclectic bunch. There are writers and film makers and florists and miners and businessmen. And there are students and stonemasons and policemen and ex servicemen and fishermen and painters and poets and musicians. And I can go on. And then there are the hard core career caddies who are a wonderful lot in themselves. And there are extroverts and introverts and surly and burly ones and drunken and sober ones. And some are very good golfers and some, I dare say, are very bad. But what a wonderful and colorful lot we are.
But over time you know who you do and don’t want to go out with and spend four and a half hours with. And I would say the Caddie Master has a massive task if he tries to consider all this. But what a tough job.
Anyway I knew yesterday I had a lovely crew on board. There was no attempt at oneupmanship or showiness. There were no sides or pretension or any other such silliness. And how refreshing that was.
For we see enough of the child brought out in people by this unrelenting game without having to stoop there ourselves.
Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy have now won five of the last six majors. That is simply the Geordie roar. The question is will it gather momentum, and if I put that down on my betting slip and venture into Ladbrokes before the Masters next spring, will I be met with more than a perplexed look ?
I am not taking bets on it.
The caddying has been going smoothly but damply in places. No real stories to mention other than my lovely American chap Paul the other day, who is so enamoured by St Andrews that he has cancelled three other world trips. He simply wants to spend his holiday time here.
And who can blame him as we walked in over the sea cliffs at The Castle the other evening, and a warm wind blew, and a translucent light glimmered over our old town nestling by the Bay.
If any visiting golfers ever want to get a quick insight into the mild eccentricities of the British character they need only wander down the coast from St Andrews to the lovely village of Elie. Of a summer’s Sunday afternoon you can slip into the beer garden of The Ship Inn, drink good ale and have barbequed prawns and burgers while being entertained by the antics of the pub cricket team playing on the beach.
Yesterday I witnessed one such match against Grange, a very reputable team from Edinburgh, as the visitors. We arrived early and noticed the gradual appearance of all-white attired, middle aged gentlemen arriving in drabs for the match. Except they all seemed a bit worse for wear. And it transpired that the previous day they had played and entertained none other than the famous Marleybone Cricket Club (MCC) into the early hours.
We were blessed with a beautiful afternoon and a sizeable crowd gathered to be entertained by our hungover locals and a Grange team who had never played here before. And I must say they looked slighly wrong footed by the state of the pitch, the encroaching tide and the size of the local support.
Anyhow the game started and a few good overs were bowled and some cracking boundaries hit. However, a local rule is that every player must bowl two overs. And all I can say is that the fourth up for the Grange had either had a very heavy night or had never bowled before. For he had the most ridiculous looking and ineffective action I have ever seen. He was atrocious. He bowled four wide’s and put as much pace on the ball as you would be able to lob a wet pancake. It was wonderful though as he took it all very seriously and looked very much the part with his handle bar moustache and grave demeanour.
At the end of the match things got pretty close and our man at silly mid off dropped what was probably the easiest catch in the history of the game, bringing much laughter from his fellow players. Mind you he was playing at silly mid off.
And then the batsmen made a very grave error. He did not entertain the size and rotundity of his fellow player and decided to go for a quick single. Except the word ‘quick’ was not accurate in describing the movement of his compatriot, who looked salmon pink at the start of his 22 metre journey and dangerously lobster red at the end. He puffed his way half up the wicket and then wheezed to a stop, four metres short of a ball swiftly thrown in to dismiss him. He looked round in disbelief and mildly simmering annoyance at the Herculean expectations of his Grange team mate.
What a fun, fine day.
We were out with a lovely fourball from Singapore yesterday and everything was going swimmingly. Once we had got to understand the subtle nuances of our differing nations’ slants on humour, that is. I was caddying for bubbly June Yeo who was playing with her friend Sabrina. They were in great spirits and whacked a couple of fine drives up the first. We set up the fairway and they were chatting and laughing happily away at which point I turned round and said in my sternest voice ‘No laughing on the golf course please’. There was that few seconds of incredulity while Sabrina’s face went dead solemn. She cowered momentarily and looked, let’s say, sheepish and naughty. I smiled and she said to June ‘He’s joking isn’t he’ and we had a wee laugh.
However she almost got her own back on the 12th. The group had got dispersed over the fairway and I was up at the green advising June on a chip shot while Sabrina hit in from about a hundred metres. I just heard a ‘watch out’ and I looked up and saw a yellow golf ball (Sabrina’s) travelling with severe kinetic energy towards my head. I ducked with my speediest reactions and it just missed me. And I’m not sure if that was a bad shot or not.
I never really cut it in golf as such. I did, I suppose, get to a fairly low handicap and sneaked into the University team but that was about it. I put in a lot of work for that too. However I had poor technique and a wonderful and wayward loop which meant that no swing was ever really the same and ergo the result could be, let’s say, inconsistent. It was extremely frustrating as I played with swing changes and new ideas to no long lasting avail. So I do have a lot of compassion for my fellows out on the course who sometimes find it all a bit too much. Cigars and whisky seem to be a good antidote to all this though. Just wish they’d offered me that kind of thing as a youngster.
I was too much of an all rounder, played cricket and rugby and I think I dabbled in every sport known to mankind. This is no good though to get really good at something. Although I do remember and met Des O’Brien, who supposedly played rugby, hockey, tennis and squash for Ireland and reputedly played a squash match in the morning before popping down to Lansdowne Road for a quick international against Scotland. And indeed my old cricket master Mr Gilbert Parkhouse, whose obituary I read only the other day, whacked a few centuries for England and played rugger for Swansea.
And I remember him very fondly indeed for something he didn’t do. And that was smack my bottom. Our whole year in secondary 2 was in the gym and had been up to some universal mischief. As punishment we all had to bend over and Mr Parkhouse ran the gauntlet with a cricket bat and granted the said punishment to a line of senior year two’s posteriors which extended the length of the Daniel Stewart’s and Melville College gymnasium. Except when he got to me he stopped, reflected and exclaimed in his beautiful Yorkshire tones, which I still hear today, and most earnestly said ‘this boy can play cricket’, hence exempting me from the said punishment. And I think it was the most flattering and heartfelt compliment that I have ever received.
My elderly American chap the other day was an interesting guy. Successful, wealthy, very fit and obviously pretty keen on the old game.
He handed me a card on the first and asked if I would keep his score. This was fine but it became quickly apparent that this was to become a wonderful work of fiction. It started on the second when he duffed a chip and simply put another ball down, played it better and used it. It was essentially a round of on going self given Mulligan’s. Fair call I thought, and maybe that is how golf should be played. I mean they kind of do it in tennis. But I’m not sure if the R and A would buy it.
Things got more colourful though. He hit this good chip shot about fifteen feet past the pin on the 9th and it unfortunately stuck at the top of a little mound, somehow defying gravity. I said bad luck as in most cases it would have rolled back close to the hole. Which is what it did. As he walked past he gave a skilful nudge with his left foot and it rolled to three feet.
The nemesis came on the long 12th where he had a mulligan off the tee, got into the greenside bunker in ‘three’, had a quick stab, dropped another and stabbed again. Failed on two more attempts to get out, then put it to forty five feet and holed it! His wife turned round and said what was that? And he remarkably and unashamedly and astonishingly said a ‘par’!