Had three lovely guys from Virginia yesterday who played out of the Winchester Country Club and were over on a tour of Ireland and Scotland. They had been soaked on Royal County Down the previous day and were glad to see the sunshine over the St Andrews Links. It was lucky however that they were not playing Carnoustie, as this huge and threatening rain cloud hung and dumped there all afternoon.
Dale, the elderly character in the group had a wistful and witty look and was quite a mean golfer into the bargain. Turns out he had worked in construction all his life, building mainly pubs, and that he had finally decided to build himself one. He now owns a place called Piccadilly’s which is close to the Winchester Course. He intimates, with a wink, that his wife is the boss of the show and that he is the ‘Social Director’. In a pad which turns over two to three million a year I would say that is a pivotal and vital role. I mean it’s really the sort of job the right man could flourish in.
He showed me his golf ball which had the words printed on it ‘redeem for a cocktail at Piccadilly’s’, which was justly honoured to any member of Winchester who happened to find one of Dale’s lost balls!
Now in a round about way I’d call that a very sound piece of marketing.
We were out with three Canadian guys yesterday who were on a pretty high end two week golf tour of Scotland. I had the bag of jovial Marty who turns out to be the CEO of a big credit union in Canada. Then there is John who appears to be a very ‘larger than life’ character who is seemingly into cars in a big way and Paddy who is a top end dentist ie he does implants. I am presuming that John has a major interest in the Canadian car industry as Marty intimates that he is one of the wealthiest blokes in the country.
Anyway, the guys are great fun and booked in at the Old Course Hotel. They have just arrived up from playing Muirfield, where they had been staying at Greywalls, the beautiful Lutyen’s designed country house which now heralds itself as ‘a golfers’ paradise and ‘ dignified holiday home’.
Now, I have never been to Greywalls and at over three hundred a night I guess that’s why. However, being a bit of a foodie I am always keen to hear people’s experiences, especially as the restaurant is under the flagship of a Monsieur Michel Roux.
One of the major attractions of the place, notwithstanding that it sits adjacent to the ninth and eighteenth holes of Muirfield, is that the hotel has several tee off times there each day and this is obviously a major selling point for their ‘package’.
However, the guys were not complimentary of the hotel, nor the food. Seemingly, the rooms were very small and in need of a bit of a refurb, let’s say. John was exasperated as his TV was not working and the staff weren’t able to deal with the technicality of this issue. However, he took matters in his own hands and realised that the Santana antennae wasn’t inserted and the power was off!
However, the worst and most embarrassing event happened at breakfast after John had asked for a five minute boiled egg. Unfortunately, this threw the chef a couple of times and John waited for at least half an hour, while the front of house staff seemingly had to explain that the chef was having issues with it! There were seemingly only four people having breakfast at the time too.
Oh dear Monsieur Roux.
Anyway, I think that was the end with Greywalls for poor John and I expect he felt like that Frenchman who only has one egg for breakfast in wanting to exclaim ‘un oeuf is un oeuf’.
It’s not unwelcomed sometimes if your golfer walks in after nine holes, especially if it’s raining. However, this has now happened on two consecutive days to me, and just to me. The other three golfers in the group have steadfastly carried on, but it’s been my client who has thrown in the towel. And further, it has been a woman in both instances.
Now, I am trying not to get too paranoid about this, but maybe it’s just me and my poor line of chat. First of all lovely Toni, a top News Corp executive complained of having a sore back about the seventh and intimated her retiral at the half way house. And then yesterday, sweet Anina from Beijing developed a very nasty cough down the eighth fairway and bailed out.
Still, I was out with two of the most characterful caddies again, Cologne Tom who is now based at the Old Course and The Coach, who is a very humorous Elvis lookalike musician, who hails from Glasgow. The Coach was saying that he had been out with an R&A chap in the morning who had mused over a tricky short putt and turned and declared ‘just like my ex wife’. The Coach looked questioningly and the chap obliged some further illumination by adding ‘a nasty five footer!’
It was funny when we’d met our clients too, who had been standing outside the caddie shack, patiently waiting for us. I came out first and introduced myself. There were two couples of Chinese origin who looked surprised when the door then opened and the striking six foot five, film star looking Cologne Tom strolled out. He greeted them in his usual charming way and they were just beginning to get their heads round his rather significant persona when suddenly, the shack door opened suddenly again and Tom’s son Zach, who is even taller and is a male model, appeared in his sun glasses and designer stubble, looking like he should be hanging about a red carpet in Cannes rather than the Castle caddie shack.
There was a sudden pause and the little, and slightly shy, Chinese lady giggled and said something in Mandarin to her girlfriend, which I’m sure was not uncomplimentary and I can only guess was roughly translated as ‘Whaaw!!’
Jimmy Ryan met me on the tee of The New yesterday, 72 years old and full of gusto. We got on famously from the first fairway as we got talking about Guinness and Galway women. He told me his campfire story of how he walked into the Bunch of Grapes pub in Galway Town, the day before the oyster festival 17 years ago, and set eyes upon this lady and said to himself ‘there is the future Mrs Ryan’. And it was.
Jimmy is playing with Brian who is a looming six feet seven and just retired from being the State Chief of Police. He turns out to be a most witty and decent bloke too. The guys are here for a few days and playing the Old, the New and Kingsbarns. They are comfortably parked up in The Scores Hotel with a bottle of Aberlour in their room and have decided that ‘a wee dram’ is a very fine thing indeed.
I am out with a fellow caddie, young Tom who has got the most wonderfully broad Lancashire (I think) accent and is great company.
So this turns out to be an almost perfect round as the chat was great and it didn’t rain and the guys played well. The only blemish was when I knocked over Brian’s beer on the 10th tee and I must admit that I’ve never moved so quickly before. However, you don’t get to be the State Chief of Police for nothing and this didn’t go unnoticed. And I suppose, luckily. we were on very good terms by then. Holding it, he wryly said to Jimmy ‘you hit first as my beer has to settle’- it did have a fair froth.
Turns out Jimmy owns a marina in New Jersey and Brian parks up his boat there. I’m just wondering if I pitch up if I’ll be welcomed on for a beer.
No spillage of course. As you know I’m a fair sea hand now. Just not so great on terra firma.
I am becoming more enamoured of the caddie shack at The Castle Course. It really is a very good place to be and to work from. There is generally a great atmosphere and we have our fair share of interesting and mostly very strong characters. Of course, we have an excellent caddie master in Matt who is witty and kind and understanding. Not the sort of man you would want to get the wrong side of mind. If you could that is. He is of a rather imposing stature and would not go unmissed in a Howe of Fife first XV, second row line up.
I walked in yesterday and was greeted by a ‘morning quilted’ from Tony. He has recently started calling me this as I think he’s just read my blog and I have been in the habit of wearing a large black puffer jacket and shorts, which I have been told looks rather ridiculous. I suppose a bit like a Michelin man propped up on two sticks.
The combination of the ‘kilted caddie’ and the image of my puffer jacket look has obviously been too much for the imagination, dry and wry wit of my man Tony to resist. And I must admit it does make me smile.
Anyway Tony asked if he had been mentioned in my blog and I said ‘not yet’.
But that was yesterday.
Taste on North Street is the most wonderful little place. Not only because it’s got the most lovely, intelligent owner Yann and excellent staff, but because of the amazing array of people who pass through every day. In term time it’s mostly full of busy looking undergrads and in the summer of course tourists, of which the majority are golfers.
It has now become my second office and it is a marvellous environment to work, meet people, overhear interesting anecdotes, listen to music, read the papers, be alive, chat and while away a few hours. And, oh yes , they sell great coffee too.
This morning a couple of friendly Canadian gentlemen were talking with a chap who is over from San Francisco. They were all sharing stories and had met a few characterful caddies. One of the gents asked his caddie if he should ‘draw his ball in from the right’, and he seemingly looked at him with slight incredulity and said in his firm, strong Scottish tones ’you could nae draw ae thing in if I gave yee a pencil and paper’. This caused our visitors much amusement.
They recounted another story about their friend asking his caddie if he should hit a nine iron into the pin, a hundred and forty yards away, and the immediate response from the slightly puzzled looking caddie had seemingly been ‘Aye, if yee hit it twice!’
The caddies wit.
Made in Scotland, from girders.
The kilted caddie is not noted for his political slants. But he has become increasingly fascinated by the election going on across the big pond. And now, when out caddying on the links, is eager to ask Americans their views on this huge forthcoming political dilemma. For as far as I can see it has become a dilemma, a choice between a highly charged loose cannon and a lady with a very spurious take on ethics.
And it has become quite clear that this dilemma has forced the hand of a huge number of straight thinking, intelligent and well meaning folk (albeit they do practise golf) to opt for the loose cannon over the minefield of doubt.
Not that we haven’t got an equally fascinating thing going on here. And it is my theory that Boris Johnson is Donald Trump and that we are in a parallel universe. Except that he is more impressively tousled and has natural locks.
This political furore has male hirsuteness at its core. And the kilted caddie is going for a double blond bombshell result here.
A part of this job is that we meet a lot of interesting and sometimes, fairly influential people. And with that comes a lot of varied chat.
I had a guy a couple of weeks back who was actually in negotiations with Donald Trump, with his construction business. He quoted a £2m contract to the Mr T and Mr T phoned personally and said he wanted it for £1.4m and that was all he was willing to pay. Let’s say the contract didn’t go ahead. What an unfortunate way to be? How hard and mercenary. Yuk.
I then caddied for a genial Frenchman Bernard Bourgeois. What a great name for a start. He lived in Paris but said he had a little bit of land in Bordeaux on which it turns out he made wine. And I must try Chateau Brillette one day. Just a shame his tip wasn’t brillette too. But he was a very nice chap.
He told me a story about his club in Paris, Saint Cloud. On the ninth hole you can see the Eiffel Tower and it is seemingly the ideal line for your drive. There is a local legend that the committee members of Saint Cloud used their muscle to persuade the architect’s of the Tour Eiffel to adjust their plans, so that it would indeed give that perfect line. Anyway some visiting Americans were once told of this and by all accounts this made news in the local press back in the States.
I am not meaning to get at the US here but I did once here, on Princess Street in Edinburgh, an American chap somehow exclaim ‘what time does the one o’clock gun go off?’ So I suppose all things are possible. I mean Donald Trump might one day even stand for Presidency.
Oh sorry! Forgot he had.
I caddied for a most interesting chap yesterday on the New Course. He was a former Pebble Beach pastor who had turned himself into a top leadership guru, writer and motivational speaker. He was a canny golfer into the bargain and hit a pretty mean ball from tee to green.
He was funny too, and on hitting his best shots would hearken back to the old adage in his musical southern drawl ‘yeh just like back in 1987’ . Not sure what happened in 1987 but the way he said it, and with his timing, it became increasingly funny throughout the round. The guy certainly had charm and wit in bucketfuls. The other guys in the group were in a state of obsequious reverence.
I enquired more about his writing as I have a wee interest in that side of things, and it turns out this guy is the biggest non fiction writer in the world, having sold 25 million books and is just finishing off his hundred and second, on people realising their capacity. Well I would say John was certainly at pretty full capacity. He seemingly gives speeches to several million people annually, has 22 million followers on twitter and is involved in fifty blogs.
I felt slightly abashed at my own level of writing achievement to date and indicated that my blog hadn’t quite hit the headlines yet, but I had received a comment from a nice chap in Honk Kong who liked it.
I wonder what his new book is called?
It is most interesting this year whilst caddying for Americans to ask them their slant on the Donald Trump election story. It is illuminating to say the least and the bottom line, that I can gather, is that the country has got itself into a bit of a pickle with two pretty unsavoury ingredients.
My man yesterday, a genial executive from New York exclaimed that Mr Trump had probably not been entirely serious at the outset, but soon realised that it was going to come down to a two horse race and he was up against a filly called Hilary. And to keep the analogy going we could say that this filly has had some good breeding and great runs but they are presently being subject to a steward’s enquiry. My man is therefore going for a trump with a joker and it appears that the whole thing is not dissimilar to a game of poker.
On a more serious note, I realised after my morning round yesterday that I had left my lunch at home. I had forty minutes before my next loop. So I rushed into my caddiemaster Matt and said I was going to dash into town to Tescos on my bike. He first looked in disbelief at the possibility that a slightly overweight fifty three year old could manage this two mile hilly journey into St Andrews and back, in this time. And indeed I surprised myself as I returned twenty five minutes later with my Tesco’s bag. However, Matt’s now calling me Lance.
I fore caddied in the afternoon for a lovely Finnish couple and a nice chap from Belgium. We had a fun round and I was amused by their ‘birdie bottle’. Basically, a flask of Jamiesons malt which was used to toast the scoring of a birdie. However, on realising the toughness of the Castle Course this was judiciously, and unanimously, changed to a ‘par bottle’.
The trio hit a bit of form around the turn and became merry. Then Katarine hit a birdie on the eleventh and it was declared that a double dram was merited. However, she then birdied the next and it was decided that things were going swimmingly.
I have been invited out to Helsinki to play the oldest course in Finland, was tipped handsomely and have a most benign view of the Finnish race and golfing traditions.