John Daly Golf Clinic

Was out on The Old Course yesterday at 610, and that was 610 in the evening! I think the Links call these ‘dark tee off’ times for obvious reasons. Yes, we played the last two holes in the complete dark, which was pretty majestic actually, as the town nestled in for the night, with the R&A splendidly lit up next to the illuminated dome of Hamilton Grand, which looked rather, well, grand.

Had a very amusing and interesting round with Richard Jaffe and his son Brett, and Dean who works at Pittormie Castle. Richard had the most wonderful short game, especially putting, that I think I have ever witnessed. I inquired about it and he said that he was highly competitive, and was fed up being beaten and jibed at by his friends. So he has spent fifteen years perfecting his short game. He had twenty nine putts round The Castle Course in the morning which in my mind is a near miracle, and went on to putt brilliantly on The Old Course. He sorted out Dean’s putting in the process. Anyway, all I can say is that Richard is going to be an awesome player after he puts that effort in to his longer game.

Dean was recounting how they’d had John Daly staying for a few days the previous week, after The Open. He seemingly gave a clinic alongside Fred Funk. Fred started off and explained all his helpful routines and thoughts about the golf swing etc and handed on to Mr Daly, who started his warm up by lighting a fag which he says was to give him an idea of the wind direction, and then pulled out his driver and proceeded to blast it three hundred yards up the middle. And the warm up was over.

Dean was saying that he kept ordering pepperoni pizza’s from Domino’s in town, and was not swayed by the fact that Pittormie Castle has five excellent chefs on board. Yes, I think we can say that Mr John Daly is his very own man.

Old Tam and the tale of two Tips

I overheard a lovely story in Drouthy Neebor’s the other day as regular Old Tam was talking to a visitor about golf and St Andrews. It was quite sweet as this other older gentleman had got the bus up from Edinburgh, which he does a few times a year, to spend a bit a of time in a place he loves and has many happy family memories about. He was having his lunch by himself.

Anyway, the two gents got talking and were soon on to the subject of our famous game. Old Tam said that golf used to be free for the citizen’s of St Andrews until the Town Council tried to levy a six shillings charge to pay for it. The non golfers were up in arms about this and there went the free golf. However, it is still pretty cheap and I remember distinctly having to pay fifteen pounds for my yearly Links ticket as a student here. It is now about two hundred pounds a year for residents of St Andrews.

The two older gents got on to talking about the legendary caddie young Tip Anderson who was Arnold Palmer’s caddie. I actually had the pleasure of meeting him when I worked in the old Castle Bar as a student. He was very attached to this place and even turned down Arnie’s offer of buying him a house in the States to entice him to emigrate.

Old Tam recounted a story of Old Tip who was also a caddie and how he had been out on the Old Course one day with a garrulous American, who seemingly said that if Loch Ness had been in the States they would have made more out of it. Well Old Tam was having none of this and seemingly said to the chap ‘if yee could sook as weil as ye can blaw’ it would be a much better thing * and proceeded to lay down the man’s clubs and walk off the course.

* Old Scots meaning you are talking a lot of hot air with an implication that one should shut one’s mouth. Modernly said as ‘f’ing shut it’.


A wizard from Kansas

We were out with four lovely blokes from Kansas yesterday. And what a very decent bunch of people they were and a complete joy to be with. Dave Jack, our excellent man from Dornoch, had the bag of Jamie who was the mellowest and most good natured Attorney that I have ever come across. Not that I have come across that many I dare say, but this guy was just one very sweet and collected dude. Dave got on famously with him.

I had the bag of Mike who was a witty, retired insurance man who was having a mixed day with his golf. However, on the par 3’s he showed moments of brilliance. The eighth at The Castle was playing very tough with a strong down wind and the pin positioned just over a ridge, and precariously placed at the very back of the green. I said to play it in from the right and use the up slope to try and check the ball. Anyway he did just that, hitting the most marvellous shot which looked in all the way, only it rolled up and lipped the cup, to end up two feet past the pin, at which point I shouted ‘you missed it!’  A great two though.

The next, the tenth, was playing about 180 and Mike hits a lovely shot straight at the pin, at which point I shout ‘that has got to be in’, but unfortunately it goes to three feet. So expectations are high on our signature hole par 3 seventeenth which is playing a 210 shot into a stiff breeze. Mike hits a superb three wood over the cliff to about twenty five feet and I exclaim  ‘that has birdie written all over it’. (At this point I think Mike thinks I’m on something). We go for a cup to the right and Mike hits a lovely putt which looks like it is just going to stop on the edge but falls in. Mike has assuredly established himself as the par 3 wizard from Kansas.

He tells me a lovely story of how he was playing Old Head with his wife a few years ago (Old Head is a golf course in Ireland by the way) and there was a par 5 at which he hit two good shots, and was left with about a hundred foot long, meandering putt for his eagle. He discussed it with his caddie and then proceeded to sink it. He said that an ‘old codger’ had been watching all this on the sidelines and immediately shouted across to them, exclaiming ‘good line caddie!’.

Well I suppose you don’t fly three thousand miles and spend all that money for nothing.

A day at The Open

Had a miraculous day at The Open as I met up with old friend JP who is Global Business Director for Wilson in Chicago. I literally hadn’t seen him in  27 years and so when he came walking across the players putting green, while casually saying hello to John Daly, I kind of got the idea that JP has firmly established himself in the golfing world. I always knew that he would make a success of whatever he did since I lived with him in Hampstead many moons ago, and witnessed him ironing his socks. Yes ironing his socks. And yes I thought then that any man who irons his socks will go far in life. And he has.

In his usual nonchalent way he managed to get me a pass which enabled me to get into the players area too, and I was soon amongst the good and great in the game. There was a bit of a stir as Rory McIlroy walked out and straight passed me as he headed for some serious autograph signing to a queue which had been building for over two hours. I was quite agassed as he walked straight by me without any acknowledgment and without getting my signature. I guess he had other things on his mind or was dying for a pee or something.

Anyway, I am of the opinion that these guys are taking things a bit too seriously here. One bloke has pegged out fifteen tees at different lengths from the hole and looks very determined and serious and concentratedI guess he has putting issues.

I always think that most of these guys just need to chill a bit before a huge event like this. I mean there’s a champagne tent out here and I made damn sure that was my first stop when I arrived. I asked the girl for a glass of the stuff and she said they didn’t really do glasses. My heart fell and then I furthered my cause by asking what do you mean ‘not really’, and she basically said that they did a tiny wee bottle which contained a bit more than a glass, and I intimated that I could handle that. She then said that it would be nineteen quid and I tried to not look too bowled over.

Anyway, as I was saying, why don’t some of the players pop down to the champers tent and shoot the breeze with some of the crowd. I am sure I would. Would be refreshing and probably put them in a damn site better frame of mind than slogging it out on the range and pegging it out on the putting green, or sitting in an autograph queue. I mean just get your nineteen quid out guys and relax. Even if it’s only Lansen. Does the trick.

I headed for the Golf Punk Caddy Shack in down town Troon and caught CEO Tim and Ben at a very bad time. They had just been on the phone to the police who had told them they couldn’t put their blimpse up and they were none too pleased. They were not for consoling and Tim looked like he needed to head for the champers tent and get his nineteen quid out promptly.

Anyway, I had a nice wee catch up with the Golf Punk boys but unfortunately didn’t get to meet the golf nurse, who sounded interesting. Great stuff from Golf Punk again. What a class outfit they are.

JP was telling me that Wilson had put him and his wife up in The lovely Marine Hotel on the golf course when he had just got married and they were at breakfast with Seve and Sergio next to them. JP said ‘do you know who they are?’ and his delightful non golfing Japanese wife just said ‘No’.

And as I well know, the Japanese tell it straight.


Straight Putts!

It is great when clients come back and you remember them from previous years. I had that the other day when I met Arjen and Ron again, from Amsterdam. Two very good guys who love their golf and are quite taken by their annual trip here for which they make sure they put money aside throughout the winter. They brought along Bob this year who was a dead ringer for Louis Oosthuizen and they made a very fun trio.

I took the bag of Arjen or R as he is known. He is a very big guy and it turns out he used to play baseball for his country and has now got hooked on golf. He is a very enthusiastic and energised bloke and a delight to caddie for. It helps that I am out with two really decent caddies, Tony and Willie and we all have many laughs and much jibing.

R and I seem to be getting a lot of straight putts and by the seventh hole it has become a bit of a joke that I am being non-committal to giving left or right lines and going for a judicial straight. Of course this is highly unlikely on the Castle Course as the greens have more humps and bumps and turns than Boris Johnson. However, it amazingly turns out that R’s putts end up very much on a level plane.

It reminded me of a story told by young caddie Keith who had an up tight Italian playing in the Eden Club World Team Champ last week. He was taking it very seriously and inferred that Keith had given the wrong line to him.  His ball missed and he was obviously very irrated by this. He then shouted ‘straight!’ in demonstration to  Keith who had rightly given an outside left line. The chap had battered it through the line and the ball had ended up fifteen feet past the hole. Keith felt like saying yes it’s straight if you are going to give it the velocity of an Exocet missile.

But with R it was all great fun and teasing and we all had many laughs with it. I was only slightly concerned on the par 3  seventeenth when R had hit a glorious shot to fifteen feet and was putting for birdie. The putt was nearly straight but not quite. We jested and then I intimated outside the left and walked towards the hole as Bob and Ron were coming onto the green, at which point I just couldn’t resist saying ‘no straight’, at which point they laughed and R, I think, was put in two minds. And of course, he hit it straight and it missed! Luckily R was an excellent guy with a lovely nature and I was forgiven.

Anyway, down the last R hits three very good shots on the long par 5 to about thirty feet. Now to get the sense of this you must realise that the eighteenth green at The Castle is a huge sway of mounds and rises and is not dissimilar to the Himalayas putting green in town. And of course we are all walking up to the green, eyeing his ball in relation to the flag and thinking it can’t be. And yes the ball has incredibly settled in the middle of the only valley on the green and it leads directly up to the pin. There are a few moments of quietude and rising incredulity as I do earnestly declare ‘STRAIGHT’.

Unfortunately, R’s putt this time wasn’t.

Caddie Shacklings !

Was out with a really fun Irish guy called Brian the other day from the K Club in Dublin who had just got back from Lyon watching the footy. He had never been across here before and had indeed had to turn down a game on the Old only a few weeks ago as he had work commitments. But here he was now and what a fun guy. You know the sort of Irishman who has that twinkle in his eye and a very quick sense of humour.

We shared our stories of Marbella as he used to have apartments there and it was a place where I worked one summer as an Animateur du Golf for Club Med. Somehow trying to teach, mostly women, to play golf in French. So if you do come across any French ladies with weird and wonderful swings then mention Marbella. I have a slight conscience about that.

I recalled my story of how I’d been to the rugby once in Dublin and managed to consume 24 pints of Guinness and meet the most pretty Irish lass called Maraid. I recounted how I fell badly for her but didn’t manage to get her phone number on the Saturday evening. So I desperately called up the local radio station on the Monday morning and, to my surprise, was put immediately on air to describe my plight.

‘Hi we have got Keith from Edinburgh here? said the announcer who immediately claimed that I didn’t sound Scottish which I don’t. He then asked me to describe Maraid and I said that she was ‘very pretty, had mousy brown hair and a lisp’.

´Oh’ said the guy ‘and anything else?’

‘well she had a six pack…’ I said, and then I immediately heard the announcer shout ‘CUT !!’ and I was no longer on air. Of course, I only knew she had a six pack because she told me that, and I was just about to try a wee bit of humour by adding ‘of Guinness on her’ but alas. Or to be more accurate- no lass!

My vital opportunity on air was suddenly curtailed, my attempt at live wit undermined and the end of a story about a very lucky escape for a young lady called Maraid.

Anyway, Brian laughed at my wee anecdote and I think he liked my enterprising attempt to find love and was surprised, even for a seasoned Irishman, at my ability to knock back the local stout.

Alas, these days are over.

And alas things are never perfect in life either. Although this round with Brian was certainly one of the best and most enjoyable caddying rounds I have ever done, you can understand how I was a bit dismayed when one of our caddies, who had my chap Brian the next day, said to me that I had talked ‘a pile of crap’ to him!

Hmm. Very interesting theory and statement from a caddie who doesn’t really know me and certainly doesn’t know my past.

The ‘pile of crap’ is now a mystery to me as I asked the said caddie to expand upon these, let’s say, inflammatory words, and funnily he walked away and said arrogantly ‘ I have bigger fish to fry’.

Well my word of advice to him would only be that maybe he should stick to frying the bigger fish.