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.

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