Caddies are never far from the spotlight and have a unique perspective on the world of high-level professional sport.
“The influence (of Eddie) on my game, I cannot overestimate.”
There is a treasure trove of caddy stories, like the hapless fellow who is responsible for the name of the 10th hole – called South America – on the Women’s British Open’s host course, Carnoustie.
Legend has it that he boasted drunk that he had emigrated to the distant continent the next day, only to be found in the morning asleep on the green.
And so the hole acquired its unique name.
Veteran Caddy Billy Foster – The Englishman who worked with Gordon Brand Jr., Seve Ballesteros, Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Tiger Woods at the 2005 Presidents Cup and currently Matt Fitzpatrick, has seen it all in almost 40 years of caddy.
He recalled what the profession was like in the 1980s – sleeping in tents, buses and even a bush on a French highway one night, living without a cell phone or credit card, without a meter book, and even standing in the middle of ‘a practice catching balls from other players trying not to get hit.
“The goal posts have changed slightly,” he told CNN Sport.
“There was no footage back then, so you had to go there on Monday and draw your own yardage book with the trundle wheel. It only took seven to eight hours.”
Sunesson, like Foster, told CNN in 2018 that she started shopping around as a way to travel and see places.
“Back then, there was no idea making money in the game,” added Foster, who said the ex-pros are now considering the career choice.
Even three-time Grand Slam tennis champion Andy Murray is excited to caddy – although as a perfectionist there might be one aspect of the job that could keep him awake at night.
Fifteen nightmare clubs
To this day, Foster even wakes up several times a year with a cold sweat causing about 15 clubs to panic, one more than the legal amount introduced in the 1930s.
“You try to take the club out, then three more appear, then there are 18 clubs in the bag, you get rid of them and five more appear! It’s the caddy’s worst nightmare.”
Miles Byrne, former Masters champion, Woosnam’s caddy, broke the news to his boss when he was at the top of the standings.
“I immediately felt for Miles. It is the cardinal error, and it has happened several times. It may have been at Roland Garros or the Spanish Open, but being in the last group, leading the Open Championship… that’s a horrible, horrible thought. “
Foster spoke of how fate worked against Woosnam and Byrne that Sunday, from the Welshman bringing a spare driver to the pit ahead to polish his game to rumors of being rushed off the tee – the par-three first.
“Woosie played all week with only one rider in the bag, a headgear. You would have thought it might have been a bit of a giveaway that there were two headgear.
“But Woosie was pulling him on the range, and his trainer Pete Cowen told Woosie to hit a few six irons before starting because exceptionally Lytham starts with a par threes.”
As they made their way to the first hole, Cowen’s seemingly last words to Byrne were “Remember to put the spare driver in the locker” before it all fell apart.
“What’s the first thing you do on the first tee? You take off the headgear,” Foster said.
“But the first one at Lytham is a par 3. So Miles has the pine leaf, give Woosie the yardage, he hits a six iron again, stone dead, birdie.
“He’s now leading the Open, at 43, his last chance really, and I know Miles took two steps off the first tee and saw both drivers. And wanted to be sick. He got about 10 yards. before the first green and said ‘Woosie, you’re going to get ballistic.’ “
Footage of Woosnam angrily throwing the club into the bushes followed, while Foster says he allegedly jumped the fence on the nearby railroad line.
“I would have been lying there waiting for Lytham’s three hours to pass and take my head off.
“It must have been the most horrible feeling, you would never get over it, and to this day I bet Miles never did and neither did Woosie.”
“I thought that but I didn’t say it”
It is not always a bumpy road. Long-term partnerships like Jim “Bones” Mackay and Phil Mickelson flourished for 25 years, winning five majors between 2004 and 2013.
Or the unlikely pair of Andy Sutton and Ben Curtis at the 2003 Open – the duo met a week before American Curtis became the first man since Ouimet to win a major on his first try.
Padraig Harrington and Ronan Flood, three-time major winner and European captain of the 2021 Ryder Cup, are another partnership that has stood the test of time, while American Chad Lamsback has been credited for his local knowledge, Japanese skills and composure by 2021 Augusta National Women’s Amateur winner Tsubasa Kajitani.
“Today’s caddy is called Chad, and Chad has been a caddy for a few Japanese before,” said the 17-year-old. “That’s why we just trust him.”
A number of players have employed family members or friends as shopping carts since the coronavirus pandemic, and even before that, Rory McIlroy brought his friend Harry Diamond in his bag. Dustin Johnson’s brother Austin has been a caddy for the 37-year-old’s two major titles.
Mickelson’s brother Tim was alongside the American as the 51-year-old became the oldest major champion in May, and Brooke Henderson’s sister Brittany has hiked the aisles with the Canadian major winner.
Former President of the European Tour Caddies Association and owner of The Tour Caddies Sean Russell, who caddied for multiple winner Kenneth Ferrie and Diana Luna on the Ladies’ European Tour as well as the Solheim Cup 2009, said that the Covid rules had been a clear factor in the changing of the guard.
“If you’re going to be spending a lot of time with someone, you better be with a friend,” he told CNN Sport.
“I think Covid accelerated what was a trend before that: having a friend, husband, wife on the bag. Rory gets a lot of criticism in the ‘Twittersphere’ but you won’t hear a single caddy say that Harry is a bad caddy – he’s really good. Lee Westwood and Helen too, I dare anyone to say they don’t seem like a good combination.
“I always say you can teach someone to be a shopping cart, but you can’t teach them to be your companion.”
Russell has four key principles he has always stuck to as a caddy: doing the basics well, being adaptable, being able to get along with anyone, and having the ability to overcome things.
“I think caddies have pretty thick skin, some more than others,” he said.
“When I was a caddy the first question I asked the player was, ‘What do you hate about caddies or what do you hate doing with caddies? “
“The response always varied between things like caddies saying, ‘I thought that but I didn’t say it’, or another player said he didn’t want caddies to be too defensive. If it’s six feet from the right of the green, we go to the hairpin. Don’t make me play on the left. ‘”
Foster has one main piece of advice: choose your golfing spouse carefully.
“It’s 30 weeks a year, it’s more of a relationship than a marriage, so you have to be able to get along.
“The art of the caddy is to be positive and engage in your responses. When the player asks a question, be prepared. I pretty much know the answer before they ask the question.”
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