The caddy craft

Ireland is the home of Champions: Harrington, McIlroy, McDowell and Clarke. But what about the unsung heroes of Irish golf: the caddies. According to golf writer Brian Keogh, they’re solid gold

In Ireland, you’ll still find experienced characters to carry your bag (or bags) around your preferred courses like Portmarnock, Royal County Down, Lahinch or Ballybunion. If you’re very lucky, still, you might even come across a future major champion trying to make some extra pocket money to support his burgeoning golfing career.

Once a caddy, now a star

Take Graeme McDowell – former US Open winner and Ryder Cup star – who was approached by two American fans brandishing a photograph during a US Tour event.

“You caddied for us at Royal Portrush in 1999,” they said, proudly producing their snapshot showing a young McDowell standing between them.

“Though I caddied for quite a few Americans, meeting these guys again is a first for me,” McDowell said. “I would have got about £50, plus a tip for carrying those two bags, which probably represented my pocket-money back then for playing in an amateur event somewhere in Ireland.”

Don’t blame the caddy

Anyone who has ever played a tough links course in Ireland with the help of a local caddie will tell you that it is worth every cent.

You’ll save you plenty of strokes and you are unlikely to lose many balls. Of course, blaming your caddie for your own poor play is unlikely to do you much good.

“You have to be the worst caddie in the entire world,” said a golfer to his faithful sidekick after a particularly tough day on an Irish links.

The caddie’s reply has entered golfing folklore: ”I don’t think so, sir,” he replied. “That would be too much of a coincidence.”

Tricks up their sleeve

Of course, there was a time when caddies would go to extremes to get the maximum reward for the hard work. It came to light many years ago that the caddies at Lahinch were going a little too far.

The par-three fifth at the County Clare links course, known as The Dell, is completely blind with players forced to aim at a white stone on the top of the massive dune that squats in front of the green.

Caddies would often volunteer to go ahead to the green, just in case their golfer’s ball should stray into the rough. Believing a hole-in-one would mean a big tip, it became common practice for caddies to jump up and down crying, “It’s in, it’s in,” before sneaking any ball that had landed remotely near the flag into the hole.

Customer satisfaction

Wherever you play, from Malin Head to Mizen Head, you’re sure to save a few shots along the way.

Now here’s a lead that is hard to beat – one lucky caddie was the recipient of a $100 tip, considerably more than the customary charge of about $12 back in the early 1990’s.  But it didn’t stop there, as a bonus the caddie was also given as  a gift the player’s clubs, bag, shoes and waterproofs. That sure made for one happy caddie – he must have given some great tips along the way or a hole in one surely was achieved during the course of play! 

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