If you've played golf in Scotland, you have a caddie story or two. Here's one of mine:
It's about fifteen years ago, and dawn is breaking on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland. I'm behind the wheel of a rental car, winding along the coastal road with my brother, headed to Turnberry for an early tee time on the Ailsa course. Despite the hour, we're pretty excited, never having played there before. Five miles or so before we arrive, we round a bend and our chatter is interrupted by the site of a middle-aged guy hitchhiking at the side of the road. I immediately hit the brakes, but at the same instant I realize that we've absolutely no place to put the fellow—the tiny rental is stuffed to the gills with our clubs and luggage. I look at my brother: What should we do?We feel bad—there's not a lot of traffic out at this hour—but there's really no choice. I wince, hit the gas and drive on, trying not to catch the hitchhiker's sour look. "You watch," I say. "That guy will be my caddie."
Well, you know how it ends. We check in, warm up, head over to the first tee and, sure enough, there's the guy standing by my bag. Neither he nor I acknowledge the incident, though I probably should have—I proceed to lose two balls on the first hole. I wasn't happy about it at the time, but looking back now, I have to admit that justice was served.
The moral of the story is: Always, always make room for a caddie, especially when playing in Scotland. It's necessary on unfamiliar courses for all the obvious reasons, but mostly because it enriches everything about the experience, particularly if you can get an old-timer on your bag—for example, one of the characters features in "The Last Bag Men" by Lawrence Donegan. More than mere loopers, these men are legends, and I'm pleased to honor their exertions in our pages.
Plus, I'm hoping that by publishing their stories I will have appeased the golf gods before my next trip to Turnberry.