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Scottish Caddies: A Dying Breed?

Jock Mitchell

Royal Troon, Western Gailes, Glasgow Gailes

Age 68

"I used to be a scratch golfer, but that was before I had two hip operations. I still get to experience great golf, though, when I caddie for a really good amateur; the only difference is he hits the shots for me. You can usually tell the good players after a single practice swing or by looking into their bag. If there's a two-iron in there, that's usually a sign the guy knows what he is doing.

But even the good ones have problems when they come to play in Scotland, especially when they get in the deep-fronted bunkers. In America they are used to bunkers like upturned soup plates—kid's stuff! I tell them to swing long and slow and don't panic.

The other thing that gets them is they can't play the knockdown half shot. They try to hit every shot high. Trust me, that isn't going to work here. As for those stupid lob wedges everybody carries these days, I wish they'd ban them. In Scotland, you take an eight-iron and bump it up on to the green, just like God intended. Forget the damn lob wedge."

Ronnie Little

Gleneagles

Age 60

"A lot has changed since I started caddying at Gleneagles in the early 1980s. Back then you had guys who'd spent the night sleeping under a hedge and would turn up to caddie the next morning. Some of the caddies used to wear long black coats and flat caps out on the course, even on roasting-hot days. Can you imagine how hot they must have been?The caddie shack used to be an absolute dump. Nowadays Gleneagles gives us a smart uniform, and the caddie shack is a smashing wee place. The only thing that will never change are the golfers—the good, the bad and the indifferent.

I like caddying in matches where there's money at stake. Then you find out who's got the bottle. A couple of years back there was a group of twelve golfers who all put up a £5,000 stake, with the money split into first, second and third prizes. The guy I was caddying for was leading after the first day. The next day he couldn't hit the ball for toffee. He fell apart. That's the thing about golf: You might be able to fool people for a little while, but eventually the game will find out exactly what kind of player you really are and what kind of character you are—a man or a mouse."

Jimmy Bowman

The Old Course, St. Andrews

Age 70

"I've been caddying at the Old Course for thirty-four years. Back then you would get £2.50 per round. These days it's £40 a round and, if the golfer wants, a tip on top of that. The money is decent, but that's not the point. The point is I get to call the Old Course my office. How many people can say that?

I've only tried to play golf once in my life, and I was hopeless. I got a couple of balls airborne, but that was about it. But you don't have to be a good player to be a good caddie. When I started this job, I decided that if I didn't know something I'd ask someone the answer.

Most of the trouble on the Old Course is down the right-hand side, so you try to steer people away from that. But don't give them too much information—'there's bunkers over here and over here,' and so on. Just give them the line off the tee and not much else; otherwise they get scared.

People have traveled thousands of miles to play golf at the Old Course. They are overexcited. My job is to settle them down. I tell them to treat it as if they are playing on a Saturday morning at their home club. Some can do that, but most can't, and it takes them six holes before they calm down.

The best thing about the job?To see someone walking off the eighteenth green with a huge smile on their face after playing really well. I'll miss that when I give all this up."

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