Euro­pean cad­die heads be­hind en­emy lines

North­ern Ir­ish­man will be on Brook Koepka’s bag at the Ry­der Cup

7 Days in Dubai - - SPORT -

Ricky El­liott al­ways hoped he could be in the Ry­der Cup, the dream of any as­pir­ing golfer from Portrush in North­ern Ire­land.

He fi­nally got there as a cad­die, which is not un­usual. Ex­cept that he’ll be work­ing for the other side.

“I’ll be get­ting plenty of good nee­dle, but it’s all in good fun,” said El­liott, the cad­die for Amer­i­can ace Brooks Koepka for the last three years. “When­ever I’m out here, I stay with Kenny (Com­boy), Billy (Fos­ter) and all the other Euro­pean cad­dies be­cause we have the same things in com­mon. I still am Euro­pean.

“When it comes down to the matches, might they be a lit­tle wary in the team meet­ing? You just don’t know.

“But it’s all about get­ting the cup back to this side of the pond. And I’m work­ing for the Amer­i­can team.”

El­liott is cer­tainly go­ing against the grain, with few Euro­pean cad­dies hav­ing worked with Amer­i­cans dur­ing the Ry­der Cup. In fact there have been sev­eral cases where cad­dies have re­fused due to split loy­al­ties.

So do the Amer­i­can cad­dies have any wor­ries about El­liott’s abil­ity to re­main un­bi­ased?

“I have no wor­ries about him,” said John Wood, who cad­dies for Matt Kuchar and will be work­ing at his sixth Ry­der Cup. “There might be some out there I would be con­cerned about, but not Ricky.

“I think he’ll jump right into the feel of the team and be part of it. I think it would be dif­fi­cult if you had some­body who had been on a Euro­pean Ry­der Cup team and then came into the US room.

“But for Ricky, it will be a fresh ex­pe­ri­ence for him.”

El­liott played col­lege golf at Toledo and stayed in Amer­ica. He lives in Florida near Graeme McDow­ell, one of his best friends from Portrush, and de­cided last year to be­come a US cit­i­zen.

“I had to say a sen­tence in English and I had to spell a word, and I just squeaked by that,” El­liott said in his sing-song Ir­ish lilt.

“There was about 80 of us in the room and 2,000 peo­ple had come to watch. I was there on my own, sit­ting be­side a wee Chi­nese man wav­ing the flag. It was cool. I’ve spent half my life over here. You’re still al­ways where you’re from, but I’m pleased as punch to be an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen.”

El­liott was try­ing to find a golf pro job dur­ing the eco­nomic down­turn in 2008 when he cad­died for Maarten Lafeber on the Euro­pean Tour.

He was be­tween jobs when Koepka, who be­gan his ca­reer on the Euro­pean Tour, re­ceived an ex­emp­tion to the 2013 PGA Cham­pi­onship and his reg­u­lar cad­die had visa prob­lems.

“First time I ever met him was on the range at the PGA,” said El­liott. “He’s strip­ing th­ese shots and I’m like, ‘Happy days.’ I was still in Europe, but you know what it’s like when you see a good player.

“He made the cut that week, played with Tiger (Woods) on Sun­day and said to me in the locker room, ‘Do you fancy do­ing a few in Europe?’” They’ve been to­gether ever since. Koepka won in Turkey in 2014 and won the Phoenix Open the fol­low­ing year. He is No. 22 in the world, play­ing in his first Ry­der Cup.

And he never thought twice about hav­ing any­one but El­liott on his bag. El­liott never con­sid­ered sit­ting out. The cad­die lives at Lake Nona in Or­lando, home to some of Europe’s finest in the Ry­der Cup over the years - McDow­ell, Justin Rose, Ian Poul­ter and Hen­rik Sten­son.

“It will be fun for Ricky,” said Ben Cur­tis, who won his most re­cent event with El­liott on the bag.

“Once you get into it, it’s the same as when you’re play­ing against one of your good friends in the fi­nal round. You want to beat them. And this will be the same thing.”

He may be friendly with some of the Euro­pean con­tin­gent and Ir­ish at heart, but for three days, El­liott will be fly­ing the flag of the United States and cheer­ing as fa­nat­i­cally as any other mem­ber of the team.

“It’s all about get­ting the cup back to this side of the pond.” – CAD­DIE RICKY EL­LIOTT

A EURO­PEAN HELP­ING THE UNITED STATES: North­ern Ir­ish­man Ricky El­liott will cad­die for Brooks Koepka at the Ry­der Cup

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