European caddie heads behind enemy lines
Northern Irishman will be on Brook Koepka’s bag at the Ryder Cup
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