ON THE BAG & STALK­ING STEVE WIL­LIAMS

Golf Australia - - GOLF IS GOOD - EX­CLU­SIVE B Y AN­DREW DADDO | GOLF AUS­TRALIA COLUM­NIST

I’M on the range pre-dawn of day one for the New Zealand Open. The gen­tle hum of a gen­er­a­tor pump­ing wattage into the flood­lights is the bass line to the non-rhyth­mic thwack of golf clubs col­lid­ing with golf balls.

As you can imag­ine, it is a “pinch me” mo­ment: in­side the ropes, pro golfers ev­ery­where and ac­cess to free bot­tles of wa­ter. First, I’m drawn to the golfers, crunch­ing balls into obliv­ion and won­der­ing how they man­age to have al­most ex­actly the same golf swing. But it wasn’t one golfer who had me star­ing, it was the man be­hind the golfer.

Steve Wil­liams, golf’s most fa­mous bag­man was on the range. Crisp white polo tucked into im­pos­si­bly pressed shorts, white socks, clean run­ners and wrap­around sun­glasses. God, I wanted to talk to him. You see, on this day, I wasn’t just a punter (well I was) but I was also on the bag for Paul Gow. This was my first real cad­dy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, there had to be some­thing Steve could of­fer: some gem, some in­sight that would help me help my guy. Gowie had been hon­est and up front from the be­gin­ning. He was very mat­ter-of-fact about our re­la­tion­ship. I was work­ing for him, he owned my arse, don’t speak un­less spo­ken to, keep up, and, “I swear to God if you try and give me a line on a putt I will forcibly re­move part of your anatomy.” Or some­thing like that. Still, to me, we were a team and he was my guy.

If I could get to the Steve Wil­liams for some tips – even one good one, there’d be a chance me and my guy could do some­thing spe­cial. It’s not that I didn’t have faith in Gowie’s golf game, I did. I do. But he’s al­most a decade beyond hit­ting golf balls for a liv­ing. He’s been through the dark days sell­ing mort­gages, the lighter days sit­ting on a couch talk­ing golf and these days, trav­el­ling the world for The Golf Show. The 2018 NZ Open would be his third pro­fes­sional tour­na­ment in seven years. If I was ner­vous, he must have been close to crap­ping him­self.

But I couldn’t muster the courage to talk to Steve. Not at the range – too many peo­ple, I hadn’t pre­pared an open­ing line, “hello” didn’t feel like it was go­ing to be enough.

Later, at the putting green, with Ryan Fox go­ing through his paces, The Big Dub was right in front of me. Drib­bling dis­tance, and he’s not ac­tu­ally that big. So, this was the mo­ment where I could get that sage ad­vice I needed for my guy.

Steve could tell me not to stand on Gowie’s left when he hits. A good caddy would know a golfer has a side they like, and Gowie’s side is right. He’d tell me when my guy was ask­ing me a golf ques­tion he prob­a­bly didn’t want an an­swer. That when he was go­ing through the num­bers and yardages, it wouldn’t be for me to add any­thing, it was for his own re­in­force­ment. And I’m guess­ing Steve would know what to do if things went a lit­tle pear-shaped. We all know it’s hard enough play­ing golf with mates and watch­ing them blow up, but it’s an en­tirely dif­fer­ent mat­ter when some­one’s play­ing for a pay cheque.

Trag­i­cally, I couldn’t bring my­self to talk to Steve – I was over­awed by the oc­ca­sion and his pres­ence and the gen­eral fear of mak­ing a dick of my­self.

My guy came out of the blocks pretty well. There was an early flir­ta­tion with the top of the leaderboard when we got to three un­der, it was ex­cit­ing, and fun, and re­ally in­ter­est­ing from a golf nerd point of view. It is a cool feel­ing when your guy is on a leaderboard, I sus­pect it’s the same when you’re rid­ing in the Mel­bourne Cup and you can’t see a horse in front when you hit the Flem­ing­ton straight ... you can’t help but pray that they hang on.

Gowie sep­a­rates greens into green and red zones – stop and go. Its land­ing dis­tances as op­posed to dis­tance dis­tances, there are right and wrong sides of the fair­way: and whilst I know this stuff, but I’d never seen it ac­tu­ally prac­ticed.

Things got re­ally in­ter­est­ing on the 15th when Gowie ‘lost his swing’. He used that phrase a cou­ple of times. I tried to of­fer pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment to help him find his groove, and as clichéd phrases like “you’ll be right,” and “you look good,” and “stick at it, ev­ery­thing’s go­ing well,” tum­bled out of my mouth, I could tell it was piss­ing him off.

In the end I went back to Gowie’s first bit of ad­vice. Keep up, shut up and don’t read putts. And it was as much fun as you could have on a stun­ning golf course with­out hit­ting golf balls. He man­aged one un­der with me on the bag, and four un­der with a ran­dom caddy on day two. It wasn’t quite enough, seven un­der was the cut, but ‘My Guy’ did well.

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