My good friend Barry, a private club member and 14 handicap, had a lifelong dream of playing the Old Course at St. Andrews. So Barry, a man who already has everything, gave himself a golf vacation to Scotland for his 60th birthday. He invited his golf buddy and business partner, Big Al, to join him. “The trip is on me,” he said. The booking was made on September 4th, the day that reservations for the following year are accepted for all St. Andrews’ Courses. Barry paid the big bucks, booking a double room at the St. Andrews Hotel, to assure a guaranteed tee time on the Old Course.
When the front desk called with a 9 AM (3 AM back home) wake-up call, Barry and Big Al, rolled out of bed suffering from jet-lag and too much of the adult beverage for which the country is known. Two cups of coffee and a heavy Scottish breakfast followed by a pint of stout, Big Al and Barry were ready for some golf. They still had 90 minutes before their 12:30 tee time so they spent a few minutes in the gift shop and a few hundred British pounds on authentic Scottish wool sweaters. The sales person told them that these sweaters were a must with the ever-changing seaside weather. “The only mistake you will make in not owning one!”
Big Al sprung for the sweaters.
They were introduced to “Wee-Willie” who would be their caddie for the magic trip around this historic layout. Wee-Willie, (not his real name of course – all caddies at St. Andrews have nicknames given them by fellow caddies), was a diminutive man standing only about 5’5” with a little body (he could have been a jockey). His fingers on his right hand were stained from the ever present, unfiltered cigarette that he held between his index finger and middle finger. When introduced, Wee-Willie removed his stained and worn, Oakmont cap; shifted his smoke to his left hand and proceeded to crush Big Al’s and Barry’s hand. His smile was genuine showing his tobacco-stained teeth as he welcomed them to the Old Course with a strong Scottish brogue. He briefly informed them that he had been a top caddie at the Old Course for almost 40 years and if they would listen closely to him – “they would have a most enjoyable experience.”
The starter then introduced Big Al and Barry to Hank and his son, Hank Jr., who owned a hardware store in a small town in Ohio. Sr. and Jr. were single digit players looking forward to tearing-up this seaside links on a reasonably calm day. Sr. and Jr. had gotten their tee time with a ballot (lottery system) and because it was after noon they were allowed to use a trolley, push cart for American golfers. Wee-Willie noted the trolley and rolled his eyes!
On the first hole Barry asked Wee-Willie for his lob wedge for a little pitch shot over a mound to a pin cut on the back of the green. Wee-Willie replied in his heavy brogue, “Baaaarlee me boy, on ye Old Course we play the golft ball on the ground. Now take ye poutter and roll that dimpled beauty left of the mound …. the second little mound on the green will push your ball up next to the flag stick for ye tap-in par.”
Wee-Willies advice proved the perfect solution as Barry and Big Al played shots they would never dream of and scored well making pars and bogies on the first 5 holes. The hardware Hank duo was having a hard time with golf on the Old Course.
By the 6th hole, Jr. was working his trolley ever closer to Wee-Willie listening intently to the wisdom Wee-Willie was imparting on Barry and Big Al. Wee-Willie and his charges approached Jr.’s ball as he contemplated his club selection. With a golf bag draped over each shouldersWee-Willie stopped near Jr. Jr. asked Wee-Willie, “Willie, what club do you think I should hit to the green?”
Wee-Willie’s reply made the trip to the wind swept home of golf even more memorable for Big Al and Barry.
Wee-Willie took a long drag on his cigarette, blew the smoke out his nostrils and in his strong Scottish brogue replied, “I don’t know what cloub ye sho hit laady. Why don’t ye ask your f*#&ing trolley?”
Jr.’s face went blank; then turned red. With embarrassment showing on his flushed face, Jr shanked his ball into a deep-faced pot bunker.
Wee Willie reached into the pocket of his thread-bare wool tweed jacket, with leather patches at the elbow, and removed a small metal flask. Staring directly at Big Al and Barry, he took a long pull on the flask. Still looking at Al and Barry, Wee Willie rolled his eyes. He never said a word.
When you play the Old Course – TAKE A CADDIE!!