85: Golf and the Caddie at Royal Troon

85: Golf and the Caddie at Royal Troon

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tales of Golf and Sport

Golf and the Caddie at Royal Troon

My wife and I had planned our first trip to Scotland for more than a year. Working through Scottish Golfing Holidays, we started our week at Royal Troon. I was to play the course in the morning, then my wife would join me in the afternoon across the street on the Portland Course.

This was the first morning of the first day of my first golf in Scotland.

Two things happened that will remain with me forever.

First, we were delayed more than fifteen minutes waiting for Payne Stewart and his group to show up. Clad in uncustomary slacks and regular golf-style cap, Stewart and his group finally appeared and were escorted to the back, or “medal” tees, where they all teed off. Playing with Stewart were three others, the best of whom probably was no more than a 10 handicap. Having already been rebuffed from playing the back tees, I decided to give it another go. The starter, with whom I had been enjoying a long conversation waiting for Stewart’s group to appear, said it was impossible—unless, of course, the club secretary gave his approval. He then volunteered to speak with the secretary on my behalf. Taking my letter of introduction, which said I was an honorable fellow from Nebraska who had played in several USGA events, including Amateurs and Mid-Amateurs (I have never qualified, but that didn’t stop me from trying) and currently holding a 2.4 index, he disappeared into the clubhouse.

A few minutes later, a tall, respectable gentleman wearing a coat and tie came to the tee box. Colin Montgomery’s father looked down at my five-feet-six-inches, from somewhere high above six feet, fixed me with a Scottish stare I would get to know over the coming week, and asked me directly, “Have you one to waste?” Being fully loaded with far too many golf balls to fit comfortably into my carry bag, I responded affirmatively.

He then said, “Hit your driver o’er that hillock,” pointing to a tall mound between the first tee and the ocean. With slightly sweaty palms, and a crowd of twenty-five or so golfers watching, I managed to make a good swing and sent a fine drive directly over the hillock. Mr. Montgomery then turned to the starter and said, in a voice that carried clearly to the surrounding crowd, “Mr. Kahler is a fine amateur from the States and will be allowed to play the medal tees. Everyone else will play the regular tees.” With that statement he turned and strode directly into the clubhouse. And I played Royal Troon from the medal tees.

The second event that day involved Payne Stewart. As we were teeing off on the seventh hole, a dogleg-right slightly downhill, the rain and wind simultaneously picked up. Stewart’s group had moved off the fairway into two rain shelters on the left side of the hole. We hit our drives, then agreed to also seek shelter to allow the storm to pass. I had hit a great drive and was just a few yards behind another ball from the group in front of us. As we reached the shelter, our twosome was huddled in one shelter and Stewart’s group in another.

A few minutes later, Stewart’s local caddie ran over to our shelter and said a few words to my caddie. My caddie then said to me, “Mr. Stewart would like to know if you would like a small wager: closest to the pin for a pound.” I agreed. Not because I thought I could hit it closer than Payne Stewart, but I would have a great story to tell and it would only cost me a pound. Because we were a twosome, and more willing to brave the elements than Stewart’s foursome, they invited us to play through as the rain and wind lessened. I hit a career shot, holding it into the wind, coming to rest within ten feet of the hole. As we walked to the green, Stewart’s caddie came running out and handed my caddie a pound coin, which he, in turn, passed on to me.

I don’t know whether Payne Stewart actually made the bet or provided the pound. The more I have learned about caddies in Scotland, the more likely it was the caddie himself who made and paid the bet. And I don’t know how close Payne Stewart hit the ball to the hole; we went on to the famous Postage Stamp eighth hole before they resumed play. But I did leave a ball marker in the green where my ball had been on No. 7. And no one asked me for the pound back later. I use it to this day as my ball marker.

~Jeff Kahler
Chicken Soup for the Golfer’s Soul

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