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Open qualifying

Dodgy yardages and distractions: How NOT to caddy at Regional Open Qualifying

Club golf editor Steve Carroll found himself looping for fellow podcast host Tom Irwin at Alwoodley. But was it a match made in heaven? The jury’s out
 

I did ask, when my From the Clubhouse partner Tom Irwin suggested I caddy for him at Open Qualifying, whether he’d lost his mind.

I’m renowned in our office for being loquacious – critics of mine might say something else – and I wasn’t sure my verbal diarrhoea was really what he’d need during five hours of intense competition around Alwoodley.

But, at the very least, it would make a good podcast topic and so we agreed I’d carry the bag as he dared to dream he might line up at Royal Liverpool next month.

Would it be a Jordan Spieth/Michael Greller mind-meld, or would Tom just be hoping I’d keep up and shut up?

The jury, I’m afraid, was rather out. Tom finished tied for 90-something and you’ll hear much more about it later this week on the pod.

But, before we get into that kind of depth, if I could give you five little nuggets of advice for how to get your player round in one piece – things I’ve learned in the unlikely event I ever get back on a bag – it would be these…

What to get right at Open qualifying (and how I got them badly wrong)

Open qualifying

Know your numbers

Giving out yardages is straight from chapter one of the caddy instruction book, isn’t it? We could use lasers during Regional Open Qualifying – ‘praise the Lord’ – and I’d even managed to snaffle a yardage book from the wonderful Alwoodley professional John Green.

I’d spent 20 minutes before our tee time diligently dotting pin positions on the chart and noting their relative yardages.

But those numbers on the book itself; did they relate to the front or the centre of the green? Are they distance off the tee, or distance to target? I didn’t have a scooby.

So now I had the laser as my only outlet. Good job I’d remembered to turn off slope. But getting an exact yardage from 250 yards away on a pin that’s swaying like a badly built bridge in the wind wasn’t the straightforward exercise I’d imagined.

And it’s completely redundant when you can’t see the flag. Which you can’t on the approach to the 17th green.

What a player really wants, when you finally deliver a yardage, is certainty. What I’ve found they’re not at all keen on is you sounding like Ron Burgundy reading a question mark off an autocue.

These bags weigh a bit, but don’t make a scene

I caddied for Peter Schmeichel at the British Masters pro-am in 2017 and became convinced he was hiding a body in his bag the damn thing was so heavy. But at least it was double strapped.

Tom was toting one of those woke efforts – the type designed for heavily filtered Instagram shots where there’s more of the bag than the course in the picture.

He’d at least tried to go minimal, until about five litres of fluid found its way in there (it was a very hot day) and I was listing to starboard like I was about to go down in choppy seas.

An ache by the 3rd had turned into red raw by the turn. Once we’d reached the 15th, I was hawking the single strap like an archer’s quiver across my other shoulder. It looked ridiculous.

He might as well have carried himself. Actually, he did up the 18th.

Open qualifying

Never – NEVER – let your true feelings show

I had decided to engage a policy of relentless positivity. No matter how thin the contact, how deep the rough, I would be a beacon of hope.

What I had not realised was keeping this mask on required concentration. A lot of it. All of which had disappeared by the 12th when Tom found his ball in the first cut sitting down in a bit of a hole.

I should have been impassive. I should have been digging straight into the yardage book. I should not have pulled a face and gone ‘ooof’.

I deflected – one of Tom’s playing partners was negotiating a tricky encounter with a boundary fence – but I’m pretty sure he didn’t buy it.

Open qualifying

Don’t get distracted

Yeah, about that fence. In my defence [get it?], it was an interesting rules situation. And I AM a referee. The on-course official had been carrying a bit of string in his bag for about 20 years and it was the first time he’d ever employed it to measure between posts and see if a ball was in or out of bounds.

We marvelled at its rareness, we dissected the relevant rule numbers. Tom, 40 yards further up the fairway, was wondering why he was there but his clubs weren’t.

He was rather more pleased, I’m sure he’ll admit, when I managed to negotiate him free relief out of molehills on the right of the 16th fairway.

But I can’t help it. I’m like a beagle sniffing out concealed drugs on a dodgy passenger whenever there is the hint of a rules question that needs answering. Once a ref, always a ref.

Never take the credit

Occasionally, Tom asked me about a particular shot. I assumed his questions were rhetorical because there is absolutely nothing a mid-handicapper can tell a scratch player about how to play a tricky downhill chip with 58 degrees of loft.

But on the 15th, here was my time to shine. I’d reffed the English Senior at Alwoodley two weeks earlier and watched about 80 players run it in from 130 yards into this difficult green. Anything that pitched pin high ran off the back.

And that’s the yardage we had! I relayed my info and waited for Tom to execute. He ignored it entirely – hitting a cut down 7 right where I told him not to hit it – and I betrayed myself by imploring the ball to ‘sit’ in mid-flight.

Talking to a player’s ball appears an entirely different taboo of its own but, anyway, the ball landed pin high, grabbed the firm upslope, and settled about 10 feet away.

It was a wonderful shot by any stretch. ‘I knew it!’ I exclaimed. But I wasn’t fooling anyone, and especially not Tom. Don’t over-reach and NEVER take the credit.

Have you ever caddied for a mate at a big tournament? What about Open qualifying? How did it go and what went wrong? Let me know your funny stories on twitter.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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