'If in doubt, just say good shot' – A day caddying at a celebrity pro-am
Peter Schmeichel has a putter problem. He opens his flight case and there they are – three of them – staring back at us.
Our player-caddie partnership has barely got past a handshake and I already feel this is a pivotal moment in our relationship.
Pick the wrong one, consign my man to a day of turmoil on the greens, and I’ll barely be able to look him in the eye at the halfway house.
So I don’t think I’ve ever gone into so much detail over a choice – picking each up, feeling the weight, looking for any signs of confidence.
If you’re wondering what on earth I’m doing making practice strokes with the Manchester United legend’s trio of flatsticks, let me explain.
I’m the Great Dane’s caddie for the British Masters pro-am at Close House. This has all been made possible thanks to the Graham Wylie Foundation, the charity that’s benefiting from the day’s fundraising.
I’d known I was going to be on the treble-winning goalkeeper’s bag for a couple of weeks and had been fretting ever since.
You see, I have what psychologists would call a destructive imagination.
I take something simple, over analyse it to the point of paranoia, and make the worst possible scenario the reality.
So the night before is spent worrying about the myriad ways I could get our team disqualified.
Or whether I’d accidentally step in David Lingmerth’s through line. Or fall on my backside trying to rake a bunker.
What if Peter doesn’t like me? He looked rather fierce shouting at all those defenders for two decades.
What if I give him a wrong yardage or, worse still, the wrong line on one of those crucial putts?
Any concerns vanish, though, the moment we come to the fateful decision. It’s the mallet today and the grip is the key.
Schmeichel is exuding confidence with the choice. I feel like I’ve made a tiny difference.
He’s a wonderfully kind man as well – engaging, genuinely interested in what I was doing and great company.
I’ve a newfound respect for celebrity. Their lives must be utter madness.
The moment we step out of the Westwood Pavilion, he is mobbed. Honestly, you’ve never seen so many pictures of him – in full goalkeeper flight – suddenly thrust in his direction.
The requests for pictures are ceaseless. Wherever there’s a smattering of people, there’s a new queue.
“Is it always like this?” I ask. “Yes, sometimes worse,” Schmeichel replies. “But the problem comes when no one asks for your autograph.”
He’s lucky. Shane Filan, also making up part of Team Lingmerth and the former Westlife singer, is getting declarations of love.
“I wish I could take you home with me,” one tells him on the road to the 6th. “I’d get rid of my husband.”
Let’s back up a minute.
Earlier, on the first tee, Jeremy Kyle is doing the introductions. Schmeichel gets a huge hand from a packed grandstand but plonks his tee shot in the right rough.
It’s been a quick warm up – a stint on the Debate show, on Sky Sports the previous night, means it’s been a dash up to Newcastle but he eases into the round really nicely.
A lovely bunker shot on the second – and, yes, I just about managed to stay on my feet – leads into a striped drive on the third.
He chips to a couple of feet on the fifth and produces an up and down on seven that every tour professional in the field will crow about over the next four days.
The eighth is the charity hole. Stick £20 in a bucket, hit it closest to the pin and you win a signed Lee Westwood cap.
Here’s the clincher. Caddies can take part too.
— National Club Golfer (@NCGmagazine) September 27, 2017
I’ve not made a swing, but I borrow a hybrid and take aim. It’s 180 yards into the wind and I absolutely nut it. It flies over the flag to 20 feet.
It crosses my mind that this might be one of the greatest golfing moments of my life.
Schmeichel’s brilliance continues too. The drive he hits on 11, through the narrow gap between the trees and with an arcing draw, is one I’ve been failing to replicate in every round I have ever played on the Colt course.
— National Club Golfer (@NCGmagazine) September 27, 2017
He then bludgeons it so far down 14 that the team are left with only 96 yards in.
I feel I’ve settled into the role of caddie adequately. Look, I’m not suddenly going to be ditching my job to pursue dreams of being a PGA Tour bagman but I’ve managed to get off pat the routine of offering, taking and cleaning clubs.
And, if in doubt, just say good shot.
Our team are up against it, though. In this modified Texas Scramble, we teed off watching Jordan Smith’s foursome making a mockery of the scoreboard.
They finish on 32 under. The Colt is starting to take its toll and, by the time we arrive in front of the grandstands on 18, it’s been nearly five and a half hours.
There are tired limbs and tired minds.
But our playing heroes rouse themselves for a final effort and, after the obligatory photos under the grandstand, scarper for a well-earned pint.
I’ve had some fantastic days working for National Club Golfer. I’ve played in front of the Open stands at Royal Troon and flushed an approach right at the clubhouse at Royal Birkdale.
This experience was up there with all of them. So thanks to Peter, for being such a good sport, to Shane (whose 15 handicap is going to become smaller very quickly if he keeps hitting drives like that), David Lingmerth and amateur Paul Mackings.
Most of all, thanks to the Graham Wylie Foundation.
What a day.
What is the Graham Wylie Foundation?
Graham Wylie is one of the North East’s best known businessmen, having founded Sage.
His foundation aims to help projects benefiting underprivileged or vulnerable youngsters.
The Foundation is rare, in that all 100 per cent of donations go to charity. Wylie meets all running, staff and administration costs to ensure every single penny is handed over.
His aim is to help, inspire and educate children across the region.
Charities that have benefited from foundation grants include Teenage Cancer Trust and Nordoff Robbins.
For more information, visit the Graham Wylie Foundation website.