'Whatever happens we’ll have a hug and a kiss on the 18th green'
WHEN Nick McCarthy came through Final Qualifying at Hillside Heather Swash, Harold’s daughter, was straight on the phone with the offer of her house to Nick and his family.
They would move out for the week and stay with friends and the McCarthys would move in. If you knew the McCarthy family you would likely do the same.
I’ve worked in and around golf for well over a decade and Dave McCarthy, Nick’s dad, is the best bloke I’ve ever come across in all that time. He’s a rare treat of a man, completely genuine and down to earth, engaging, funny, kind, always interested and a brilliant listener. Hence the offer of a house – good things happen to good people, not enough but they do.
You’d love to have Dave as your dad and you’d love to have on your bag which he is this week, remarkably 44 years after his caddying debut in the Open and 16 years since his last appearance.
He’s spent forever working in the golf industry, the bulk of which was for True Temper. Dave knows everyone and vice versa. During our short conversation Danny Willett stopped to say hello, two other players did the same, two caddies did likewise, Birkdale’s pro Brian Hodgkinson was the next on the carousel and all left with a little chuckle.
At 4.05pm on Thursday Dave will line up in his fourth Open Championship but this time will be so much more special – father and son together on the 1st tee with half of Moortown there to cheer them on.
DM: Dave McCarthy NM: Nick McCarthy
DM: I first caddied in the Open at Troon in 1973. A northern boy called Dougie McClelland, who I knew through my brother-in-law, asked me to carry his bag. I was caddying for Brian Hutchinson in the Benson & Hedges at Hillside and Brian missed the cut so Dougie asked if I would caddy for him. Dougie got beaten in the final and so he asked if I would do it again at Troon.
We played with Lee Trevino in practice as they had the same managers. Dougie wanted me to do it full time but I was trying to make my own way as a player.
The following year he rang and asked if I would do Lytham so I did that one as well.
Later in life, in 1991, I was working for Spalding and one of my roles was to make sure everyone had balls and gloves. One player was Howard Clark, who I had known for years so I went to see him at West Lancs and I asked if he wanted anything.
He said ‘I’ve done my usual and sacked my caddie’ and so I offered to stand in. We did qualifying and he made it through with ease and I stayed on the bag for Birkdale. On the Saturday we were in the third last group out and just two shots back.
During the first two days we played with Fred Couples and Gary Player and Player gave me a ticking off for standing on his through line on the 11th green. In fairness I had nowhere else to go, I had three balls coming at me from three different directions.
NM: He’s a very good caddie, he’s always been the person I want on the bag but, with his work commitments, it wasn’t always possible.
I definitely feel most relaxed when he’s on the bag, I might have someone else who is a great caddie but I can’t express myself like I can with him, plus he’s played at a high level. And obviously he knows my game and me.
There was a tiny bit of doubt as to whether he could do the job given he would have to carry a tour bag. I even contemplated having a stand bag but I always wanted him, no question.
DM: I’ve caddied for Nick all season on the EuroPro so it’s not out of the ordinary.
The technology has changed so much, the yardages were always important in my day but now we’ve got a Green Book but we haven’t used it. Personally I don’t think it should be allowed. My role is to carry the bag, keep the clubs clean, speak when I’m spoken to, advise when I’m asked, keep up and try and break up the conversation in between shots.
If he asks me to look at a putt then I will but I’ll only do it if he asks. I would say I have a reasonable eye.
We have our own little private jokes and have our own little pattern to break things up.
NM: I was fifth in Final Qualifying at Gullane in 2013. I ripped a drive down the last and found a pot bunker and a birdie would have got me into the play-off so that has always niggled.
I was nervous all through the second round at Hillside after shooting six under in the morning.
It’s not the nicest opening tee shot but I hit it down the middle. Thankfully I was really good at staying in the present, it was a case of find the fairways, find the greens. I had 10 pars and then birdied the 11th which settled me a bit and I then focused on trying to win it. I then lost a ball at the 17th but that made me so angry and I was fuming standing on the 18th tee, rather than any anxiety, and I really wanted to make a birdie to finish which I did.
We drove out of Hillside and instead of turning right for Leeds we turned left and headed next door to Birkdale and a policeman let us in. We went and stood on the 1st tee, it was pretty intimidating but also so brilliant.
DM: When the R&A official came over and told my son that he had made it into the Open I really couldn’t take it in, you think ‘has this really happened?’ You are on cloud nine, you’re floating. I still haven’t come down.
NM: It’s been awesome so far, Rory is my absolute idol and I played nine holes with him. I didn’t ask him anything about golf but I did learn that a bad shot does not affect him at all. Then we had five holes with Ernie Els and he is just as pure as can be, his tempo is incredible and I couldn’t believe how big he is. Paul Lawrie was just brilliant, so that was three Open champions, as was Matt Fitzpatrick so the build-up has been fantastic.
I don’t think I’ll be as nervous as I thought I might be on Thursday. I put my name down with Rory as I really wanted to play with him but also I knew it might help me to get used to all the crowds.
I was practicing next to Jason Day on the Tuesday and I turned round on the range and Dustin Johnson was behind me so it is all very different.
DM: Birkdale is my favourite course so it really could not be any better. I don’t think I’ll be overawed but I still have to pinch myself that my son is playing in the Open
Rory McIlroy is my favourite golfer and is an absolute gent. If it was possible to go up in my expectations then he did.
NM: We had such an awkward hug at Hillside after the first round, it was terrible. We shook hands and then I tried to give him half a hug as we had just shot six under and it was the most awkward hug you have ever seen.
He said ‘shall we do that again?’ but we agreed it was too late to try and retrieve the situation.
DM: On the 1st tee I’ll tell Nick it’s just another golf course, there are grandstands up and people watching but just be confident and treat it like another EuroPro event and try and get into red figures. I’ll be nervous and I can get emotional but we’ll enjoy it and whatever happens we’ll have a hug and a kiss on the 18th green.