I was once asked whilst caddying in a pro-am what I did with all my time off, given that I “only work four days a week – Thursday to Sunday – and only two days a week if he misses the cut!” The fact that it was Wednesday had either escaped my interrogator or he thought the pleasure of his company was payment enough (it wasn’t).
Just in case you labour under a similar misapprehension that we just rock up on a Thursday and caddie until our player has either taken the trophy or been told to go home, here are a few numbers from last week at Close House.
Not counting the four hours it took me to get up to Newcastle at the start of the week or the four hours it took me to get home again at the end of it, I was “at work” for just shy of 60 hours last week. Seven eight-and-a-bit hour days in a row doesn’t sound terribly taxing, but that’s not how the work tends to get split. The tournament days lasted around ten hours each, and a few of them featured disgustingly early alarm calls.
On the second day of the tournament, we had a “late” tee time (12:30). I got up at 07:30 and went to the venue to walk a few holes and check a few of the hole locations. After the round, we went to the range and the short game area to work on some things. We got back to the hotel around 20:00, in time for a quick dinner, a shower and something normal people refer to as sleep.
We made the cut on the number, so at 05:30 the next morning the alarm was ringing again, and we were heading back to the venue. We got back to the hotel at around 16:30. In less than a day and a half, I clocked about 22 hours of work. And I am lucky. I work for a sensible player who manages his time really well.
I walked just shy of 120 kilometres (75 miles) in the seven days. I have no idea what kind of elevation change to factor into that number, but it felt like a lot, especially for a first tournament back since early March.
For a decent proportion of that distance I was carrying a bag that at times, to borrow Churchill’s line about golf clubs, felt “singularly ill-designed for the purpose”. A decent estimate for the weight of the bag is around 18 kg (40 lbs) but it varies in weight depending on several factors.
In bad weather, it can feel fairly light because the player and caddie are wearing just about everything they put into it at the start of the day. In good weather and when we’re feeling brave, the umbrella comes out and the waterproofs never need to go in.
In weather like we had last week, the bag can reach its heaviest. Picture the scene: the rain comes down, so the waterproofs go on and the umbrella goes up. Five minutes later, the sun comes out, so the waterproofs come off and the umbrella goes back in the bag, but both are now considerably heavier than they were when they were dry.
During practice rounds, the bag can also get very heavy if your player can’t decide whether it’s a week for the two-iron or the hybrid, or which driver he really prefers, or which wedge combo will work best at this particular layout. If you’re lucky, he might also pick up the three dozen balls he gets for each week from the tour van on the way to the first tee. If you really hit the jackpot, he might also have forgotten to take out last week’s spent ammunition.
All of which sounds like I’m moaning. I don’t mean to. A crap day at my current job is still preferable to some of the best days I had at my old (“normal”) job. There isn’t another job I can think of that I’d rather be doing at the moment and I realise more and more each day that we’re back out here how much I missed it during lockdown. But it’s a seven-day week, and none of us does it for free, no matter how pleasurable the company is.