Thursday, July 18, 2013

Coming of Age at St. Andrews

An American Caddie In St. Andrews
At least once in their life, every golfer should make the pilgrimage to the Old Course in St. Andrews. Oliver Horovitz not only made that trip, he turned it into a coming-of-age book about his experiences working as a caddie there during his college years. An American Caddie in St. Andrews is an enjoyable, light read that covers the young man's summers looping on the Old Course while completing his education at Harvard, chasing girls, and pub crawling through the ancient town.

If you're a golfer looking for hole-by-hole insights into the Old Course, you'll probably be disappointed in this book. On the other hand, if you'd like to know what really goes on in the caddie shack, you'll be rewarded by the many tales Horovitz tells. As most of us have long suspected, caddies don't exactly have positive opinions of their clients. A tip less than 100% of the standard fee is generally met with disdain, for example. The caddies also have a private language for ridiculing their players--often right in front of them--to other caddies. It's not unusual for a caddie to purposely give wrong information to a player just for the sake of having a funny story to tell when they get back to the shack. Basically, two types of golfers are accorded caddie respect: scratch players and celebrities. The former gives the caddie fewer errant balls to look for and the latter gives them something to gossip about.  If you don't fall into either of those categories, according to Horovitz, you're just another chump, at least as far as the caddies at St. Andrews are concerned.

There are some non-golf story elements that turn the book into a memoir of sorts. The author chases girls and catches a few, shares various bachelor-pad type apartments with other caddies, and spends one summer filming the caddies as an assignment for one of his classes at Harvard. He also develops a fond relationship with an elderly uncle who lives in St. Andrews. A recurring theme is the way he was treated by the old caddies at the course and how, over time, he earned their trust and respect.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

No comments: