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Comedian Hope paid price for his joking
By Lewine Mair 
(Filed: 05/10/2004)

In the past few weeks Samuel Jackson, Nigel Mansell, Clay Walker, Sir Bobby Charlton and Ian Botham are just a few among the long line of celebrities who have been on and off the phone to Rick MacKenzie, the St Andrews caddie master.

All of these household names have their favourites bag carriers. Botham, to cite just one example, insists on Moroe Wilson, a 30-something local lady who prefers caddying to working in the family hardware business.

Wilson, one of 13 female caddies on MacKenzie's books, apparently has what it takes to stop Botham from taking too hurried a clobber at the ball when he is under pressure. Her way, according to Botham, is to apply "a bit of female logic".

Michael Douglas fixes himself up with an old-style Aberdonian by name of Jimmy Diplexito. "I spend four or five hours in Jimmy's company and I never stop laughing," Douglas has said. All of which is more than a little remarkable in that he cheerfully admits he cannot understand a word Diplexito says.

On the other hand, his wife Catherine Zeta Jones would seem to have no trouble with the accent and has more than once accepted Diplexito's invitation to join him for a cup of coffee in the caddie shed.

The latest generation of caddies at St Andrews are as different from their forebears as the clubs they carry. Though there is still the occasional old hickory, or Diplexito, among them, the new breed are no less rigorously tested than the latest in metal drivers.

The Caddie-Connect course, as run by MacKenzie on behalf of the St Andrews Links Trust, involves 30 hours of theory, 30 rounds of golf in which candidates are assessed by club members or visitors, and finally an exam lasting two hours.

A couple of typical questions? 'Name four things, other than wind strength and direction, to take into account when deciding with your player which club to hit' and 'At which holes on the Old Course do we find the following bunkers...Cheapes, Hell, Strath, Cottage and Coffins?"

The cost of the Caddie course is £295 - a sum which, as MacKenzie says, the caddies can recoup over a handful of rounds. One of the many St Andrews University students to have signed on was able to pay her way through university by caddying five or so times a week.

MacKenzie is well qualified to be at the helm of Caddie-Connect. He has caddied for all sorts, from Bob Hope to the legendary Mr Lu. He also worked for Rick Gibson when Canada won the old-style Dunhill Championship in 1994.

The MacKenzie-Hope relationship lasted but five holes, for that was as long as MacKenzie could take. Hope was using him as the butt for his jokes and, as the comedian struggled to get to grips with the oceanic putting surfaces, so those jokes became more and more offensive.

The only one which made MacKenzie laugh as opposed to seeing red was at their fifth and final hole. MacKenzie, attending the flag and at the same time paying attention to the scoring, noted that Hope had had nine putts. "But I enjoy putting," Hope had exclaimed to the party at large.

That night, when Hope was appearing on the Parkinson show, he admitted that he had just had his first experience of being given the sack.

When MacKenzie caddied for Mr Lu, the Taiwanese flag was not recognised. Knowing how upset this made his man, MacKenzie had one run up for him in Cupar and, when it came to the flag-raising ceremony, he stood to the side of the line-up and held it aloft. It was a gesture which brought tears to the eyes of Mr Lu and his playing companions.

There was a language barrier between the Taiwanese and their Scottish caddies, but the only time it was a bit of a disaster was at the 13th where McKenzie was exhorting his boss to aim "on the steeple". Mr Lu mistook "steeple" for "people" and dispatched his ball in the direction of a host of spectators leaning over the out-of-bounds wall.

Caddying for the Canadian team was a career highlight for MacKenzie who, to this day, is inclined to put Canada's win over America in the final down to the chips the Canadians ate on the first tee.

All week, they had insisted on eating at "Greasy Joe's" fish and chip shop in the town as opposed to the five-star Old Course Hotel. And when, on the last day, they had no time for a sit-down lunch between beating the South Africans in the semi-finals and setting out against the Americans, more fish and chips seemed to be the obvious answer.

Much to the horror of the American trio of Tom Kite, Curtis Strange and Fred Couples, the caddies were still dispensing the chips on the first tee. MacKenzie and the other Canadians' caddies were quick to sense the Americans' disapproval and, thereafter, poured heart and soul into helping Canada to their unexpected 2-1 victory.

Of professional golfers and film stars, MacKenzie suggests that the film stars are the more difficult. "The professionals," he says, "only worry about their golf. The film stars, on the hand, worry about their overall image as well."

One household name, as he prepared to hit a tee-shot, had a last-minute question for his caddie. "Are there any women watching me?" he asked, rather as a professional might make a last-minute check on the direction of the wind.

One film star studied his reflection in every window as he walked round the caddies' headquarters before finally presenting himself at the kiosk. After he had signed for his caddie and collected some tee pegs, he made the mistake of asking if there were anything else he would need. "A mirror," suggested one of the younger caddies helpfully..

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