Danny De Vito, who caddied for Tiger Woods in 2003, writes about playing in style
To be a caddie is something of a hassle. Your hands have to stay always in an awkward spot. And the iron you are supposed to hold between your fingers. As a 22-year-old, I was being squeezed for a 12-foot putt on the 18th green at Doral, the Florida hotel where world golf number one Tiger Woods was staying, with two-time major winner Ian Baker-Finch. The tie we were required to wear didn’t help. I was 26 at the time, a novice in the way of the game.
I soon discovered how demanding the game is for a caddie. That was the minimum day experience I was given as I came from Marlborough, south-east London, via Coates, Marlborough and Daresbury. In 2000, Tiger and I had our only major.
This week is the day of advice, the chance to forget all about our clubs and simply give our players little tips at the end of an outing: ensure the player sets their club face up correctly, for example. Throughout my career, I’ve had to do a bit of everything. Not only is there a lot of work behind the scenes but what I hear from the players when they come off the green has a massive impact on how I will play in the next round, so the timing of my answers is vital.
As a caddie, you develop your own way of playing, your own unique, trademark style. I can’t say I’ve been the worst at picking up wisdom from other players, though I’m told my pick-up tactics are as varied as my playing style.
I was given my first golf club at the age of seven and caddied first at the 17th hole at the golf club of my home town of Yeovil, Somerset. I was born in Nigeria, moved to England when I was six months old and I always wanted to play golf – it was the only thing that suited me.
My father, Abdullah, was a driver, so it didn’t require much persuading to take up golf. I played football but I realised it was boring and stopped at 15. But I couldn’t play golf; there were rules against me. I was trying to make money and I thought I’d give golf a go. My dad decided I was old enough and I soon found myself competing at one of the country’s most prestigious amateur events, the Wytham Open at the Westwood course in Surrey. I lost in the first round but I remember feeling like I was competing for my entire life. That encouraged me to try harder and I was soon playing competitive golf as a member of Guildford Golf Club.
Although many people assume that our earnings come from the players, this is simply not the case. In the UK, they are paid on a pro-rated basis. A good caddie only earns when they win or when a good player fails to execute their shot because of an errant approach shot. Plus a bit of the value of the trousers they wear (they have to conform to certain standards – try and do it yourself!).
I think it was the little bit I earned from the tournament when I caddied for John Daly at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in 2007 that first motivated me to enter a tournament my own way.
That was the moment when I realised I wanted to own my own golf course. It took two and a half years before I had the money to fund my dream and the first stage of the golf course design was open to the public this July.
It’s rare for an amateur to become a caddie – you need a connection to the players and I always knew I was going to go into coaching if I didn’t succeed in playing in the professional game. As a caddie, the bond we form is amazing – we understand the other’s game. I know Tiger’s opinion of me because he plays golf with me on the range, first thing in the morning before he goes out to play on the course. I’ve known Ian for a while and I’ve learned more about his game over the last two months watching him compete at the British Open than I would have learned about it during the whole of last year. We’re just getting to know each other.
Caddying is different for everyone. I know some can achieve success just from playing in tournaments and I know it’s possible to be a good caddie through hard work and patience. And it’s that, more than anything, that has allowed me to enjoy the