Almanac Golf: A Sporting ‘Mischievance’! Caddying in the 107th Open (1978) at St Andrews

 

St Andrews Golf Course
Image: Wiki Commons

 

So the President for Life, of the People’s Republic of Northcote has suggested “Might be time to write a bit more golf” prompts me to put pen to paper recalling what I consider to be my most famous sporting ‘mischievance’!

 

After the Tigers triumphed in the 2017 footy season, many of my friends and golf acquaintances asked if that was my greatest sporty moment. Knowing that I’m a mad Tigers fan, one that follows my team to nearly every game including most interstate matches, some were surprised when I hesitated and said, well I’ve run a 2 hour 48 min marathon that is a personal achievement that is pretty hard to top, but I said I’ve caddied for an underdog in a British Open at St Andrews who didn’t achieve greatness but provided me with my most memorable sporting story.

 

It’s 1978 and my wife and I have plans to go live in Europe for a few years. Everything had been arranged and planned for a long time in advance. I had managed to have a job held for me in the office of The Big Australian in London, and had asked to have two weeks off in July to go to Scotland for The Open at St Andrews.

 

 

The Victorian Open that year was held at Metropolitan in February. That is one of the three courses I grew up on, in fact I caddied at Metro from when I was 8 years old until I started full time work at 15 and had to work every second Saturday morning. (The other courses are ‘Royal’ East Malvern and Flinders). I also worked part time in the bar at Metro after I turned 18.

 

I had caddied in many tournaments over the years and loved being inside the ropes and close to the action. I carried Maurice Bembridge’s bag in that Vic Open – he crashed out after two rounds of 78-78. Not a good look on his or my resume! However, I had got to know a lot of the pro’s both local and overseas players from the little Australasian tour that ran from October – March and included the Wills Masters, Aus. Open, various state open’s, tournaments in New Zealand and so on. So I asked a local fellow that I had competed against at schoolboy events, one Trevor McDonald who I knew was going to Scotland to try his hand, if I could carry his bag. That was agreed, although he had to prequalify, so there was no guarantee of a ticket to the tournament.

 

So we move forward to July 1978, The Open then ran Wed-Sat, prequalifying is the weekend before. I turn up and Mr McDonald turns me down, a mate of his has appeared and so he reneges on our agreement and I’m out of a job and more than a little annoyed. I turn my back on him and walk away and there striding a fairway not more than a short chip away is a young American I met the previous November at the Wills Masters at Victoria GC – Mike Krantz.

 

I’m delighted Mike remembers my name and we have a chat walking the fairway. He is carrying his own clubs in a small well-worn leather bag and guess he doesn’t have a caddy lined up, so I ask, more hopeful than expectant and he says “Sure, so long as I qualify”. I then follow him around the final few holes of his qualifying round and yes he makes the grade and we are in the 107th Open at St Andrew’s!

 

It’s a bit of a blur, but we meet up Monday for a practice session and time is taken up with accreditation and registration and passes are issued and there is lots of posturing, pomp & ceremony, plenty of plum in the mouth and Mike and I are laughing at the pretence of it all, but patiently putting up with all the self-indulgent nonsense they are going on with. We are on our way out the door when I stop and inquire politely if one Trevor McDonald qualified. The registrar asks “A local is he?” and I say a long way back but his forebears may have been transported and now resident in Australia. He smiles and says no, he didn’t make the grade. Ah, karma.

 

We have our first look at the St Andrew’s Old course and Mike tells me he is nervous just standing on the first tee for the first time. It’s a glorious day not a breath of wind and there are people everywhere and kids and commotion and autograph books and oh there’s Tom Watson walking across from the clubhouse and what was that – TOM WATSON IS PLAYING WITH US!!!

 

WE ARE PLAYING WITH TOM WATSON AT THE HOME OF GOLF! I’m ecstatic! Introductions all round on the tee and Tom shakes hands with me and I say to him we could be brothers, same height, ginger hair, ruddy Irish complexion and only two letters different in our surnames. He laughs, but it is the only time for the rest of the day. From there he is all business. By way of explanation, at the first spectator crossover halfway down the first fairway, there are about 200 kids autograph hunting, 150 of ‘em have flaming red hair and thick Scottish accents. Tom’s caddy makes a pathway for him asking the kids to stand back. Tom tells the kids he’ll sign autographs when he finishes the round. Mike on the other hand is delighted with a little attention and signs as many as he can in the fleeting moments. Some kids ask who I am and so I jokingly say Tom Watson’s little brother and a few kids ask for my autograph. It’s been a delight for 40 years to convey that story that there might still be an autograph book out there somewhere with the annotation: Ken W –Tom’s little brother!

 

Mike Krantz play’s a great round and Tom gives him plenty of advice along the way. Mike is a keen observer and very sharp at reading the course. The greens are slick and true and together we sense WE could do okay here. The conditions all week are forecast to be kind; the course is not tricked up at all. You just have to keep the ball in play and choose the right club every time.

 

Round 1 – I have no recollection of who we played with. I do recall Mike shaking as his name is called to the tee and I hand his driver to him and hold it for a second and say “Three big breaths before you take the club back”. He looks me in the eye. He nods. He tees that little white ball up. Addresses it.
One.
Two.
Three.
And he hits the sweetest drive. Splits the middle. Rapturous applause and we are on our way. He pars the first 7 holes, bogeys a couple, gets back on track, bogeys another and we walk off with a 75. Not bad, but not good either. Far from the worst.
Round 2 – a very steady 72 and he makes the first cut. Mike is round about, that means the lower side of mid-field.
Round 3 – a tougher day weather wise with a bit of a wind. He has another 75 and he doesn’t think he will make the cut. He thinks the cut will be 220 or 221. The allowance is 60 players. He pays me out and while a little disappointed I’m happy to have been a part of the grandest of golf tournaments. The wind gets up a bit more in the afternoon and well who knows.

 

Mike makes arrangements for the night and invites a very sweet Scottish lassie that has a job at the first tee out to dinner. They have a big night and sometime around 4 o’clock Mike staggers past the starters hut to see his name on the time sheet for a 7:50 hit off! He has qualified in last place. Six have made the cut on 222 and the field becomes 63.

 

He gets to bed by 4:15 has two hours sleep, arrives bleary eyed and a little worse for wear, but hey, it’s a pay day, he will earn some money just by qualifying. In fact he does more than that, he shoots one of the best rounds of the last day a great 71 and jumps to equal 12th (39th position overall).

 

The winner, Jack Nicklaus on 281. Bob Shearer finished 4th on 285; Tom Watson 287; Greg Norman 291; Gary Player 292 and Mike Krantz 293.

 

A couple of shots better and he would have automatically qualified for the 108th Open at Royal Lytham St Anne’s. I was due to be away on the golf trip of a lifetime right now taking in courses in Britain & Ireland, but that wretched Covid fellow has interfered.

 

Never mind, I’m happy to be able to play at Metro for the foreseeable future.

 

St Andrews Golf Course
Image: Wiki Commons

 

Aka KNDole

(Ken Wilson OAM)

 

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About Ken Wilson

Left footer, golfer, runner, well travelled, sometime writer, volunteer, live arts/music lover, self employed, school drop out and Tiger tragic.

Comments

  1. Daryl Schramm says

    Love it. Great story. Karma is a bastard sometimes and sometimes a blessing. Haven’t got to St Andrews yet. One day. I’d love to see more golf stories here but suspect I am in the minority in the FA community.

  2. You may be surprised DJS. Golf yarns are always welcome. (I have just added the collection of yarns to the left sidebar. Check out Almanac Golf – there’s over 100 of them).

  3. Daryl Schramm says

    Is the year in the heading correct?

  4. Brilliant. What an experience. What a place. The home of golf and the home of strategic course design (though God and the elements played more of a part that Old Tom Morris).
    Along similar lines is Lawrence Donegan’s book “Four Iron to the Soul” about caddying for World #400 Ross Drummond on the European Tour in 1996. Very funny and insightful about both golf and life’s follies. LD was bass player in Lloyd Cole & the Commotions; then the Guardian’s golf correspondent (when newspapers had one) and now edits the wonderful McKellar golf journal & podcast.
    Caddies then were “show up, keep up & shut up”. Now somewhere between emotional life coach; strategic analyst and data manager. Sigh.
    Dr Google doesn’t have a lot to say about Mike Krantz’s later career. This was his only Major (perhaps 4am bed times and sweet scottish lassies were better coaches than the infernal dynamics of the Golfing Machine). Sadly he got to play the Greg role in the 1980 Swedish Open final round (blowing a 6 stroke lead) to Greg’s Faldo (1996 US Masters). https://shark.com/the-shark/tournament-victories/1980-scandanavian-open/

  5. Yes, the year should read 1978. Mike Krantz married a Swedish woman and as far as I know that is where he stayed. He had a fraught relationship with his parents and his father in particular didn’t want him to play golf as a career. He called him a lazy bum, a deadhead and was wasting his life. I know Mike enjoyed the lifestyle and for someone who was essentially an introvert he made the most of it

  6. Daryl Schramm says

    Thanks John. Hamish Neal. Is he no longer doing reports or might they be elsewhere?

  7. Apologies KN Dole, I got my Nicklaus Opens mixed up. The Tom Watson reference should have been enough. Yes, 1978.(And you mention 1978 half a dozen times!)

  8. Michael Clayton says

    Footy Almanac
    @thefootyalmanac
    ·
    12h
    KN Dole (we know who you are) once caddied at St Andrews in the 1970 British Open. Here’s what happened. https://footyalmanac.com.au/almanac-golf-a-sporting-mischievance-caddying-in-the-107th-open-at-st-andrews/
    @mikeclaytongolf

    @PBauldy
    #Golf

  9. Frank Taylor says

    A cracker of a story Ken, a great read even though I’m definitely not a golfer.
    Karma, yes…touché.
    And parents who want to mould their children in their eyes with negative comments and sniping…. Mike Krantz’s family background Is only too familiar.
    Glad he followed his dreams, takes real courage.
    Ripper
    Frank

  10. Fantastic story,Ken enjoyable read ( I admit a few kids have my writing as Rodney Maynard as a autograph around the traps also

  11. What a great story.

  12. Hey KN…terrific recollection of your glory days!. I love golf (playing,watching & being involved).Your story reminds why I decided to apply for Volunteer duties at the Australian Open, Australian Masters as Walker/Scorer…being ‘inside the ropes’ was a thrill. I ‘progressed’ to being accepted as a Walker/Scorer at PGA events in the US etc which gave me a “valid’ reason to continue to travel overseas.Your story is a gem mate.Cheers.

  13. Frank T, Rulebook, Noelmc & Harry, thanks for the acknowledgement. Have another little story bubbling around in my head which I might write in the coming days.

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