Bernard Gallacher: The Role Of A Caddie

The 19th Hole

How would you describe a modern caddie?

The modern-day caddie is strong, fit – not carousing in the clubhouse after the end of a round like the old days, he’s busy ensuring the player and his equipment is looked after.

I’ve never been lucky enough to play a round with a caddie. What do you think they provide for the modern pro golfer?

In principle, the caddie will look after the equipment. Apart from putting his shoes on and getting to the practise ground, there’s not a huge amount the player has to do apart from play.

Similarly, with yardages, players no longer have to worry about measuring distance themselves. In my day, the whole practise day was spent pacing the course, working out how far the hazards were, what the lie was like in every nook and cranny.

Now, the caddie will already have walked the course and have the measurement book too, if needed. That tends to make the practise rounds far more worthwhile – as the player can focus on getting used to the way the course plays rather than pacing and measuring.

Outside of the clubs and yardage, I wouldn’t go as far as saying that caddies are part-time amateur psychologists – but good caddies know what to say and when. There’s the old adage that caddies I know swear by, “never offed advice unless it’s asked for.” That’s the golden rule, essentially. So, most of the time, the player has to make the big decisions under pressure – the caddie can only offer advice if needed.

Perhaps the most high-profile split between a golfer and caddie recently has been Phil Mickelson and Jim “Bones” Mackay after 25 years. How do you think it will affect Phil?

Phil and Bones have always had a very strong, animated relationship – plenty of talking going on right around the course. With that suddenly gone, it represents a big change for Phil. Even though he now has his brother on the bag – the conversations won’t be the same. He won’t talk to his brother the same way he used to talk to Bones, and visa versa.

If you look back at Gary Player with Alfie Fyles, Arnold Palmer with Tip Anderson at the Open, Jack Nicklaus with Jimmy Dickinson, even Tiger Woods with Steve Williams – and of course Nick Faldo with Fanny, they’re all deeply trusted relationships. Long-time caddies are a deeply integral part of a player’s team. A good caddie is indispensable. From the minute the player arrives at the course to the second they finish the round, the caddie is the sole trusted confidante. As Rory McIlroy is finding out with his equipment, it’s not as simple as just swapping one for another.

Do you feel there was a deeper reason behind the sudden split between Mickelson and Bones?

Personally, I think that after 20-odd years, they have decided to take the opportunity for an “amicable” split. However, it seems strange that it would come at a time just after the US Open, when Phil Mickelson had already announced he wasn’t going to play.

Despite that, thinking there might be the chance of a rain delay, he sent Bones to Erin Hills to check out the course in advance. I have to say, his caddie looked a little silly walking around the course on the practise day when everyone in the world knew Mickelson wasn’t going to be there. Whether that annoyed Bones, and led to a fallout amongst the two men I wouldn’t like to speculate, and the two haven’t spoken publicly about it – but I find the timing very suspicious for there not to be something more than the relationship having run its course.

I have to say, I think Phil Mickelson will regret this break-up, I think there’s still a lot of good golf left in him – it was only last year he was second at the Open. He still plays a lot of golf and is in very good nick for 46. There’s no doubt he still wants to go to next year’s US Open at Shinnecock and win it to complete his career Grand Slam – which will be that much harder without such a valuable caddie. I’m extremely surprised.

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