Oliver Horovitz is a writer, filmmaker and caddie on the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland. His book, “An American Caddie in St. Andrews,” was published by Gotham Books in March, and is in stores now.
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“You’re on the 16th tee, Ollie.”
Robert Thorpe, my Old Course caddiemaster, hands me today’s pin sheet. It’s 1:19 p.m., Tuesday, July 30, 11 minutes before the shotgun of the Ricoh Women’s British Open Pro-Am. I need to hustle.
“Cheers, Rob,” I say, and start trudging down the path alongside the first fairway. Mid-trudge, I look out onto the course. I can’t help feeling a little disappointed. I wish I were in the main event. I had a Venezuelan player – Veronica Felibert – in yesterday’s final qualifying but she missed by a single shot. Now she’s back in Florida. And I’m on the 16th fairway. And I think my pin sheet already fell out of my pocket.
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I reach the 16th tee. The other caddies, Dougie and Fiona, already are waiting. “Who’s in our group?” I ask, fumbling around in my pockets for the pin sheet (yeah, it’s gone).
“The Swinging Skirts,” Dougie says.
“Huh?” I ask.
“They’re one of the sponsors. It’s a Taiwanese organization of male and female golfers who play in skirts and kilts.”
I look at Dougie. “You’re joking.”
He’s not. As if on cue, we see them. Three Taiwanese women, wearing red Tartan skirts, purple hats and two golf gloves. All clutch multiple shopping bags. All look very, very excited.
I have a thought: This could be bad.
“Who’s our pro?” I ask Dougie, but she already has arrived on our tee box. It’s Na Yeon Choi, the 25-year-old South Korean who won last year’s U.S. Open, and who is ranked No. 4 in the world. Choi shakes my hand, smiling brightly.
I have another thought: This could be OK.
From the opening tee shot, our round is a circus. The three Swinging Skirts giggle constantly; high-five after every shot. My player speaks no English. None. Each time I try to utilize our group’s translator, the resulting Mandarin directions cause even more confusion. The women all have gigantic pink cart bags, stuffed to the brim with expensive gold-colored “Majesty” golf clubs, pink head covers and golf jackets with the phrase, “Pearly Gates” printed on the back.
But the Swinging Skirts can play. Each woman has a beautiful swing. Each makes putts from other area codes. Throughout our round, I sense our Stableford points beginning to seriously rack up. And gradually, I begin to realize that I am loving this.
Leading the way is our pro. Choi is amazing. Her swing is effortless. Powerful. She barely misses a shot the whole day.
“She’s only 16-1 at Ladbrokes Betting Agency,” Dougie whispers to me as we walk up the 12th fairway.
The round continues, and the Swinging Skirts’ putts keep dropping. By the time we finish, I know that our team is in contention. After everyone shakes hands, I wish Choi luck in the Open, then head to our usual caddie pub, the Dunvegan, for a drink. I think about how fun the afternoon was; how well Choi played; how nice a start this was to Open week.
A text message buzzes in. It’s from a friend who played in today’s event: “Your Swinging Skirts team just won the whole Pro-Am!”
I smile. Then I head to Ladbrokes, to put a bet on Na Yeon Choi.