Young caddie, Old Course, good fun
An American Caddie In St. Andrews: Growing Up, Girls, and Looping On The Old Course
• Oliver Horovitz
• Gotham Books: March 2013
• 336 pages; $26
• • •
Oliver Horovitz is a smart guy, and not just because he matriculated at Harvard University. The author of “An American Caddie in St. Andrews: Growing up, Girls, and Looping on the Old Course” enrolled at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland for his gap year between high school and college. Now that is genius.
Not only did the school have a 70/30 female-to-male ratio, but the town is home to the highest per capita number of pubs in the United Kingdom. Did we mention that they also play golf in St. Andrews?
An annual student pass for unlimited golf – including the Old Course – can be purchased for the equivalent of $200.
Pretty soon, Horovitz is making evening pilgrimages to the Auld Grey Toon’s many treasures – “They’re like an empty amusement park, with all the rides open and waiting,” he writes – extending his rounds until the last rays of the sun sink below the North Sea and darkness ends his matches.
In St. Andrews, golf runs alongside life, which is a good fit for Horovitz, a devotee who informs us that he watched so much golf growing up that he could tell you everything about Viagra and Lipitor by age 12. That’s also when he began to caddie, and on a lark he decides to stay in St. Andrews the summer before Harvard to loop at “the cradle of golf.”
Horovitz, now 27, returns every summer to the St. Andrews caddie yard, and the book chronicles his rise from trainee to seasoned veteran. He gently weaves the story of his octogenarian great uncle, a lovable Scot residing in St. Andrews. A longtime neighbor of Uncle Ken proclaims Horovitz the son he never had, and this rings true.
However, every once in a while, the author pontificates or has some mini-epiphany that leaves you feeling as if he mis-clubbed. For instance, he says, “It’s clear to me that there are two kinds of love: the love you feel for your 86-year-old great-uncle, and the love you feel for your French girlfriend. Two very different types of Haggis.” I sure hope so.
Still, there is much to like about this coming-of-age memoir, such as tales of looping for celebrities Larry David and Huey Lewis, alongside Rory McIlroy in the Dunhill Links and buying Paula Creamer a tequila shot on the night of her 21st birthday. The story stalls a bit when he concentrates on his personal life or the scene shifts to Harvard, but the eccentric cast of characters who make up the caddie yard keep the story flowing.
Caddies have a language all their own, and Horovitz shares a few fresh phrases for the golf vernacular well worth appropriating the next time the situation should arise. For instance, a duffed tee shot is a Bon Jovi (halfway there) or a Kate Winslet (a little fat).
One of my favorite parts of the book is when he details the making of his Harvard documentary. Its subject is Jimmy Bowman, who has caddied more than 30 years without ever once hitting a ball. The documentary finally earns Horovitz a much-deserved badge of honor, a nickname in the caddie yard: Spielberg.