Today is the start of the Open Championship and since September last year I have been writing feverishly my latest novel – OPEN LINKS.
And my plan was to publish this week but never quite made. The book is finished but has yet to be edited by someone with a complete command of English – as is demonstrated here because here follows the Prologue and the Introduction to the novel…
OPEN LINKS by Dominic Holland – coming soon but to no good book shops…
Finally he gave up pretending to sleep and opened his eyes for good. His day had begun and everything felt wrong. It felt like he hadn’t slept at all. Not a single wink and this added to the pressure acute sense of anxiety that had started yesterday afternoon. And not normal anxiety or nerves that he was well used to. This was something else. It was a most peculiar feeling and something he had never experienced before which he put down to his unique day ahead. The fear of the unknown; don’t they say that is the worst fear of all? And so why should he feel normal he asked himself.
It was just after 4.30am, half an hour before his alarm was scheduled. His tiredness aside, nothing felt normal or safe. Unique circumstances, he reminded himself again; quite possibly the most important day of his life? And in all likelihood, today was unique and never to be repeated, so he had better enjoy it then? This notion of enjoying the day made him laugh briefly.
Gently, he pressed his thumbs on to his sore and swollen eyes. He must have slept a little, a couple of hours, maybe? But certainly not enough. Not for the day ahead anyway. Flat on his back, he opened his heavy eye lids and focussed on the brilliant white ceiling with cheap artex swirls and he tried to reassure himself that everything was normal. Only it wasn’t. He couldn’t explain it but he realised that something had changed. Something had happened but he didn’t know what and it made him feel vulnerable and impotent.
‘Come on Ricky. Jesus, man, snap out of it.’
Today was supposed to be a special day; the day that he had dreamed of for years and worked so hard to achieve. He splashed cold water on his face in his plastic en-suite bathroom and continued with his blunt assurances. Undoubtedly, his circumstances were extreme and his senses would be heightened. Today was never going to be just another ordinary day at work. To start with, it was Sunday, the day of our Lord and how Richard Randal needed a God now. Any God would do. And if not a deity, then at least, his bloody dad.
His motel room was in the eaves of the modern building and at the mercy of the brilliant dawn sun. Its first rays easily breaching the gap between the flimsy blinds and the edge of the roof pitched window. Laser beams literally prodding and poking at him; so ironic that they should be called blinds. Not that he could sleep anyway. Ricky peered at his frightened reflection in the mirror above a sink that was really too small to shave in and so an excuse not to perhaps?
The horrors of yesterday at work flooded his mind and made him wince. Such a humiliation, it was little wonder he hadn’t slept? He checked his phone, hoping for a message that might explain everything but there was no such enlightenment of course. Just one message from his wife, Maggie, reiterating what they had already discussed and agreed. That what happened yesterday was in the past. That it cannot be changed and so he needed to just put it behind him and move on. And try to relax. It was all pretty thin stuff and hardly inspiring but he was glad of her message and he listened to it again.
Hey Rick, it’s me. Just to say that I love you and I’m really proud of you – and what happened yesterday was not your fault, not really and that I’m still proud of you and so are the boys.
Her message was well intended but it was undermined by the use of not really and still but he appreciated it anyway and especially in the light that there was no message from his colleague, Patrick who was no doubt still smarting at yesterday’s events.
Ricky pinched the bridge of his nose as the memory stabbed at him again; like an errant piece of tin foil catching on a tooth filling. He had gone over it in his mind, over and over, trying to understand what had happened but still he couldn’t explain himself and it made no sense. But no matter, he was a professional and today at work the pair of them would just have to get on with it. Then he recalled Patrick’s last words to him and he blanched and almost had to sit down. He thought for a moment but quickly dismissed such a notion. There was no way. What Patrick had said was in the heat of the moment and he hadn’t meant it. Absolutely not and besides, today was a big day for Patrick too. He wouldn’t miss it for the world, no question? Good Lord. He better hadn’t?
Ricky looked at his watch; two hours exactly until his shift started. His work was not really a shift but it was certainly a grind. Sitting on the toilet now, he slapped both of his thighs hard over and over.
‘Come on Ricky, you can do this? You can do this. It’s just another day. It’s what I do. It’s what I’ve always done and what I do brilliantly. I don’t do anything as well as I do this. So what’s to worry about?’ Ricky was shouting now. ‘Nothing. Nothing. There’s nothing to fucking worry about. So just get out there and enjoy it.’
But his pep talk had a hollow echo. The words were fine and they made good sense but he needed to hear them from someone else and someone he trusted. Ideally from his dad, if only the old bastard had hung around long enough. And this terrible feeling he had? What the hell was happening to him? Ricky squeezed his eyes shut again and massaged his temples, pressing hard in to his skull as another wave of panic washed over him. His breathing shallowed and he wondered if he wasn’t about to have a full blown panic attack? He had heard of such attacks and how debilitating they could be but he clenched his fists and raised his knees and thankfully it passed. And everything added to this feeling of helplessness. Even his unsuccessful attempt at a bowel movement was worrying. He managed a couple of hard pebbles which were fooling no one because he knew that there was much more lurking within. Waiting to be evacuated and no doubt biding its time, so something else to think about then?
And yesterday was his fault as well. Sure, Patrick bore some responsibility, but ultimately, it was his name on the door. In his line of work, Ricky owned the glory and the failure. Over the years, he had lost count of encountering people envious of the way he made his living. The obvious response being, to what living are you referring to exactly? His income had been barely sufficient in his twenties and now, two decades on, he was still at it, only earning less now and with a family to support. Maggie, two boys and one more on the way. What the hell were they thinking? Going for the girl, Maggie called it. Heading for a cliff he preferred.
He exited the motel and instinctively assessed the day ahead, sniffing the air, trying to get a feel. He had already checked the forecast. A bright day with a swirling and gathering breeze later with little or no chance of rain. At just after 5am, Ricky had the adjoining motorway service facilities all to himself. Inside was a lone cleaner with a mop in-hand and a large expanse of floor, a task with parallels to his own. The man was old to be a cleaner and he looked exhausted. Hopefully he was ending his shift and not starting it? Dressed in green overalls, he looked at Ricky and a moment passed between them. The old man smiled broadly, making Ricky feel a little guilty. He smiled back as best he could.
Now at least, he was fully awake and mindful to dwell on only positive thoughts. Today is going to be a fucking great day, he assured himself and then he yawned like a lion. Ricky loathed the self-help guff that his colleagues seemed to use so effectively. Self-help; the new American science? The legitimate performance enhancing drug? The ability to access one’s inner gold mine for untold fame and riches? Ricky grimaced, reasoning that a battery with only positive terminals is entirely useless.
He checked his kit and that everything was present and then slammed his trunk, a little angry now. No doubt, Patrick would be hurting as well but what he had done was completely outrageous and so the sooner they cleared the air, the better. Ricky placed a call but it went straight to his voice mail and his anxiety tightened a little more. Surely, Patrick was up already and if so, why hadn’t he switched on his phone? Ricky squeezed his steering wheel as the ghastly thought recurred and he had to catch himself.
It was about a ten mile drive to work but at this early hour, the roads hadn’t yet choked up with the inevitable traffic. Of course, there was accommodation much closer to the office but it was not for employees on his pay grade and at a push he could even have stayed at home which he had considered but had decided against. For this type of work, he needed to be away from home and to stick to his routine. Ricky viewed one of the many cranes a way off in the distance and immediately felt another dollop of adrenalin drip in to his bloodstream. There was some movement below now as well; another warning sign of what was ahead. It was a horrible reality, feeling nervous going to work. Stupid bloody job?
And it wasn’t fair to regard himself as being on a different pay grade either. His ‘stupid’ job was actually entirely meritocratic. No nepotism or old school networks at work at all. No famous offspring miraculously prevailing. His was a numbers game. A pure results business and technically, he earned the same money as everyone else. Or at least he had the opportunity of doing so and so something to shoot for then?
Ricky drove through the gates in to work. A man in an orange vest stood sentry and then another man pointed to where he could park. The first available space was hidden by a muscular BMW X6, which was lacking only a turret. On the other side was a metallic grey Aston Martin with a private number plate that was probably as valuable as the car. Ricky eased his Astra Estate between the two, like a piece of dirty grout separating hand cut marble tiles. He cranked on his handbrake and got out, carefully.
And so much for his hope that this feeling of dread would recede once he got to work? If he had been bought a drink last night in a bar, he would have worried that it might have been spiked. He felt utterly lost and just wanted to jump back in to his car and drive home and Maggie would understand. He laughed again because this would not be her reaction at all. She would be furious with him and rightly so and quickly he thought of his dad again and what he would be expecting from his son today.
‘Fuck sake, Ricky, get a grip man. Get a fucking grip. Just another day. And whatever happens today; tomorrow will be Monday. The world will go on. And so will youâ€¦’
But who was he kidding? Today was most certainly not a normal day at all. Today is Sunday, 16th July. The final day of the British open. Ricky’s first ever British Open. His first ever major golf championship and his first event on the main tour in more than eight years.
He needed to hurry now. He slung his clubs over his shoulder and still no sign of his Patrick, his caddie. Ricky was the first match out this morning, teeing off at 7am.
Thirteen over par and in eighty second place. Or flat last.
Just an ordinary day thenâ€¦
For such a small country, the United Kingdom boasts an impressive and significant coastline, over eleven thousand miles in fact, which is more than Brazil and Argentina combined. The coast being the point where the land gives way to the ocean, only some stretches of our coast are better known than others. A mull anyone? A word on its own which has little use and not much more meaning until it is combined with Kintyre and suddenly, it makes perfect sense. Brighton is known for its pebbles, an IRA bomb and now it’s gay and green life. Blackpool for its tower and its fat, both chip and human. Hastings for its battleâ€¦
Or how about a small stretch of land on the east coast of Scotland? On the Duncur Road, leaving the town of Gullane for North Berwick in East Lothian? A strip of coastal land better known as Muirfield Golf Club and home no less, to the honourable company of Edinburgh golfers. No one does pride quite like the Scots and Scotland is a proud nation for good reason considering what it has given to the world; television, telephone, radar, whisky, bicycle, steam engine, penicillin, haggis of course and perhaps the greatest and the most stupid game of them all, golf?
Golf is really a preposterous notion and if it was invented today, it would stand little chance of becoming a success. Much like alcohol and tobacco, if golf was conceived today, it would almost certainly be banned. But golf continues to thrive because it has become engrained in our culture, without which, it would probably be seen off by two formidable modern day lobbies. Water is a finite resource and so is land the environmentalists would scream. Sons and daughters of rock stars and other privileged types would fling themselves in-front of JCB’s to prevent such large swathes of land being dedicated to a single game. And women would surely rally in opposition if their husbands or ‘life partners’ expressed an interest in this new game which takes four hours to play and can often account for a full day if the bacon roll and post round pint/s are factored in.
But for now at least, golf lives on. It is a game with a rich history and an array of colourful characters and champions; past and present. Its fashion and artistry. The shear purity of the game, pitting player against the land and the elements. And few can argue against the beauty of the golf course. A manicured green carpet, sweeping and undulating away as far as the eye can see and particularly so, a links golf course, covered in wet dew each morning with the ocean beyond and a single flag poking above the early morning mist.
But trying to establish which sport is the greatest of them all is a folly and a waste of time. Some will argue for archery, others judo or fencing and who would argue with them? But quite possibly, it can be agreed that golf is the hardest game of all? A game measured over vast distances and hundreds of stokes but ultimately, players are separated by mere millimetres and single shots. Often a cruel game and always a tough one and Muirfield Golf Club is one of the most formidable courses on earth. A course that nestles confidently within one hundred and eighty acres of Scotland. Eighteen holes stretching over seven thousand yards with only seventy one shots allowed; a foreboding challenge for even the very best players in the world – and so a stupid bloody game then?
These words played large in the thoughts of Ricky Randal as he made his way quickly towards the clubhouse where he expected to finally see his caddie, Patrick, looking sheepish and contrite.
Sorry Ricky, mate, honestly. About yesterday? Fuck me, what was that? I donâ€™t know what came over me. It was like I was possessed, like it wasn’t me, d’you what I saying? Anyway, look, can we just forget about it? Here, give us your bagâ€¦
But there was no Patrick and a new shaft of panic gripped Ricky again. Just where the hell is he? He tried ringing him again but he got his answerphone. And now he knew that something was definitely awry. He stared at his watch in horror. It was 6am already? Where had the time gone? He was due to tee off at 7am and he had much to do and chiefly to locate his bloody caddie.
Ricky wanted to get in to the clubhouse quickly. He needed some space to think and time to try and compose himself, but equally important, he didnâ€™t want anyone else to see him lumping his own golf bag around. It was fine on the lesser pro-tours but it was not okay on the full PGA tour and certainly not on the final day of the sodding British Open. Just then Justin Rose appeared from the side of a huge sleek vehicle emblazoned with the livery of one of the global golf brands. Ricky quickened his step. If he had a golf cap, he would have pulled it down low. He knew Justin from his amateur days but since then, their lives and their careers had diverged wildly.
‘Hey dude.’ Justin called over.
‘Shit.’ Ricky muttered to himself, caught now in a dilemma.
‘What are you doing? Where’s your caddie?’ Justin asked, out of genuine interest and not to score any points. Justin Rose is a nice guy and a rare breed for such an achiever in such an individual sport. Ricky was further unsettled by Justin’s use of the word ‘dude’ and wondered if the superstar couldnâ€™t put a name to his face? After all, it had been a very long time. Way back in 1997 in fact, when they had played Walker Cup together. Or even worse, perhaps Justin didn’t recognise him at all? The years certainly hadn’t been as kind to Ricky as they might have been. He had thickened around the middle, his thatch of curls had thinned and his golf scores had kept him completely off the sports radar. Justin bounded over and grabbed Ricky’s hold-all before he could protest and as laden as he was, he still wished that he hadn’t.
‘Hey, Rick, how are you doing?’ He asked and Ricky smiled, unsure whether he was relieved or not to be recognised.
‘Yeah, you know. Generally shit.’
Justin smiled. ‘Yeah, I saw what happened yesterday. That was really tough mate, I’m sorry.’
Ricky shrugged as best he could. Maggie had first alerted him to the fact that his incident on the 16th hole had made the sports bulletins. Safe then to assume that everyone knew about it and everyone had had a good laugh?
‘Yeah, you know. But there’s always today right?’ Ricky offered but without due confidence. ‘And it’s not like it matters, eh?’
‘And the Open is every year, right?’ Ricky added quickly to defuse any awkwardness and Justin chuckled along.
‘So what about you?’ Ricky continued. ‘You still playing?’
Justin Rose, the former US Open Champion and gazzilionarie golfer now laughed out loud. ‘Yeah, you knowâ€¦ now and again. When the mood takes me.’ Justin continued the theme. He recalled Ricky’s good sense of fun, although Ricky would prefer to remembered for his golf. Not since pro-celebrity golf on the telly has a golfer made a living from being funny.
‘So how come you’re here so early?’ Ricky asked. ‘What are you, one under?’
‘Ah, you know. I’m staying in a house here. I woke early, you know what kids are like and I needed some club adjustments plus I have some sponsor stuff and pressâ€¦’
Ricky nodded as if he understood. Ricky was staying at a Travelodge. He didn’t have anyone to adjust his clubs and he didn’t have any sponsors either. And as things currently stand, Ricky didn’t even have a caddie. Justin stopped to sign an autograph and have his photograph taken with two Japanese women who were both wearing fluorescent Marshall bibs and so really should have known better. Ricky spied the large leader-board ahead of him and to the left of the Muirfield clubhouse.
Rose. 5th place -2
Ricky had him at one under par. Sorry mate. Justin had the game and had every chance of winning here today and what a popular winner he would be? Other women now joined the hunt for photographs and so Ricky took his chance to get off. He grabbed his bag back and nodded good luck to his old mate. Justin had stuff to do and so did he.
‘Hey Ricky.’ Justin called after him. ‘Go well today.’
‘Seriously, I’ve a got a good feeling about you today.’
Ricky nodded. Really? I wish I did.
‘Something in the air. I can feel it.’
‘Yeah, thanks mate.’ Ricky waved.
It was a kind thing of Justin to say but Ricky didn’t feel much buoyed. He felt awful; timid and anxious and almost nauseous.Â And exhausted of course after his night in the oven with his thoughts pounding his mind and keeping him awake. Never mind the golf, all he wanted to do was go home to his family.
â€¦we’ll have live updates throughout the morning from the Scottish links and then BBC Radio 5 live will be live at Muirfield with John Inverdale from 2pm when the leaders go out including the likes of Woods, Rose, Westwood and McIroy – and we will stay with the golf until the close of play this evening at whatever time that is – when the Champion golfer of the year is announced. But for now, the first pair is due out in just under an hour, a pair that includes England’s Ricky Randal who had that infamous incident yesterday with his caddie on the sixteenth green. Let’s hope that the pair fare a little better today in the final roundâ€¦
Nowadays, in professional sport, nothing is left to chance. Preparation is key and particularly so in golf, where players each have their own routine, adapted and refined over their careers based on whatever has worked for them in the past. But for such an individual sport, professional golfers are not alone, accompanied now by their agents, managers, therapists, coaches, sponsors and equipment providers and most important of all, their caddie or wing man. Their man within the ropes.
The caddie bears a great responsibility and is much more than just a guy lumping a golf bag about. Very often scratch golfers themselves they know the game intimately. They maintain the clubs and make the correct club available to the golfer in perfect condition as and when needed. And crucially they know what to say. They know when to speak and when not to speak in order to get their man around the course as economically as possible.
Patrick was not in the clubhouse and Ricky was frantic now. Where the fuck is he? Ricky tried calling him again. This time his phone rang and Patrick finally picked up. Thank God. But then Ricky’s world completely crashed around him. And given what Patrick had to say, he spoke with remarkable poise.
‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ Ricky spat venomously, grateful that the locker room was empty.
‘Yes I am. And no, I can’t explain it and I’m sorryâ€¦’
‘Sorry! You’re fucking sorry.’ Ricky screamed loudly.
‘Yes, I am. I’m sorry. So, best of luck and play well.’
Ricky stared at his phone as his muddled mind began to break down. Frantically, he played the conversation over in his mind as beads of sweat popped out on to his brow. Was this an elaborate joke and Patrick was about to walk in through the door? But the doors remained shut and Ricky was now distraught. He needed to call someone? He hit contacts on his phone, with his vision blurring as he scrolled down aimlessly. But what was the point? He was in Scotland and teeing off in less than an hour. Who could he call?
Ricky charged from the locker room in to the bar area hoping to see Patrick standing there with a big grin on his face, at which point he would have hugged him and then killed him later – after his round? Or failing that, he hoped to see a young assistant golf professional with nothing to do for the day and happy to caddie for him. But no such luck. Present only were a bunch of old duffers in blazers and odd coloured trousers and they glanced over at him knowingly. The incident on 16th, no doubt? Then Ricky thought of the pro shop. Quickly he headed outside and past some reserved parking bays and around the corner to the pro shop. But then he stopped instantly. The place was stiff with people. It was manic. Of course it would be. This isn’t a monthly medal. This is the British Open. Justin Rose was chatting with Ernie Els and some other players he didn’t know. Young Turks who live in the gym and looking more like middle weights than golfers in their immaculate outfits. Journalists fluttered about like pigeons waiting for scraps with a film crew loitering also and self-important officials complete with their walkie talkies. The prospect of entering the pro shop and trying to hire a caddie was out of the question; sleeve of balls please, bag of tees, erâ€¦ the long ones and do you know of anyone who could carry my bag? The press would have a field day. Panic welled within. His mouth dried and his heart thumped and unfortunately it was not alone. Ricky froze as something stirred below. His eyes widened. Most pressing now was not his impending tee time but the pressure against his sphincter. This was not a casual message from bowel to brain. This was no gentle reminder that he might like to consider a visit to a cubicle. This was an alarm and he had precious little time. His absent caddie was now a distant concern. Justin Rose looked over at him curiously. The Big Easy too.
Ricky turned now and lurched forward like a Gazel that has just spotted a lion and now he was running for the clubhouse as quickly as he could but without a full stride because it couldn’t be trusted. He practically kicked the clubhouse door down and it would have killed a member had he been exiting just at the wrong time. He tore through the comfortable lounge and dived into the locker room which mercifully was still quiet and which itself was so peculiar because it should be packed already with players and caddies getting ready. He smashed his way in to the toilet area. At this point, had the stalls been occupied, then he would have had little choice but to prop himself in to a urinal or even worse, a sink. An ignominious way to achieve golfing immortality? With no time, Ricky ripped at his belt buckle and got himself on to the pan without a moment to spare as shear panic and adrenalin began to pour out of him. He breathed out heavily. Oh, thank God. The relief was awesome but too short lived, as his awful reality resurfaced. He had no caddie. Golfers are frequently told to relax and to just let things flow but not in such a way as his body continued to empty. He fidgeted with his phone. Who could he call? He looked at his watch again. Just what the hell was going on and why was this happening? ‘Shit. Fucketty shit shit.’ Ricky called out to himself which were appropriate enough expletives.
Ricky heard a tap being run somewhere in the toilet outside and his spirits sank even further. It meant that someone had overheard his terror. Of course they had and given his day so far, the man present in the toilet was probably a journalist who now had an idea for his column? Even more likely, it would be Peter Allis or Ken Brown. Ricky took a moment hoping had he had finished and that it was safe to stand up. He did so gingerly, hovering a moment before quickly getting himself ready and he appeared from the stall as confidently as possible. Better out than in eh?
In contrast to the fervour outside the clubhouse, the toilet was still deathly quiet which again was troubling. Had he got the wrong course which might explain everything? Or had players arrived this morning, dressed and ready to play? Were his fellow professionals sitting on their tail gates pulling on their shoes in the car park, contravening one of the golden rules? The locker room should be heaving by now but not that Ricky was complaining. The toilet was empty apart from an old man wearing a green apron, the toilet attendant? Ricky had seen him throughout the week and had passed general pleasantries with him. He had a kind face, framed by a shock of white hair and a thin moustache. He had light eyes and an intelligent face. Maybe sixty or so and small, not much over five feet. He had the wiry frame of an ex-serviceman and looked significantly over qualified to be attending toilets. For the second time this morning, Ricky empathised with someone holding a mop.
‘Nervous?’ The man said, casually as you like. The understatement of the year? Ricky nodded. There was little point in denying it.
‘It’s only a game.’ The man added kindly. ‘And anyway, they all get nervous, even Woods.’
Ricky eyed the clock on the wall. Ten more precious minutes had elapsed. His playing partner would now be rolling in the last of his practise putts having already spent time hitting balls on the golf range with each of his clubs. His caddie would have washed his clubs and placed them in correct order in his bag and was probably holding a banana, should his charge need a quick calorie boost, or possibly a drink or a stick of gum? Ricky’s eyes widened as his bowel suddenly twitched again but quickly it settled, thank God.
The old man smiled. ‘Hello. I’m Marvin.’ He offered his hand taking Ricky a little by surprise. He didn’t look like a Marvin. The only Marvin that Ricky knew of was a menacing and brilliant boxer? Not an old English duffer like this guy. And Ricky couldn’t take his hand either, not before he had washed his own and something which Marvin should really have accounted for. He quickly washed his hands and flung them dry, not having time for these high tech dryers that always promise more than they deliver. Finally, they shook hands.
‘Shouldn’t you be out there, son? You’re first match out, right?’
Ricky pulled at his face. He wanted to cry. He didn’t want Patrick to appear now, but Maggie, his loving wife. She would just hold him and make him feel all right. Or his old man and he thought of how upset his dad would be if he could see his boy in such a predicament.
Marvin smiled again. He had a knowing air about him. Â ‘It’s your caddie, right? What is he, a no- show?’
Ricky looked at the man oddly. He was surprised that he could make such an assumption but also hearing his reality made it even more real and pressing. He had no option. He would have to withdraw from the Championship. This would be humiliating and expensive, foregoing the fifteen thousand euro prize for finishing last and this was assuming that he didn’t manage to improve on his position.
‘How about I carry it for you?’ Marvin suggested casually as you like.
‘Your bag? Carry your clubs for you?’
Ricky was startled and confused. He stared at the odd little man trying to process his offer and when he did, all he could do was to laugh. It was a release and it felt good, being able to laugh. An anti-dote to the bewildering feeling that had enveloped him since yesterday. Marvin joined him and laughed as well albeit he wasn’t aware of saying anything funny.
‘You carry my bag?’ Ricky asked incredulously.
‘What? How hard can it be? I used to be in the army. I’ve carried heavier loads for miles and not on bloody grass.’
Ricky forced himself to focus. It wasn’t the physical side of Marvin that was really troubling him. It was more his incredible circumstances. On the advent of the most important round of his life, to be without a caddie and his best option was a toilet attendant?
‘Unless you have another offer of course?’
Sadly, Ricky didn’t.
‘You could always carry them yourself I suppose?’ Marvin added with a mischievous grin. Ricky thought about this. Carrying his own bag would be impossible. Plus he would be a laughing stock. A toilet attendant was a poor option but he was way better than nothing.
‘Are you sure?’
Marvin chuckled. ‘Course I am. Why wouldn’t I be? It might even be fun?’
Ricky wasn’t convinced.
‘And these toilets are clean enough right?’
‘Yeah, I guessâ€¦’ Ricky said, weakening now, something which Marvin sensed and seized upon.
‘Great, then I’m in. Better to be in the fresh air than in these bogs all day, eh?’
‘Yeah, I guess so.’ Ricky said, almost numb.
Marvin looked thrilled but suddenly he took on a serious air and darted past Ricky and looped around the back of him and then came full circle to face him again. But now his easy manner had gone and was replaced with a sense of alarm and urgency.
Ricky looked at him enquiringly.
‘What?’ Ricky asked self-consciously but Marvin didn’t answer. Instead, he shot in to his little office, just off the side of the locker room.
‘What size pants are you?’
‘Pants?’ Ricky shrieked.
‘I mean trousers. Trousers. What size trousers are you?’
Ricky’s eyes widened. ‘What? Why do you want to know that?’
‘What, thirty four? Thirty six?’ Marvin continued rummaging through his little office. ‘We haven’t got time. Now, get those things off. What is it with you lot and white trousersâ€¦’
Ricky suspected what the issue was now and once again he felt like he was about to burst in to tears. Obediently, he unbuckled his belt and pulled down his trousers. Immediately, he saw what he suspected and he let out a little yelp. His trousers were completely ruined. A rude jagged line of brown ran all the way from the seat of his trousers right up to his belt loops with much splashing either side. Whatever score he would shoot today, Ricky was already heavily in debt to Marvin and he hadn’t even picked up his bag up yet.
Lee Pah was Ricky’s playing partner for the final round. On the practise putting green, the young Korean handed his club to his trusted caddie and took the stick of gum that he was holding ready for him. A gaggle of admiring girls watched from a respectful distance clutching pens and programmes that they hoped the player might sign for them. He pulled his sunglasses down and tugged his golf cap down low and began striding purposefully towards the first tee. The girls didnâ€™t even get a glance from the eighteen year old. He looked resplendent all in white; in clothes that had been tailored for him and never worn before; figure hugging and emblazoned with the names of his six sponsors, all fighting for attention and hoping for plenty of coverage. Back home in Korea, this was a certainty. Lee was the current Asian sensation, but such is the growth of golf in Asia, there is a constant and steady succession of ever new and younger sensations. There is no time like the present for the golf protÃ©gÃ©.
There was no real crowd to speak on the first tee, at five minutes before 7am. Present was the match referee who had drawn the shortest straw; this being the first match out and with no players of any repute. A few stewards and marshals were milling about but most interesting of all, there was not yet a full complement of professional golfers. Players in the fourth round of the Open play in pairs. Lee preferred to arrive on to the tee after his playing partner, just a habit that he had developed. Top of the bill perhaps? But today he was first on to the tee with no sign of the English journeyman he was partnering for the round.
As ever, the starter, Ivor Robson was in place. The urbane Scot and man with the easiest job in world sport; to read names out loud. Nice work if one can get it. Nevertheless, Mr Robson took his job very seriously indeed and currently he was greatly perturbed by the presence of only one player. He had a field of eighty two to get underway. Television networks across the world and an audience of billions were counting on him.
Mr Robson stared at his watch. A minute to go and the Open would start with a disqualification which would a story that nobody wanted to see. But where could Randal be? What could possibly be making him late and then without a second to spare, Richard Randal burst through the tunnel under the surrounding grandstand and on to the tee. He was out of breath and on his own with Marvin already lagging some way behind? It was quite an entrance and everyone present was aghast at what stood before them and this was without seeing the state of his caddie.
Marvin was struggling. As soon as he got under Ricky’s bag, his knees had buckled and Ricky panicked. The Swiss Army was it Marvin? Ricky could envisage the old boy keeling over and dying on him mid-round and immediately he thought to lighten his load, jettisoning stuff from his bag that he could do without. He had already lost one caddie and he needed to keep this one alive.
The first tee now had two golfers but all was not well. Not well at all, a feeling that Ricky could well understand and indeed share in. Each individual match has its own on course referee and Ricky clocked his referee’s cartoonesque double take immediately. The man could not believe what he was seeing and once he had established that it was real he was immediately gabbering in to his radio. And Ricky understood why but what could he do? What choice did he have? It was either a pair of white trousers covered in shit or a kilt?
The referee got off his radio and marched towards Ricky with a sense of real purpose.
‘Where’s your caddie and what the fuck are you wearing?’ The referee barked, dispensing with the customary handshake, good luck and play well.
Ricky just shrugged. He was embarrassed and hardly knew where to begin. I woke up with this morning with this strange feelingâ€¦
‘My caddie is on his way.’
‘And the clobber?’ The referee pointed down at the offending garment.
‘It’s a kiltâ€¦’
‘Yeah, no shit Sherlock. I can see it itâ€™s a kilt. But this is a golf course and this is the fucking Open so what is it doing on you a professional golfer?’
He was a little aggressive but it was a perfectly reasonable question but Ricky did not know where to begin. He glanced over his shoulder wondering where the hell Marvin had got to because perhaps he could explain.
‘Erâ€¦’ Ricky dithered. What to say? It was all Marvin had in his cupboard. A kilt or a pair of plus fours that he couldn’t squeeze in to. So it was the kilt or nothing if he was going to make his tee time. The match referee continued to glare at him. Golf has strict rules for what attire can be worn. No jeans being the most notable requirement and only tailored shorts with long socks. And very obviously no kilts which might not be explicitly stated but only because it didn’t need to be? No exposed knees and of course he looked preposterous. At worst, it looked as though he was cocking two fingers at the venerable game with its long and proud traditions.
Ricky didn’t have a golf cap either but this was always going to be a minor clothing crime in comparison. He was sure that he had one in his golf bag and would get to it the moment Marvin made it on to the tee. It would complete his look as a professional golfer and further lighten Marvin’s load. A win win then? Players who are sponsored are duty bound to wear their golf caps at all times. There had been some talk of Ricky getting a couple of grand from a club manufacturer after his brilliant second round to make the tournament cut but it hadn’t gone anywhere and he assumed that their interest had waned after round three.
Matters were not helped at all when Marvin finally crawled on to the tee.
‘Here’s my caddie now.’ Ricky said. He hoped that this might appease the referee, but it didn’t appear to. The referee looked over in Marvin’s direction and was anything but impressed.
He snapped his glare back on to Ricky. ‘Are you taking the piss?’
‘What? No. Look, I’ve had a disastrous morning. I had white trousersâ€¦’ Ricky began but quickly stopped himself. ‘It’s my knees isn’t it?’ Ricky faded to nothing and opted instead for his best mournful and pleading look.
‘And where’s your caddie again?’ The referee asked again.
Ricky grimaced now. ‘He’s there.’ Ricky pointed at Marvin who he hoped might at least stand up straight.
‘Him, who, where?’ The referee barked and finally Ricky snapped. He beckoned Marvin over to him and he approached a little gingerly wondering if his toilets might have been a better option after all.
‘This is Marvin. He’s my caddie.’
The ref stared at Ricky. ‘Marvin?’
‘Hello sir.’ Marvin said.
‘This is Marvin.’ Ricky repeated. Marvin was all he knew. ‘He’s new. I can change my caddie right?’
The referee’s eyes narrowed as he considered his options, his finger twitching on his radio. It was almost 7am and time to get the final round underway. This was an-going situation but for now, it would have to wait. After a cursory handshake with both players, the referee began backing away much to Ricky’s relief. Â He needed to talk with his boss and he couldn’t hold the Open up. Beyond his pay grade. Okay people, letâ€™s play golf!
‘I’m sorry about the outfit.’ Ricky offered generally. This was all Patrick’s fault and he imagined what he was going to do to him once his round was finished. Take to him with an eight iron perhaps? Or maybe a two iron. He rarely used his two iron and he could use the practise.
And then it finally dawned on him. In all the mania of the last hour or so, he had forgotten that he was about to play the final round of the British Open. Suddenly, his legs felt heavy and his mouth dried as the match referee continued to gabble in to his radio.
Ricky shook hands with his playing partner in a daze now and quickly they exchanged cards. Lee Pah looked equally bemused. He said nothing other than hello but there was a little smirk towards his caddie which Ricky caught and decided to ignore. It was fair enough. Ricky would have done the same. After all, it was funny. A golfer turning up as though he was late for the mid-week medal and in fancy dress. One thing was certain for the day ahead; as things stood, Ricky was going to make the sports bulletins; the early ones at least and possibly even the later ones as well and not because of his golf.