IF SHIVAS HAD A BROTHER…
Michael Murphy imagined his Golf In The Kingdom protagonist, and the Society’s namesake, Shivas Irons, as a wise and unassuming master teacher who guides his pupils to a nuanced understanding of their true nature using golf as the vehicle to explore inner and outer realms.
If Michael’s muse had steered him to fuse humor and transformation, he might have given Shivas a younger brother, a globetrotting vagabond with an equally deep—but different—love for the game. Our new character might be on a quest to every corner of this planet to see its sights, meet its people and play its courses. And, he’d favor caddying to support his adventures.
Enter Lorne Duncan (“Duncan”) our real-life protagonist. Duncan is a lovely 60-year-old Canadian golfer who’s witnessed contemporary golf history from inside the ropes. For 40 years, he’s caddied on all tours, on all continents, while living a minimalistic lifestyle beautifully exemplified by the sandals he sports everywhere. Duncan gets our vote for the role of Shivas’ brother, his love of the game is so authentic, vital and without pretense.
While here during a recent AT&T Pro Am at Pebble Beach where he caddied for young Matt Fitzpatrick, Duncan generously shared about his adventurous life with us. He was a treat to be with and to watch in action.
Below is the first ‘installment’ of a book Duncan has yet to finish but may share with us over time. We hope you enjoy his honest tone and the stories that render a world we don’t see on TV. Oh, and don’t be fooled: Duncan is a fine caddie.
A Work in Progress by Lorne Duncan
"I'm a caddie."
"You mean like those guys who carry the bag on TV?"
"Wow, I love golf! Tell me, how do you become a caddie?"
And then for the ten-thousandth time, you recount how you got started, what a caddie does and you dance arounduntil the inevitable "So how much does a caddie make?" question.
Caddies are, for some unknown reason, the only people on earth to whom you're allowed to ask this question within 10 seconds of meeting.
This predictable—and understandable—kind of exchange started me thinking that maybe I’d get some business cards printed describing the life of a caddie so I could just hand it out rather than repeat the routine. As you can see, I got a little a carried away: my business card became a chapter and is now well on its way to becoming a book.
Or the longest business card in history.
This book is a collaboration between Colin Byrne and myself. I’d have written it on my own but the book was Colin’s idea and given the fact that he's dyslexic, I knew he'd need my help.
I’ve known Colin for 30 years and we’ve traveled all over this planet together in search of players, percentage checks and pleasure. Any book about caddying will ultimately be as much about travel as about golf. I think it's safe to say that the love of travel is the bond that Mr. Byrne and I share. We have traveled as much for our own pleasure as we have for work. In fact for almost 25 years now I have maintained no permanent residence and have spent my weeks away from the tour trying to travel to some place I have not been to before.
So why another book about caddying? Surely it's been done before?
Caddie books seem to fall into two broad categories: the first is by people—journalists—who became caddies to write a book about caddies; the second is by so-called ‘famous’ caddies who’ve worked for famous players. The first is well written but with no real reservoir of experience and the latter seems to have no purpose beyond boring their audience to death. I've been caddying for forty years now and Colin thirty, and though we’ve had our fair share of successes, it seemed like it was time a couple of ‘real caddies’ tell their story. So here we are.
I'm what they call in this business ‘a lifer’. I left Canada at the age of 21 and have spent my whole adult life caddying. I see myself doing nothing else. In other words, I'm on a life sentence with no sign of parole.
Now, before I go any further, I want to go on record as saying that I am the worst caddie I know. The world of tour golf is a pretty closed one and after forty years I am still amazed that players are willing to employ me. Now you’d think that the thought of having to admit to that level of incompetence after 40 years of experience would be a burden too great to bear. Not at all. Let me let you in on what may be the one and only absolutely true statement in this book: a caddie is only as good as his/her player. If someone starting out in this trade asked me what was the single most important thing I could suggest that would make them a better caddie I would tell them, "Go find yourself a better player!" So every time I picked up Nick Faldo's, Corey Pavin's or Jesper Parnevik's bag, I too became a greatcaddie. Famous even. (Oh yes, I've had more then my fifteen minutes.)
A ‘famous caddie’. Now there's an idea to explore. Imagine you’re in a restaurant and your friend says to you, "Look behind. See that guy coming through the door? That guy is a famous poet." You'd look around. Or,"You see that woman at the next table? She's a famous actress.” Same thing, you'd have a look over. But, "You see that guy sitting up at the bar?” (And that's just where a caddie would be, famous or not.) "That guy is a famous caddie".
"What, one of those guys that carry a golf bag"?
And at this point you'd start doing some mental arithmetic on how may drinks your mate's had and then make some subtle attempt to change the subject.
There is nothing more ephemeral then a famous caddie. As Dave Musgrove, Sandy Lyle's caddie, once said "You’re only one shot away for the car park". And "the car park" is where unemployed caddies reside. I've actually heard of caddies that, after pulling a peculiarly bad club, were sacked while the ball was still in flight. I suppose there is such an animal as a "famous" caddie but I can tell you, I wouldn't want to hang my hat on it.
Just recently I finished reading William Borrow's Junky. The jacket cover suggests that what made it such an outstanding piece of literature is its honesty. Well I want this to be great literature too so I’d better come clean: I'm the dyslexic one, not Colin. That's right, a dyslexic caddie. This probably goes a long way to explaining why I'm the worst caddie I know. At 61 years of age I still confuse left and right. This can be a bit of a problem when your player wants to know where the wind is coming from. I'm also one of the worst people you've ever seen with numbers. This can lead to what is known by us loopers as a ‘mystery’. A mystery is arrived at by adding up your yardages incorrectly which makes pulling a club pretty much impossible and I am the master of mysteries. Agatha Christie’s got nothing on me. So you’re probably saying to yourself, “How did he ever get someone to hire a dyslexic?” Well, this was written by a dyslexic and so far you're still reading so I must have done something right!
I can say I never planned to write a book, although many have suggested it. But I guess all those years making my way from point A to point B around the globe, it's sort of been building. I was paired with Greg Norman several years back in Perth. After nine holes of virtual silence he says to me as we walk off the 10th tee, "So Duncan, been on any interesting travel recently?" I nearly fell over. (I didn’t know he even knew my name, let alone that I had a reputation as a traveller.) I said…
“Yeah, I just hitchhiked out here from Sydney".
"What!! How long did that take?"
He shook his head and said, "So when's the book coming out?"
I suppose that taking four days getting to a tournament would seem ridiculous to a guy who flies around on his private jet but for the rest of us mere mortals on tour seeking adventure—and of course trying to save a buck—the low slow road was, and always will be, the only option.