Fellow caddie Duncan Lumsdaine and I photographed for an article in June of 1973 – click to open
Late in 1972, after a trip early in the year to Australia to caddy in the Tasmanian, the Victorian and the Forbes (yes Forbes ) Opens, I spent most of that year working on a horse stud in the Waikato before caddying in events 1972/73 New Zealand Golf season. I began thinking how I might take this growing obsession of caddying in professional golf events to a higher level.
I had caddied for John Lister when he won the first of his four consecutive Garden City events in Christchurch in late 1972 and a week or two later Jack Newton won the City of Auckland Classic at the Grange Golf Club where I had caddied again for Lister.
With Lister fully ensconced on the PGA Tour by then, I began to hatch a plan that might get me to Europe for the 1973 season there and I approached Newton to see whether there might be a chance to caddy for him in Europe where he was already seen as a rising star having won the Dutch Open the previous year.
From the moment he said yes, that was the direction I wanted to take. I was 19 years of age and it was in an era where it was hardly fashionable to travel to the other side of the world to caddy and there was quite a bit of trailblazing involved but that was not about to stop me.
Jack Newton – seen here at the 1975 Open Championship – gave me an initial reason to head for Europe.
First, I had to convince my parents, however, and I will never forget the evening sitting down at the kitchen table at their home in Rotorua to raise the idea with them. I was expecting a rebuff and being told that I either needed to extend my education or get a real job but in an exchange which increased the already high esteem in which I held my parents they gave me their blessing to go ahead with the plan.
I would probably have done so anyway but to have their support made the task easier and so I set about earning some quick money between January and April that would allow me to build the sort of funds I needed to underwrite my trip.
I headed to Dunedin where I managed to secure a job working at the Roslyn Woollen Mills on the night shift. As could be imagined it was hardly the sort of job that inspired me, but the money was good and the role was made significantly easier by the fact that at the end of it all would be this great adventure to the European Tour. It was, after all, a means to an end.
In early April, I left Dunedin for Rotorua for a few final weeks with my parents before heading for Europe. It was while in Rotorua when I was contacted by Newton who called to tell me that as his father Jack Snr had made a relatively late decision to travel to England and caddy for him and so my dreams might well have been shattered there and then.
Newton, however, asked if I might want to caddy for Bob Shearer, another emerging Australian player and the 1969 Australian Amateur Champion, who was about to play his second season in Europe after playing just seven events in his rookie year.
Bob Shearer in Bristol in June 1973 – courtesy of Getty Images
I was so far advanced in my thinking regarding the trip that nothing was going to stop me and it was agreed that I would meet Shearer in Bournemouth in early May for the second of the events in Britain that year after the tour had begun a few weeks earlier in southern Europe.
I left for London via a two-week stopover with friends in Seattle and arrived in London on May 6th which just so happened to be F.A. Cup Final day with Sunderland defeating Leeds that day.
Not that I could have cared too much about that, other than a passing interest, but it made the arrival in London a little busier than it might otherwise have been and having never travelled long distances as such I was a little disorientated, falling asleep on the bed of my very basic bed and breakfast place near Victoria Station in the early afternoon and waking up at 7.00pm thinking it was morning.
Once my brain had cleared I managed to get a reasonable night’s sleep and the following morning caught the train to Bournemouth with my one large bag and asked a taxi driver to take me to a bed and breakfast place near the Queens Park Golf Club where the tournament would begin in a few days’ time.
One settled I thought I might take a stroll over to the golf course to get a feel of where I was. The B&B was just around the corner as it turned out and within easy walking distance which was perfect. The room rate was £1.50 per night bed and breakfast or £2.00 if I wanted dinner.
I was asked by the landlady how often I would want a bath and when I told her at least once a day she was flabbergasted and suggested it would be another 20 pence in the meter whenever I did have one. “Welcome to England,” I thought.
So, on the Sunday afternoon, I headed over to the golf course, only to find it closed as on Sundays the course became a public area for walking dogs etc on that day. Many tournaments in Great Britain in that era finished on Saturdays.
I was standing there observing all of this when I felt eyes on the back of my head. I turned to see and old character in a trench-coat and a Tam o’ Shanter style hat who called to me asking what I was up to.
I advised that I was here to caddy in the event this coming week and when he asked who for and I responded ‘Bob Shearer’ he was quick off the mark in his broad cockney accent and with little in the way of warmth in his comment. “You what – coming over here from the antipodes and stealing our bags.”
Now I was already struggling to come to terms with being on my own and the novelty of it all, but this was my welcome to the ranks of the caddies in Britain.
As it turned out ‘Chingy Maidment’ was an individual who I eventually got on well with, but his initial comments were a little unsettling, especially given I was trying to get my bearings and find my feet.
He was coming to the end of his caddying career which had, apparently, included caddying for the 1936 Open Champion Alf Padgham and, at times, Neil Coles and was happy to share his knowledge of the brotherhood of caddies and make me aware of the characters and pitfalls I might face.
While acceptance of and by the British caddies took a few weeks, I was delighted to find that an Australian caddie who I had met in New Zealand the previous year, Duncan Lumsdaine, had also ventured to Europe to caddie for Ian Stanley.
Neither Duncan nor I knew that the other would be there but, importantly, I had a travelling companion for the initial stages of my time in Europe.
Bob Shearer arrived the next day and, after finishing 8th that week, Duncan and I combined some of our very limited resources and bought a 1963 Austin Mini for £100 and the next day headed for Blairgowrie in Scotland for the Sumrie Fourball event on one of Britain’s nicer inland golf courses of the time, Rosemount.
My caddying in Europe was underway.