The ISPS New Zealand Open has proven innovative in many of the features it has introduced to its week of activities at The Millbrook Resort and the Hills Golf Club near Queenstown in Central Otago.
A Caddie Clinic hosted by Steve Williams on the Wednesday of the event is further evidence of how such initiative can assist in making the week an even greater success.
Williams has become a household name in New Zealand golf and, indeed, in New Zealand sport and with so many caddies, both experienced and those volunteering without any previous experience, needed for the combined amateur and professional field of more than 250 players, Williams was asked three years ago to assist in passing on some of his extensive knowledge to others.
Not only has Williams’ record in caddying for the winners of some 150 titles including 14 majors (13 of those with Tiger Woods) allowed him to speak as the foremost authority on his craft, it provides him the background and knowledge to impart on to those who were caddying for the first time in Queenstown and even some with more experience looking for a refresher course.
Some were there to not only hear about the finer points of the caddie’s role they were also there to listen to many of Williams’ thoughts generally on the game of golf and to hear some of the ‘war stories’ he has accumulated over nearly forty years.
Just as was the case for so much of his caddying career Williams is candid and forthright in his opinions and the 90 or so in the audience that afternoon lapped up his every word.
I have known Steve Williams for nearly all of that time and have been a great admirer of someone who found a way to turn what was seen all those years ago as a hobby into a very successful career.
After two years of hosting the Clinic on his own, Williams was keen to have someone to share the day with, bounce thoughts and ideas off and to MC the function and, as I was at the event in my role as an on-course commentator that week, I was only too happy to do so.
Williams and the writer during Caddie Clinic – Photosport
I had the good fortune in my caddying days to caddy for the winners of 17 tournaments in Europe, Japan, and New Zealand and while it pales into comparison to the stunning career of Williams, it afforded me the background to host a Q&A session between myself and Williams and then between Williams and those who attended the gathering.
Williams also took aside for a special session those rookies who were keen to learn the basics of caddying and others, more experienced, who were keen to understand the finer points of the craft from a man whose success in the role is unquestioned
That break out session involved things as simple as how best to carry the bag, bunker raking, bunker rake positioning, where to stand when you are caddying etc, where to place the bag near the green, how to relate to your player and other things which might sound very automatic for those who have been involved previously but tips for the newcomer which were very well received.
Then, the larger group re-formed and Steve and I talked about so many different aspects of caddying and some of the many stories he has accumulated over the years.
That the tournament put on a few beers and a sausage sizzle added to the late afternoon gathering no doubt made attending the event even more enticing, but Williams kept the audience captivated for over an hour as we chewed through so many different aspects of toting the bag.
I have always found Steve Williams to be articulate and open with his ideas and he has always been a most charitable character and happy to give of his time.
His decisive manner and loyal character have been key ingredients in maintaining longevity in his role with several of the game’s leading players and he continues to display those traits now that his caddying career is winding down.
Adam Scott winning the Australian PGA with Williams on the bag – photo Bruce Young
The charity he and his wife Kirsty have run in New Zealand has been responsible for assisting underprivileged youngsters and several years ago donated more than a million dollars towards an oncology unit at an Auckland hospital.
He is therefore giving back in more ways than in golf itself but the advice and stories he passed on during this year’s New Zealand Open will leave those who were there on the eve of the event thankful for the information he was only too happy to share.
head photo courtesy of Photosport NZ