BOOK OF THE WEEK; Weighed down by baggage of ambition

Four-Iron in the Soul By Lawrence Donegan (Viking, hardback, pounds 15. 99)
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The Independent Online
The language of caddies is full of irregular verbs. Such as: we holed that tricky, downhill, left-to-right curly putt; you were unfortunate that spike mark just deflected the ball past the hole; my granny could have holed that putt and the tosser missed it.

It was into this world of irregulars who caddie on the European tour that Lawrence Donegan stepped. A former bass player with The Bluebells - responsible for "Young at Heart" - and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, and then a Guardian journalist, Donegan, remembering his two best friends at school who became professional footballers (not to mention Brian McClair, who was at the same university), sought something else.

The blurb says: "Four-iron in the Soul is the story of one man's search for sporting glory". That man is not Ross Drummond. A tour journeyman, Drummond was without a win in a 19-year career. Explaining his dream of playing Don Quixote to his boss's Sancho Panza to some of his new colleagues, one fires back: "You must be a good writer, because if you think Ross Drummond is going to win a tournament you've got some imagination."

Drummond, however, has his best season ever, although Donegan finds himself commiserating with the eccentric Belgium coach Jos Vanstiphout when the Scot gives all the credit to the motivational guru Tony Robbins, or Mr Awaken-the-Giant-Within.

Any glory a caddie experiences is of the reflected kind. "There is also the embarrassment factor. It's not much fun hanging around with someone who has scored 79 when the other caddies' players have shot 69. It's like having an ugly friend."

Donegan seeks to rid himself of the tag of bag-carrier, someone who just carries a golf bag, to become a caddie, someone who is a trusted adviser, a vital part of the team, as well as someone who carries a golf bag. He repeats the mantra that this week could be big Ross's big week, but slowly comprehension dawns. He fights against being labelled a one-season wonder, but tires of the four-to-a-room dives and the 30-hour camper-van journeys. Then, after quitting and seeing Drummond almost win the next week, he hates himself for not bearing the thought of his man winning without him.

While the dream was still alive, Donegan gets bumped into by Jack Nicklaus at the Open Championship and almost swears on Grandstand. The cause was Drummond's name appearing at the top of the leaderboard at the B&H International. "I want to scream at the top of my voice `Fuck me! We're leading', but everyone knows you can't swear on Grandstand: it's a national institution. I loved Grandstand. I even sat through the water-skiing from Reading. To appear live on it was to be ushered into Sigourney Weaver's bedroom - exciting, yes, but terrifying in an oh-my-God-what-do-I-do-now way. I could hear Peter Alliss's commentary: `...and there's the leader Ross Drummond, and there's his happy caddie. Nice to see Ross employing a Care in the Community patient. Well, it gets the poor chaps out, you know...'"

Andy Farrell