Golf: Caddies pay the Seve levy

One walked off the course a fortnight ago and another is suing him. Tim Glover looks at the bag men of Ballesteros
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The Independent Online
IN the directory of difficult jobs, caddying for Seve Ballesteros is up there with negotiating peace in the Middle East or selling the Tory Party. Ideal qualifications include a rhinoceros-like skin and an aversion to job security.

The caddie who can fully satisfy Europe's Ryder Cup captain has not yet been born, although of the growing number who has tried none regrets the experience as bitterly as Joey Jones.

Twelve months ago, during the Benson and Hedges International at The Oxfordshire, Jones took the unprecedented step of issuing a writ against Ballesteros. He intends to sue the Spaniard for pounds 13,500, claiming breach of contract. When Ballesteros parted with the Yorkshireman Billy Foster in 1995, he asked Jones to carry his bag. At the time, Jones , a Liverpudlian, had a business called Caddyshack Catering, a mobile cafe that followed the European Tour.

Jones accepted Ballesteros's offer of pounds 400 a week and the partnership proved successful in their second tournament, the Spanish Open. However, four weeks later, after Ballesteros missed the half-way cut at the US Open, he rang Jones and told him his services were no longer required. Jones, sacked after six weeks, claimed that Ballesteros promised him a year's employment. Ballesteros's response was that there was no written contract. He accused Jones of being nervous on the tee and that it affected his game.

When Jones pursued the matter Ballesteros complained of harassment and a letter to the European tour objected to Jones's presence on the circuit. The relationship between player and caddie is notoriously casual.

It may be an uncomfortable ride but very few will turn down the chance to carry Seve's bag. Before losing a crucial singles to Paul Azinger in the 1989 Ryder Cup at The Belfry, Ballesteros disagreed with his caddie over the choice of club for the approach shot to the 18th. "It was 165 yards to the front of the green and 196 to the flag," Ian Wright recalled. Seve said: "Three iron?" Wright replied: "Don't you think you can get there with a four? You're coming out of a bit of grass and could do with the loft."

Ballesteros hit a three-iron and bounced it straight into the lake. As they walked on Ballesteros said to Wright: "Make sure you get the yardage right on this one because it will be the first you've got right all day." Back in the clubhouse, after Azinger had won by one hole, Wright picked up Seve's bag and threw it against a wall.

Wright had been approached by Ballesteros the previous year and he sought advice from former employees. "I knew he had a reputation for eating caddies for breakfast," Wright said, "and I was warned I'd get the blame for everything."

Dave Musgrove, who caddied for Seve in his 1979 Open victory at Royal Lytham, told Wright: "You don't know what your letting yourself in for." Musgrove first saw Ballesteros at Royal St George's in 1975. "He was just a kid and he couldn't speak English," Musgrove said. "But I was astounded by his game. He continued to astound me for the next four years. When we parted company I felt I had served a sentence."

Four years with Seve almost qualifies for a long service award but dull it ain't. Musgrove believes that the infamous car-park birdie at Lytham was made more by design than accident. When they got to the last green Ballesteros said he could take four putts and still win. "No you can't," Musgrove told him. "I've had a bet on you to finish under par."

Nick De Paul had a successful partnership with Ballesteros - De Paul, an American, used to catch shots in a baseball glove on the practice ground - although he didn't enjoy the Ryder Cup in 1985. In the singles Ballesteros halved his match with Tom Kite and De Paul recalled: "It was so intense. If I was half a club out I'd get it in the neck. Afterwards I went straight to the bar, asked for aspirin and laid on a bench for an hour. I was ready to keel over. He's a great player, one of the greatest but he gives you a headache. He's the type of guy who wears out a caddie."

When Wright made his debut on the bag at Wentworth they went round the Burma Road in a practice round in two hours 10 minutes. "I believe he was testing me for speed and fitness," Wright said. "One of the first things he asked me was whether I smoked and drank."

Some of the other caddies ran a book that Wright wouldn't last two weeks. In the event he lasted two and a half years. The end came after Ballesteros missed the cut in the USPGA although they flew back to London together, first class. Wright, who described his employer as "pretty tight with a buck", said: "I was bearing the brunt of his frustrations. I felt completely lost because there was nothing more I could do to help him. It was actually costing me to caddie for him since he was so far out of the prize money most of the time that there was no percentage for me."

Foster was the next to partner the man he described as the "Grand Senor". In a book published later this month, How We Won the Ryder Cup, Foster describes Ballesteros' victory over Wayne Levi in the Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island as "a matador going for the kill". Levi had putted out of turn at the 13th. "Seve was furious," Foster said. "He said to me `Billy I'm going to kill this son of a bitch, kill him'. I replied, `Tranquilo, you've already got him'."

Martin Gray didn't last much longer than Jones and when Ballesteros complained that an apple was too soft, Gray said: "I don't know whether he wants a caddie or a greengrocer." The end came two weeks ago at the Spanish Open when an altercation at the sixth hole during the second round saw Gray walk off the course leaving Ballesteros's 16-year-old nephew to carry the bag.

Ballesteros is back at The Oxfordshire this week and before the start of the B & H he walked into the clubhouse and asked for a caddie. The job fell to Julian Hunt, a Londoner who normally caddies for Alexander Cejka.

On Friday he had his first bogey-free round of the season and made the cut. So did Hunt. Not the most dapper of men, the first thing he did was to smarten up his appearance and that included shaving off his beard for his new employer.