Golf: Davies takes caddie sack in her stride: Britain's world No 1 has helped to resurrect the women's European Tour. Tim Glover reports from Woburn

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The Independent Online
WHEREAS Nick Faldo might employ a young Swedish girl to carry his bag, the bulk of women professionals use men to do the donkey work and sometimes it can be more stick than carrot. In the case of Laura Davies, the world No 1, the lesson for the caddie is simple: keep your mouth shut.

Davies is enjoying the most lucrative spell of her illustrious career but it has not stopped her from parting company with Mark Fulcher, her caddie for 18 months. Considering that she has won in Australia, Thailand and America this year - on the LPGA Tour in the United States she has won more than dollars 200,000 ( pounds 140,000) this season, more than dollars 1m all told - the timing of the split appears bizarre. Fulcher, at 28 two years younger than Davies, has taken it like a man. 'I'm absolutely gutted,' he said. 'But I've only myself to blame. Her success went to my head. I got carried away, got too big- headed. I was too mouthy. I knew I was saying things I shouldn't say but I couldn't help it.'

The sort of things Fulcher would say, perhaps over a few beers in the bar, were: 'Laura Davies is the greatest golfer in the world. No question. She's the bee's knees.' Well, she is, isn't she? 'She doesn't like it being said,' Fulcher added. 'She's very quiet about her success. I'd sound off to other players, other caddies and it created a bad atmosphere. She wasn't happy and she's such a wonderful person I didn't want to see her unhappy. If there's one thing she hates more than coaches it's braggarts.'

Fulcher was given 10 weeks' notice which expires in a month's time, after which he will caddie for Florence Descampe and Davies will employ her cousin, Matthew Adams. Parting is such sweet sorrow. Fulcher was speaking on the practice ground at Woburn, where the Ford Classic starts today. It was bitterly cold and Davies offered to get her caddie a pair of gloves. 'I've known Laura since she turned professional 10 years ago,' Fulcher said, 'and she hasn't changed a bit. She's still the girl with a tenner in her back pocket. It's been an absolute pleasure and we're still very close friends. She's so good it doesn't matter who caddies for her. Her attitude is marvellous.'

Davies's attitude suddenly changed on a flight from Japan last year when she turned to Fulcher (they nearly always travel economy together) and remarked: 'We're both pathetic.' She was referring to the fact that in between the games of Scrabble they bitched too much. 'I was fed up of moaning about bad breaks,' Davies said. 'We decided to be more positive. No complaining about bad yardage or a bad bounce. If I was behind a tree that is where I deserved to be. I'm the one swinging the club after all.' The week after this Kiplingesque visitation, Davies won in America.

This is Davies Mk III. The first version bounced into the professional game and nobody made jokes about women drivers. She used her considerable weight and power to hammer the ball unladylike distances and won the British Open in 1986 and the US Open the following year. The Mk II role model emerged two years ago when she went on a crash diet.

Davies, all 18 stones of her, was watching television in Springfield, Illinois when she saw a slimming food advertised by Tommy Lasorda, the veteran manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Before the diet Lasorda was built like a beach ball; after it he looked like a baseball bat. Davies bought the stuff and lost four stone. 'I used to hide behind scoreboards and wear an old slipover that I felt made me look thinner,' she said.

After the diet Davies approached the Solheim Cup at Dalmahoy in 1992 not only slimmer but more confident and she led Europe to a resounding victory over the United States. She will again be a key player in the transatlantic challenge which this year will be held at The Greenbrier in West Virginia in October. It will be the highlight of a European Tour that last year was in danger of falling off the map.

Terry Coates, who took over as chief executive last year, said yesterday that a donation of pounds 50,000 from the R & A kept the liquidators at bay, but, pointing to Laura Davies, he added: 'She saved the tour. She was our number one supporter and without that support it would have been difficult for me to survive. Now we're in a happier position than we've been for many years.'

A number of the women will be driving around in Mondeos - Ford are committed to this tournament for three years - and the Tour has also made inroads in Portugal, Ireland, Spain and France.

On the subject of television coverage, however, Coates loses his smile. 'It really galls me that the BBC can pay pounds 27m to rugby union and we have to pay to go on TV. If this was a man's sport it would be different.'

According to Davies, women's golf is different, attractively so. 'Club players can relate to the way we play,' she said. 'Not many people can hit it like Norman and Faldo.' Nor, funnily enough, can they hit it like Laura Davies.

----------------------------------------------------------------- EUROPEAN WOMEN'S TOUR ----------------------------------------------------------------- APRIL ----------------------------------------------------------------- 21-24 Ford Classic, Woburn.

----------------------------------------------------------------- MAY ----------------------------------------------------------------- 19-22 Costa Azul Open, Lisbon. ----------------------------------------------------------------- JUNE ----------------------------------------------------------------- 2-5 Turespana Andalucia Open, Torrequebrada, Sp; 9-12 Evian Masters, Royal Club Evian, Fr; 16-19 OVB Open, Zell-am-See, Aut; 23-26 BMW European Masters, Bercuit, Bel; 30-3 July Hennessy Cup, Cologne. ----------------------------------------------------------------- JULY ----------------------------------------------------------------- 28-31 Holiday Ireland Open, St Margaret's, Dublin. ----------------------------------------------------------------- AUGUST ----------------------------------------------------------------- 4-7 Scottish Open, Dalmahoy; 11-14 Weetabix British Open, Woburn; 18-21 Trygg Hansa Open, Haninge, Swe. ----------------------------------------------------------------- SEPTEMBER ----------------------------------------------------------------- 1-4 English Open, Tytherington, nr Manchester; 9-11 SENS Dutch Open, Groesbeck; 22-25 BMW Italian Open, Lignano; 29-2 Oct La Manga Spanish Open. ----------------------------------------------------------------- OCTOBER ----------------------------------------------------------------- 13-15 Var Open de France, Saint-Endreol; 21-23 Solheim Cup, United States v Europe, Greenbrier, W Virginia. -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photograph omitted)

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