Golf: Heard the one about Monty, a caddie and pounds 200?

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The Independent Online
AS Colin Montgomerie was lining up a seven-foot putt, a caddie remarked to the crowd: "Anybody got a guide dog?" After the laughter had died down, Monty holed the putt.

It was the end of the round, end of the tournament but it wasn't the end of the story.

Montgomerie had been having problems with his putting. "Is it left lip, right lip, straight or what?" Finally Billy Foster, the Yorkshireman who caddies for Darren Clarke, came out with the suggestion that perhaps Monty's ball might have a better chance of finding the hole with the aid of a highly trained Labrador.

"It was a friendly bit of banter," Foster said. No it wasn't, said the European Tour. Last week they fined Clarke, Foster's employer, pounds 200.

The "offence" - it was deemed lack of etiquette - occurred on the last green of the Benson and Hedges international at The Oxfordshire. The guide dog remark did not upset Montgomerie's concentration. He made the putt to finish fifth.

Over at the Tour's offices at Wentworth, David Garland, watching the denouement of the Benson and Hedges on television, heard Foster's comment on air. "It was so audible," Garland, director of Tour Operations, said. "It is something we have to stamp on otherwise members of the public will start to think they can shout out as a player is about to putt. Monty's putt was for more than pounds 10,000. We had a chat with Monty and Darren and they backed us up. As Darren is responsible for his caddie, we fined the player."

Under the Tour's regulations, "misbehaviour by caddies of a personal nature which is generally unacceptable by normal social standards" is not tolerated. However, this is the first time a caddie and his employer have been punished for telling a joke.

Foster, highly rated in the game and a former caddie to Seve Ballesteros, was bemused by the fine. "It was meant as a little light relief," he said. "I don't understand it. Obviously, times are changing. At least we could afford to pay."

Clarke won the Benson and Hedges and the pounds 200 fine was automatically deducted from his first prize of pounds 125,000. As for Montgomerie, he said he was unperturbed by the incident. "Billy is a good friend of mine and a bit of a character. I didn't object to it at all."

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