We flew out early from Dublin to Malaga at daybreak arriving in the Costa de Sol about lunchtime. On collecting the car, we headed to accommodation in Manilva, near the Real Club Valderrama Club and after settling in our new home for the week we travelled up to the course. Peter Lawrie then played nine holes.
This was going to be a different type of week for me. In fact, it was the first time I had ever caddied and soon it became clear this would be very different from walking the course inside the ropes in warm up rounds.
There were distances, then divots, and lots of the flag holding. With proper positioning about the greens also to worry about as well as ensuring all the necessary accoutrements were in the bag. Not to mention the weight of the professional bag which has to be sherpaed about the course.
I also realised it was almost three years since I last travelled with Peter to an event and that was back in 2013 in Wales. Where had that time gone?
However, it wasn’t that long since Peter and I had met as through the winter months we had started working on a couple of things – quietly – at the Carr Golf Centre in Spawell. Peter felt there was couple of things that needed a look.
The focus was really on getting a proper turn and doing so tighter into his right side, explains coach Brendan McDaid, in an effort to get stronger on impact.
So the Real Club Valderrama Open de España, Hosted by Sergio Garcia Foundation was to be the venue to put some of that work into practice. As Peter was a winner of the event some years ago he enjoys an exemption for the European Tour event and asked me to join him on the bag.”.
Up early and played second nine holes in peace and quiet with a second nine squeezed in after lunch. There was some putting work done on the greens to get a feel for the rough around the greens too. With some chipping practice as well. From what we had seen already the rough throughout the course was penal and the place was set up to give up very few scores.
It was a relaxing morning so to speak as there was no pro-am commitment for my boss and as we couldn’t use the range with a driver until after 5pm the earlier part of the day was spent again on the greens. Like with all these practice sessions you always find something and in my mind Peter was swinging well. Barring some kind of bizarre nightmare, I reckoned we would be working at the weekend.
It was an 10:05hrs start with Graem Storm and Grégory Harvet. A tough day and the first in full competition for a while for Peter. But it all started very well and my first ever official hole as a caddie was a birdie!
As Peter started on the 10th we went one shot to the good. Then followed it with a par on his second [the 11th] and suddenly this caddying was looking easy peasy. It was to become a bit tougher on the opening day though as the wind stiffened bringing three consecutive bogeys by the fifth hole and then two more before the turn.
Then on the front nine – Peter’s back nine – we picked up another shot only to drop another. The first day ending with a round of 77 making the weekend look out of the question at that point as the earlier starters took advantage of the lighter wind.
Given the later tee time we spent a little time on the range and afterwards on the greens for an hour before a break for lunch. Not too much work to avoid fatigue was the plan as it would be tough day. We could see that from the scores being posted by the early starters.
So it was crunch time on Friday and my job was to watch the leaderboard as Peter is not a score watcher really. Another thing added to my caddying list.
As the scores up front tumbled in the wind I could see our chances coming back into play – if we could remain steady. A birdie came on the 10th to help our cause and we reached the turn in a healthier two over par 38. But the wind was treacherous and swirling everywhere and becoming harder for me to work out at times.
On 17th Peter just failed to clear the top edge of a bunker after a good drive which left him with an awkward stance. The plan was to knock it out and then just to pitch close for a par putt. Peter duly did the business.
That save left us some room to breathe on the eighteenth tee box and a chance to stay within the cut even with a bogey. So hitting off the last I knew we could afford a bogey at worst and so did Peter. He had asked me for an update for the first time all day.
On landing just off the fairway on the right I counselled Peter to pitch up once again to his favourite range and then get up and down. He did and unluckily just missed the par!
But were through and as the last out we could see +3 round left us inside the cut mark. A breakthrough in my mind for Peter as these would be first four rounds for him since Italy last September
The pairing for Round 3 included Marcel Siem and Daniel Brooks. One quirk of the day was that on the bag for Siem was Brian “Bo” Martin who had caddied for Peter for a number of very successful years. And also Uncle of Irish Walker Cup star Cormac Sharvin.
The day started with a clutch of pars with dropped shots in the middle stage to go two over par at the turn. Round three was to give us no rewards though and the final score of 77 was birdie less. But by no means incomparable to those notched up by a very strong field all around us.
Ahead of Sunday therefore we were T59 and +15 overall with the leader Alexander Levy on +1. Thus far Valderrama was winning the battle.
This was a 10:10hrs start with Sven Benson of England and Spain’s Alvaro Quiros in the group. With the wind calmer we reached the turn level par. On the second nine we lost shots on 13th ,16th and 17th – with only the one birdie for a two over par day. However, we came close to being level had a just few other putts dropped for Peter. It would have been nice way to reach the clubhouse
Given the course and the conditions it was not an event for the driver as Peter can get the ball running long with a three wood. So we worked our way around Valderrama with certain caution after Thursday’s round.
It is too easy to get out of position on that course with any slightly wayward shot. So we chose caution as the better option. The valour coming with making the cut for the first time in three outings this season.
That night we had dinner and like any good Sherpa I rested a weary soul.
Flew home from Malaga to Dublin at Monday lunchtime with Aer Lingus and as we took off could just see Morocco out in the distance. Rabat here we come May 5-8 next!