Sport Golf

Saturday 24 February 2018

Cut takes fizz out of Bradley

Dermot Gilleece

Cooled by earth, wind and unwelcome moisture, bottles of cola remain hidden at strategic points around the Dunluce links this weekend, even though the man who put them there has departed the scene. They belong to Keegan Bradley's bagman, Steven Hale, which explains why he is known in the caddying fraternity by the sobriquet, Pepsi.

Other course contributions from the American duo, albeit entirely unintended, were two wayward balls on the long 10th, where double-bogeys on Thursday and Friday effectively doomed Bradley to miss the halfway cut on level-par.

All of which came after Hale had displayed an impressive gift for figures, which is not uncommon in his craft. I made the discovery earlier in the week while showing his employer the results of the 1984 Irish Ladies Open at Clandeboye, where a certain P Bradley was tied second behind the winner, Kathy Whitworth.

"What sort of money would that have paid?" the reigning PGA champion asked of his caddie. "About £12,000," Pepsi replied, after only a moment's thought. Remarkably, the actual figure was £11,625.

At that stage, Bradley was relishing every nuance of his first visit to the land of his forebears, making his disappointment all the more difficult to bear. "I didn't realise my aunt Pat played over here," he said.

From the time he arrived in Portrush, it became an emotional week for the 26-year-old. Especially touching were regular greetings of "Welcome home" from the large galleries. "It gave me chills every time I heard it," he said. "It was such a neat thing to say to me because I wasn't sure how I was going to be accepted over here. But everyone has treated me so well that I can't wait to come back."

Pat Bradley is a life honorary member of The Old Head of Kinsale which she has visited in recent years. "It's definitely on my list next time I'm here," added the reigning PGA champion, who went on to talk proudly about his aunt's achievements in the game.

"You know that Irish Ladies Open was one of about 350 top-10 finishes she had in her career," he said. "That was about 50 per cent of all the tournaments she played in. And it went up to 60 per cent during her last two years on tour, despite the fact that she had health problems at the time. An amazing lady."

Meanwhile, the caddie explained his grasp of prize money. "I began caddying in the late 1980s but not for the ladies, though I knew the sort of money they were playing for."

Now 18 months together, the pair have headed back to the US where Bradley competes this week in the Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia before returning to these parts for next month's Open Championship at Royal Lytham. These arrangements came as a blow to Hale, who had planned to play Portrush on Monday and Royal Co Down on Tuesday.

But what of the bottles of Pepsi? He grinned. "That goes back to my days on the Nationwide Tour where I got into the habit of getting myself some Pepsis because they never had anything for us," he explained.

"Then I started hiding cans out on the golf course during practice rounds, mentally marking their positions. Later in the week I'd be able to stop where I'd know there was one. Other times I'd leave them there for another day. I'd drink maybe two or three per round."

So, where are the ones he left at Portrush? "I heard a rumour there's three out there but you wouldn't find them even if I told you." Then he added teasingly: "See if you can get the one on the second tee."

Not a chance of it. Mere mortals shouldn't dare challenge the legendary resourcefulness of the tour caddie.

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