Thursday 23 November 2017

Harrington drives on despite caddie drama

Padraig Harrington says top-level sportspeople are 'grossly overpaid'
Padraig Harrington says top-level sportspeople are 'grossly overpaid'

Karl MacGinty

RONAN FLOOD'S complexion was white as porcelain as he lay flat out under the trees to the left of the sixth fairway at Durban Country Club.

Padraig Harrington later said he felt badly about leaving his fallen caddie, comrade and brother-in-law in the rough. Yet professional golfers are driven by the same ethos as all performing artists -- the show must go on!

So as Flood, watched over by a couple of marshals, awaited medical attention for a suspected case of food-poisoning and dehydration, Harrington pressed on towards the green.

He carried a wedge and his putter and used the latter to hole out from 20 yards just off the front for the first of his five birdies in a second-round 71.

However, this dramatic day at the Volvo Champions tournament will not be remembered for Harrington's golf but the way in which 65-year-old Cork native Pat Cashman, widely known and highly regarded as a photographer in Irish golfing circles, stepped into the breach.

Thinking Flood "looked awful" on the practice range beforehand, Cashman, currently on an annual winter holiday in South Africa with wife Mags, urged his good friend and Hermitage clubmate to give him the nod if he needed help during the round.

"I didn't expect a call but it wasn't a problem," he said. "I've never caddied before, but I've known Padraig for nearly 38 years since first seeing him in the Father and Son, Mother and Daughter events at Donabate and I'm very comfortable with him.

"He's very nice and easy to get on with, so it was enjoyable. It's not a very difficult course to walk, the bag was lighter than I expected and, thanks be to God, there was no rain."

Though decades of lugging a heavy camera around the world's fairways made Cashman well aware of all the protocols of professional golf, he admitted: "Nothing compares to lugging this bag around, keeping Padraig happy and everything like that."

Cashman wasn't the only one to gain fresh appreciation of the role played by the professional caddie on Tour; Harrington admitted: "It's amazing how much work the caddie does for you.

"You know, the simplest of things like we just walk on to the tee box and ask, 'what's the yardage to there?' or, 'where's the wind coming from?' or, 'what's that carry?' When you have to figure it out yourself, there's a lot of effort and thinking. It gives you a new appreciation for what they do out there for sure. It's tough going when you have to manage it all for yourself."

From the outset, Cashman made it plain to Harrington that he wouldn't club him or give the line of a putt, just carry the bag. Once satisfied that Harrington's huge Wilson Staff Tour bag was not as heavy as he'd initially feared, he settled into his duties, which included raking bunkers, tending the flag and ensuring every club face was spotless.

ACCOMPLISHED

Cashman jokingly advised his player to keep his ball out of the sand, but he turned out to be quite an accomplished bunker-raker.

"Padraig simply said to take my time, do it deliberately and not leave amateur rake marks," he recalled. "We were only in one. He actually went over to the bunker to see how well I'd done it and I actually got a thumbs-up!

"One thing he said at the sixth was, 'Pat, a bag on the ground can't fall', so I put the bag down every time after that."

Harrington was impressed with how quickly Cashman picked up the ropes and they engaged in plenty of happy chatter as the round progressed.

"Pat wasn't sure if he could do it but he gained confidence on every hole," said the three-times Major champion. "He started off like he was carrying a set of bow and arrows but soon got the double-strap in motion and even had the lingo going by the end of the round.

"Pat knew not to talk to my golf ball," Harrington continued. "That was very frustrating for the first couple of holes. Because I wanted to be polite, I didn't want to tell him not to talk to my golf ball but after a few holes, he figured that one out too. It was pretty good."

Harrington, who expects to renew his 10-year partnership with Flood today, had mixed feelings about his game.

"I've seen some bright sparks at times and this week is about finding things and putting them all together. I just need to show a bit more confidence in my putting and chipping," said the Dubliner who, at two-under-par, was five off the pace set at halfway by Holland's Joost Luiten (67), young Englishman Tommy Fleetwood (67) and defending champion Louis Oosthuizen (69).

Luiten provided the highlight of the opening two rounds when he holed a 248-yard four-iron at 10 yesterday for the first albatross of his career.

VOLVO GOLF CHAMPIONS,

LIVE, SKY SPORTS 4, 10.30

SONY OPEN,

LIVE, SKY SPORTS 4, MIDNIGHT

Irish Independent

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