The player-caddie relationship in golf is all important. A player’s success is often down to the relationship he has with the individual on the bag and the dynamics are very different when that person is a family member.
Zimbabwean Ryan Cairns, employs his father, Terry, as his caddie. To further complicate matters, Terry is also Ryan’s coach.
“For the most part it’s awesome but there are times when the father-son relationship can affect the player-caddie relationship. If he gets into ‘dad’ mode, he actually realises it pretty quickly and then he clicks back,” says Ryan.
“What we try to do is focus on the game and then afterwards we can talk about and analyse stuff.”
Terry, who was a fine golfer in his day and boasts a match play victory over Nick Price as an amateur, has an easy-going demeanour which makes the partnership work.
“He’s coached me since I was about five,” said Ryan. “He’s my fulltime coach. We go and see John Dixon (one of the top coaches in South Africa) together from time to time because he’s got a lot of really good drills that he does and my dad and John get along really well. My dad is a very good coach. His method is very simple and he just focuses on the basics.”
For Terry, it can be tough to forget about being a parent and concentrate on the job at hand.
“It’s not always easy out there, but I love it,” said Terry. “I do get a little anxious at times when things are not going Ryan’s way. I understand the game but sometimes my emotions come out. I sometimes get a bit excited. We’ve had a few tournaments where we’ve been close and missed out by one or two shots. It hurts but I’m glad I can be there for him to keep encouraging him.”
For Ryan, there’s no one else he would like to have caddying for him.
“He’s great to have on my bag. There are times when I have to tell him to drop something and we can chat about it after the round. It’s harder for my dad than it is for me. I’m into the round and thinking about my shots. I have it all in my mind and he’s got to wait to see what actually comes out so I think that adds to his anxiety levels.”
Ryan’s mother, Michelle, walked with him during the Zimbabwe Open in April this year. It was an experience that made him appreciate his father’s contribution to his game all the more.
“It was the first time in 10 years that she had walked 72 holes with me,” explained Ryan. “She later said she had a whole new perspective
“She usually just checks scores online and sometimes says, ‘What happened there? You had two bogeys and you were going so well’. That’s just the game. It can bite you so quickly and you just accept it. My dad definitely handles things a lot better than my mom would.”
While fathers as caddies are unusual, it’s not uncommon to see professionals with their wives on their bags. But that is something Ryan would never consider.
“That would be too complicated,” he said with a smile. “After all, you’ve got to lay your head on the same pillow later that night.”