Vinny lends a crucial helping hand at the spiritual home of Irish golf

Six hours caddying for his pall ensures a pleasant and profitable day at the famed Portmarnock course

A spectator emerging from the gorse during an  Irish Amateur Open Championship  at Portmarnock Golf Club. Photo: Alan Betson

A spectator emerging from the gorse during an Irish Amateur Open Championship at Portmarnock Golf Club. Photo: Alan Betson

Wed, Jun 18, 2014, 12:00

As he entered the cool, dark, enclave of Foley’s before tea-time on Monday, Vinny Fitzpatrick had a distinctive pep in his step; almost akin to a swagger.

His face was more flushed than usual, which suggested he had been out in the sun; he was wearing over-sized canvass shorts, and had the stub of a wooden tee peg tucked to one side of his mouth like a toothpick.

If he resembled a caddy who had just wandered in on off the links it was because that’s exactly what he was, having just spent close to six hours looping for Charlie Vernon at the fabled Portmarnock course.

The midsummer outing of the Clontarf Knights Templar was strictly for the nobility of Dublin 3, which excluded Vinny, son of a Corpo worker. But there was nothing to stop him from attending, once invited, which he had been.

He had been as happy as a sand-boy to assist Charlie as he knew it was as close as he would ever get to hitting a ball on the famed links in north county Dublin – the Soiled And Ancient hackers from Foley’s would never be allowed near the place.

The track was in pristine summer-brown nick but was playing tricky, thanks to a gentle offshore easterly wind which gave the greens the piquancy of Pinehurst.

Vinny did his best to uphold the tradition of bagmen as he turned up, shut up and kept up.

He steadfastly declined to suggest a club, or advise lines off the tee or on the green for Charlie, a gnarly 25-handicapper, whose family owned half of Clontarf.

Instead, he was content to marvel at the fairness of the grand old links of Irish golf, where no more than three successive holes ran in the same direction, and where there were only three par threes, all gems.

On this day, he could banish fears of his wicked slice, snap hook and twitchy short putts, for he was no more than a spectator, and a giddy one at that.

Noisy pheasants

He spied a heron swooping graciously over one hole and interrupted a couple of noisy pheasants on another as he nosed about for one of Charlie’s errant tee shots.

To be present on the Monday of Irish Open week, under blue skies, was heaven for Vinny and reminded him of the time through the ’70s and ’80s, when sports fans, young and old, swarmed to the ’Marnock for a glimpse of the golfing gods.

Every summer, it was always Himself (Christy O’Connor) versus ‘De Yank’ from Lee Trevino one year to Billy Casper and the towering Tom Weiskopf the next.

Two of them, Ben Crenshaw and Hubert Green, each won the Irish Open as sponsors Carrolls pushed out envelopes containing more than free cigarettes.

Vinny’s favourite place of worship had been on the bank at the rear of the 12th, a devilishly tricky short hole, played to a crowned green, ringed by deep bunkers.

Here, par was a precious commodity and Vinny had his antenna at full twitch when Charlie’s four-ball, hackers all, arrived on the tee with the match level.

Charlie went first, courtesy of a six at the 11th where he had two shots, and he sent a seven-iron skywards before watching it drop daintily on the lawn.

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