Insider view on Portrush: A hard course, a fair course

Veteran caddie Rodich knows all there is to know about Royal Portrush’s challenge

Paul Rodich has been a caddie in Royal Portrush man and boy, shouldering his first bag as a 'looper' at the tender age of 10, and 52 years later, he's much sought after as one of the club's premier bagmen.

A native of the town, he’s now retired and so is free to do a part-time job on a full-time basis when so inclined. He started off playing pitch and putt, as did local favourite and 2010 US Open winner Graeme McDowell, before taking a well-trodden path to the gates of Portrush Golf Club in pursuit of pocket money.

His father was supportive, so too the caddie-master. He remembers the first bag he carried.

“I got 10 shillings, a paper 10 shillings actually. I wish I still had that. They were happy memories; 10 shillings felt like £100 to me. It was brilliant. I can’t remember who I caddied for that day,” he says.

When asked about his favourite bags he doesn’t hesitate.

"Certainly one of the funnier ones was Frank Carson. He was a mad golfer, funnier on the course than off. He used to tell that story that when he came off the course people would come up to him and say, 'Frank I was at school with you,' and Frank would turn to me and say, 'my goodness Paul I have been to school with 2,500 people.'"

A fundamental for a caddie is to know the strengths and limitations of his golfer and amend the advice according to ability; one size most certainly doesn’t fit all.

“You have to assess very quickly what he can and can’t do, his restriction in terms of his swing and what he can play to [in terms of his handicap] and then adjust it to the advice you give him.

“The more experience you get, the quicker you can weigh up someone. You’re here to assist and help them enjoy the round of golf.”

As far as this week’s British Open championship is concerned he asserts that local knowledge is a huge plus.

So what does he think will be the key holes?

“The wind can change direction within a couple of holes and in terms of driving lines you have to be aware of downwind and crosswind shots. You don’t want to go out of bounds at the fifth because you’re on the beach in the east strand.

Driver’s course

“You have our new par five, seventh. It’s going to play 600 yards uphill. If the weather drops and we get the prevailing wind into us, it’ll play 645, 650 yards. The Americans are used to 600-plus yard par fives but this is going to be different.

“Then we have our signature hole Calamity [the par three, 16th] that had been extended to 245 yards. Into the wind that can play up to 285 yards. The big factor in Portrush is what way the wind comes. It can make a difference of four clubs; you could hit four-iron there or driver as was the case for some on Wednesday.

“It can change very quickly. You have to be positive in a sense that you know you hit maybe a six iron 200 yards but hold on, this is 200 yards into the wind, the rain and you might have to hit a four iron or even a two iron. This is a driver’s course; you must put it on the fairway.

“It is very much a thinking man’s course where there is a huge emphasis on course management. It’s a hard course, a fair course and you can see all the trouble in front of you but it does ask the question, ‘can you play the shot?’

He'd hanker after an Irish winner reeling off the names of Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy, Pádraig Harrington while also singling out Haotong Li and Justin Rose as two players that have impressed him.

He may even get a chance to don a caddie’s bib in the tournament.

“I am very privileged in the sense that Gary McNeill, who has been a professional here for the last 20 years, will act as a marker if there is an odd number after the cut on Friday night. If that happens I will be on Gary’s bag.”

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