Lenient Leaney shows a loyal streak
Caddie's role/Colin Byrne: It only takes one week in golf to turn a flagging career around. The German Masters in Cologne last week, with €500,000 on offer for the winner, was one of those weeks.
Professional golfers, if they are in the right frame of mind, try not to think too far ahead but seven of them had contingency plans if their games were up to the challenge presented to them in the final round at Gut Larchenhof.
Paul Casey, Stephen Leaney, Gary Evans, Ian Woosnam, David Lynn and Ricardo Gonzalez were aware of the implications of a good finish, an easy jaunt to Ireland for the American Express World Championship and a chance to win $1 million. For Casey, Leaney, and Gonzalez it would be a chance to get onto the US Tour via the back door. They all ultimately have ambitions to play over there.
Carl Pettersson, another with his sights set on the US, was trying to weigh up the odds after he finished his round early on Sunday. He leafed through the Order Of Merit hanging on the notice-board beside the locker room. He stood at 18th- top 20 players after the tournament qualified for Mount Juliet.
He was going to take an afternoon flight to London and hope for the best. He had booked his clubs on the transfer bus operated by some enterprising caddies which was making a special trip to Ireland. Normally they would not operate for such a limited amount of bags, but they adjusted their price accordingly, and decided it was a worthy trip. Due to the uncertainty, the Swede would have to lug his own clubs.
The effect of a good performance at the appropriate event can be highlighted by Craig Parry's success story from Western Australia. Having played the US Tour without a victory for 10 years, he was looking like losing his playing privileges up until his victory in the NEC Invitational last month. He had resigned himself to playing in Japan and back in Europe next year. A great victory and he had to rethink his alternatives.
The final three-ball in Cologne commenced their final round each in their own idiosyncratic ways. The permutations of a good finish, set aside. Alex Cejka, with the home advantage, bustled down the fairway aggressively. The sturdy Casey moved jauntily towards his tee shot with an almost playful stride.
Leaney glided along the fairway with gentle steps as if he was afraid of disturbing the grass beneath him.
Both Casey and Cejka's aggression tripped them on the back nine. Leaney exuded an air of calm all day long. From his pre-shot routine on the first to picking his ball out of the hole on the 18th he was a model for emotional control that any sports psychologist would be happy to take credit for. While Cejka jumped though his shots at impact, Casey folded powerfully and Leaney looked like an agile youngster casually throwing stones on a beach.
The tide can turn as dramatically for a caddie alongside his player. "Big Steve", who accompanied Leaney to his success last week, had a slight problem with his alarm clock on Tuesday morning last. It resulted in him still snoozing while his man was pulling his bag around the front nine on a trolley. When Steve finally woke he was sure he was heading to the course on a futile journey which would probably result in him getting the "red card".
In a world where the supply of caddies far outweighs that of players, tardiness has become a great cause for concern in the caddie shack. Leaney let his man off with a mild admonishment. "Big Steve" had to suffer the humiliation of being seen pulling a little trolley for the rest of the round. As we all charged our glasses to his success in Dusseldorf Airport on Sunday night he wondered what way he would have ended his misery if he had not been forgiven for his late arrival last Tuesday. I suppose his boss valued having Steve at his side for his biggest victory to date.
Spectating alongside family and interested parties of the players concerned is an act of delicate diplomacy. As I tip-toed my way around the final round of ups and downs with Leaney's wife, Tracey, Paul Casey's girlfriend, and Cejka's manager, I was aware of their difficulties in displaying emotions. One side's luck in another's misfortune, which leads to a day of muffled expression.
Mrs Leaney's relative diminutive stature left her relying on the taller German crowd's reaction as to where her husband's ball ended up after each shot. It was a visibly nerve-racking time for her as she looked like she would have preferred having root-canal treatment to her teeth rather than helplessly watching her husband's heroic efforts.
Pettersson was happy to only slide two places to 20th on the Order of Merit and take the last qualifying spot for Mount Juliet, even though he had to transport his own golf bag.
Leaney leap-frogged all of last Sunday's contenders and turned an average year by his standards into possibly the best of his, and "Big Steve's", career . Will Mount Juliet provide another Cinderalla story for a minnow in the most star-studded field ever to pierce our fairways with their famous spikes?