Volunteers miss out on lucky bag

 

As many as 1,400 local volunteers will be at Kiawah Island this week to do their bit for a successful staging of the World Cup. Nearly 40 others, however, have been forced to back off in their effort at gaining a slice of the action.

Tommy Cuthbert, director of golf at this South Carolina resort, went out into the local community to recruit people to caddie in the tournament. They responded enthusiastically, some taking the week off work so that they could apply themselves fully to the task.

On attempting to meet up with their prospective new employers, however, they discovered that all the spare jobs had been snapped up by professional caddies.

The disappointment of the locals had little to do with a desire to pick up some pin money. Asked whether he was drawn by prospect of being paid $40 per day, plus tips, one of them replied: "No way. The real deal was that we would have so many neat stories to tell our friends. This was going to be a great week for us."

Confident of getting a "bag", the individual in question took a week's holiday from his position as a local office manager and presented himself for work at Kiawah with the necessary caddie credential pinned to his hat. He had also signed a contract to the effect that he would be paid and used as a caddie by a player who didn't have his own.

The plans were well and truly scuppered, however, by regular USPGA Tour caddies who arrived at the Ocean Course on Monday and did deals with players as they drove into the parking area. "We were caught off guard," said Cuthbert, who was clearly unaware of the renowned resourcefulness of the caddying community.

He went on: "I feel awful for these guys, but I intend to make it up to them. We will use them in some capacity and I promise that their financial return will be more than was originally promised."

As for the 1,400 volunteers: most of them are wealthy, retired men and women living in the resort. And for the privilege of ordering their brethren around, along with the bonus of World Cup apparel and entry tickets, they were happy to pay the organisers $150.

Meanwhile, the absence of Fred Couples has caused a mixed reaction among American enthusiasts. "There has never been better chemistry on a golf course than that of Fred Couples and Davis Love," said Burch Riber, executive director of the International Golf Association.

Riber was referring to the record success of the pair, who captured this event for four successive years from 1992 to 1995. But the official added: "Davis and Justin (Leonard) are not only friends, they're very alike in the way they approach the game. More importantly, they are happy with the prospect of playing together."

Clearly, the organisers were extremely fortunate in getting such an able replacement for Couples, whose father, Tom, is dying of leukaemia. When the British Open champion was recently described as mild-mannered, gentle and humble, Tom Watson remarked: "Any humility you see in Justin Leonard is false."

Whatever about the prospects for a re-shaped US team, the feeling here is that they are certain to do considerably better than last year's representatives. Tom Lehman and Steve Jones may have finished in second place at Erinvale, Cape Town, but they happened to be 18 strokes behind the rampant South African pairing of Ernie Els and Wayne Westner.