The recent passing of Peter Allis was the end of a long era in golfing commentary. Mr Allis brought light and colour to the great game of golf, elevating the mundane and capturing those special moments in his own unique way. Peter grew up at my home club, Ferndown where his father Percy Allis was the Head Professional. In those days the golf pro was considered a servant of the club and wasn’t actually allowed in the clubhouse!
This reminded me of my caddying days back in the mid- 1970’s at Sunningdale GC. There was a “caddy shed”, surrounded by a chain railing and caddies were not allowed beyond this railing unless they had been selected to carry a bag for someone. I performed this duty for 5 years, pretty much every weekend and all through the summer holidays. Indeed I spent so much time out of doors that I felt quite claustrophobic back in the classroom at school.
I quickly learnt some life lessons at Sunningdale. There was a clear hierarchy of caddies. The men caddies were full time, most had drinking challenges (they could never get enough) some slept rough, but they were far more experienced than the plethora of school boys (rarely a girl) who turned up to earn some decent pocket money.
Over time I progressed up the ranks of the part timers caddying regularly for the then Club Captain Nick Royds, Chairman of The Royds Advertising Group; then the No. 5 agency in the country handling brands such as black and white whiskey. Mr Royds (as he was known to me) even had a pair of black and white dogs as per the picture on the bottle – now that’s brand loyalty. He taught me many lessons on “how to behave” in life such as how to correctly address a lady in a letter as “Madam” rather than “dear Madam”. Not great for teenage love letters but fascinating none the less.( He also helped me to join The Artisan’s Golf Club at Sunningdale where I was lucky enough to play for 34 years).
It was remarkable how many people Nick Royds knew away from Sunningdale. He’d pick me up in his Rolls Royce and drive to other nearby courses; The Berkshire, Swinley Forest, etc and everyone seemed to know him! He had an unusual swing part Jim Furyk with an eccentric loop and reroute at the top and he also putted side saddle, long before Bryson DeChambeau gave it a try.
I once followed him to the Harry Secombe Golf Classic at Effingham GC. Harry was on the 1st tee, “oh hallo Nick” said Harry. The crowds were 10 deep lining the fairway and he set up to play his opening drive. The crowds hushed, he struck the ball and it exploded in a long vapour trail – a trick golf ball and just as well as it was a wild slice!
The round took around 5 hours (lots of autograph hunters), it rained and every few holes the 4-ball took shelter in a refreshment hut for a “wee dram” to keep out the cold. We poor caddies stayed on the outside getting wetter. Happy days!
One Xmas I was invited to serve drinks at Mr Royd’s house which sat imposingly to the right of the second fairway on The Old Course looking a little like Southfork from The Dallas Dynasty film set. It was a very impressive house on the inside too with a Xmas tree paired with the one in Trafalgar Square. I earned a very nice xmas bonus for “helping out” and treated myself to a pair of Levi flared jeans and platform shoes to match – not quite as fancy as those worn by Noddy Holder of Slade fame but just as uncomfortable on the 3 mile round trip to A level College.
Thanks for reading my blog. Please let me know if you enjoyed my “blast from the past” or if you’d rather I stuck to golf swing stuff!
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