Gullane offers new challenge for caddie Mark Crane

Chris Wood shakes hands with his caddie, Mark Crane, after his score of 65 equalled the course record during the final round of last year's Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. Picture: Getty Images
Chris Wood shakes hands with his caddie, Mark Crane, after his score of 65 equalled the course record during the final round of last year's Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. Picture: Getty Images
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wHEN the Scottish Open was held at Loch Lomond for more than a decade, it must have been a dawdle for caddies as they got to know the Tom Weiskopf-designed course like the back of their hand.

Apart from the odd tweak here and there, they would be digging out the old yardage book and remembering scribbles they’d jotted down about a putt breaking this way or that or one of those “don’t miss it there” places we often hear players talking about.

Since the Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event started moving around the country, however, the loopers have found themselves heading to Castle Stuart and Royal Aberdeen facing new challenges and the same applies at Gullane as it stages a European Tour event for the first time.

“Personally I don’t find it difficult at all,” insisted Mark Crane, who caddied for Lloyd Saltman when he won the Silver Medal in the Open Championship at St Andrews a decade ago and had a lengthy spell on Richie Ramsay’s bag before linking up with his current boss, Englishman Chris Wood. “I really enjoy going to new courses. It keeps the job fresh, keeps you on your toes and learning new courses just allows you to gain more experience.”

He got his first look at the composite course being used for the Scottish Open during a scheduled visit before flying to the recent BMW International Open in Munich. “I can’t recall caddying on a composite course,” added Crane. “But I don’t think it will be any different from a regular 18-hole layout.”

There will be as many Scottish caddies as Scottish players, if not more, in working mode at Gullane, with Crane among a new breed of trusty right-hand men from the home of golf plying their trade on the European Tour. “My brother, Ryan, got me into caddying when he fixed me up with a steady bag at the Prestwick Golf Club,” he recalled. “I would caddie for a member on a Saturday and get paid double what I was making doing a paper round, so you do the maths and quit the paper round!

“I did several years with Lloyd Saltman on the amateur circuit, which was great. I gained experience and made some very good contacts at the same time. It was like my apprenticeship. From there I progressed on to the main Tour, which was always a huge goal of mine.

“On the course the job hasn’t changed too much. As a professional caddie, you still have to calculate wind, temperature, altitude in relation to the shot etc. From there, you calculate how far the shot is playing and pick a club to match that.

“I would say that today our preparation is made a lot easier to due the high standard off the yardage books and also using rangefinders during practice, instead of the measuring wheels they used did back in the day.”

Steve Williams was one of New Zealand’s highest-paid sportsmen when he worked for Tiger Woods while Henrik Stenson’s caddie, Gareth Lord, bought a Ferrari after the Swede won both the Race to Dubai and DP World Tour Championship in 2013.

“Caddies nowadays have certainly become more recognised,” admitted Crane. “I think a lot of that has come down to Tiger Woods. He has brought so much to golf globally, especially from a financial side. Caddies now can make a very good living and I think caddies in general are gaining a lot more respect for their hard work.”

Crane, who has also worked for David Dixon and David Horsey, had a short spell with Paul Casey before linking up with Wood, the pair enjoying a moment to savour when the big Bristol player won the recent Lyoness Open in Austria.

“Working for Chris is an absolute pleasure,” he said. “He’s a true gentlemen, on and off the course. What you see is what you get. I first got to meet Chris whilst caddying for Lloyd at the British Amateur at Lytham 2007. Even back then, he stuck in my head.

“We’ve just come off a lovely win in Austria and a nice jump up the world rankings. Chris is in a good position to progress into the top 50, hopefully before the Ryder Cup qualifying starts.

“An injury that sidelined him at the end of last season and start of this one is now in the past and he’s got a new coach, Mike Walker, on board. Chris and I are both very ambitious and set high standards. I really believe Chris will become a top-class player. He has all the attributes to fulfil that goal, that’s for sure.”