Ryder Cup: Scots caddies with a major role to play

CRAIG Connolly is the veteran Lee Westwood of the European team; Davy Kenny is the rookie Nicolas Colsaerts. They’re the two Scottish caddies on duty at the Ryder Cup, which they hope will be in the bag on the European flight home next Monday.

Connolly is an old hand when it comes to this event. It’s his fifth, having been at Paul Casey’s side on three occasions while this is his second time with 
Martin Kaymer. In contrast, Kenny, who is here with compatriot Paul Lawrie, is a first-timer, although he’s hoping a visit to the Brookline match in 1999 as a spectator will help him handle the experience.

Connolly, a Glaswegian, was working for Swede Helen Alfredsson on the LPGA Tour when he received a life-changing phone call eight years ago.

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“I got the call to go to Detroit on the Sunday beforehand, so the Ryder Cup was never in my thoughts,” he recalled. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be caddying on the LPGA Tour one week and at the Ryder Cup the next. Then I was well outside my comfort zone. I’d spent eight years caddying on the LPGA Tour and, all of a sudden, I was in the Ryder Cup.”

He picks out the 2006 encounter at The K Club, where Europe won 18½-9½ for the second match running, as the highlight of his involvement in the event so far. “Going into that one, Paul [Casey] was on such a high after he’d won the World Match-Play. He played 
fantastic,” recalled the Scot. “He and Robert Karlsson were unbeaten and then he had a hole-in-one to finish off his match against Jim Furyk. It was a great team that – a great experience.”

Connolly, who has also worked for Colin Montgomerie, is in his second spell with Kaymer. “We had a fantastic year from Wentworth 2010 through to Wentworth 2011,” he recalled. “We won three times in a row – USPGA, KLM and Dunhill Links – then won again in Abu Dhabi in 2011. Then things weren’t really clicking, and we parted. But I got the call back again the week after the Open in July this year.”

Kenny, from East Kilbride and a fully-qualified PGA professional, was first asked to work with Lawrie when he was filling in for an injured friend as Gonzalo Fernandez Castano’s caddie.

That was just before the Aberdonian sparked the resurgence that has seen him bridge a 13-year gap to return to the Ryder Cup stage and also climb into the top 30 in the world rankings.

“I started with Paul in January last year so I suppose I must be a lucky mascot,” said the 41-year-old. “It has been a very good 20 months. The way he has played the last 12 months in particular has been pretty special.”

The highlight for Kenny was standing at Lawrie’s side as he walked up the 18th fairway at Gleneagles a month ago after turning the final round of the Johnnie Walker Championship into a victory procession. “That win was good for him and me as well,” he said. “It was my father’s birthday and also my parents’ anniversary. They were up there watching, which was great.

“It’s great to win a golf tournament anywhere but to do it in your home country made it pretty special as we walked up the 18th hole that day.”

Connolly is the most experienced Ryder Cup caddie in the European camp but Kenny has opted not to ask his compatriot what to expect.

“I’ve tried not to speak to Craig, the reason being that different guys have different opinions. Some guys will say they enjoy the Ryder Cup while others don’t,” he explained. “I don’t want to prejudice my views. You can’t treat it like any other tournament. But, when you are standing on that first tee, you have to try and go through your normal process as much as possible.”