Good caddies help players post sterling performances in competitions

By Vincent Wang'ombe: Friday, March 22nd 2019 at 01:00 GMT +3 | Golf
Kenyan Golfer Simon Ngige during Magical Kenya Open 2019 at Karen Country Club on Sunday, March 17, 2019 [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

On the last day of the Magical Kenya Open, I found a very nice corner of the course from where to watch the game.

This was between the tournament sixth and ninth holes (members at the Karen Country Club play these as the 18th and 12th respectively), under the large fig tree that had many ripe fruits that fell to the ground every time there was a slight breeze.

Looking at the size of the fig tree, I wondered whether it was still there when Maurice Bembridge won the second Kenya Open that was played at the Karen Country Club. 

Was this impressive fig tree part of the action as Bembridge played back in 1968? It sure was part of the action of Sunday as Guido Migliozzi was on the hunt for his first ever win on the European Tour.

Migliozzi’s second shot on the ninth hole ended up right at the base of the fig tree. Migliozzi could not make a normal golf shot to the flag. He went on the make a very unusual shot by bouncing the ball off the fig tree and it ended up just a few feet from the hole.

As a referee at the Magical Kenya Open, I was called from the shade of the fig tree to give rulings and also to help interpret the Rules of Golf to the players.

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One such call was by the eventual winner of the Magical Kenya Open, Guido Migliozzi. His tee shot on the sixth hole had put him in a place where he was entitled to free relief.

In assessing his nearest point of relief, I asked him which club he would use to play the shot if he did not have interference. He did not seem to understand what I was getting at but his caddie removed his five iron without a second thought.

I don’t understand Italian but I could tell that Migliozzi’s caddie was helping him to choose a good position to drop the ball and take advantage of the Rules when I granted him the free relief. This is perfectly legal in golf.

Migliozzi went on to hit a very good shot to the green on the par five hole. He went on to make his birdie from a potentially bad situation.

This reminded me of a ruling that I made back in the same area with the eventual winner of the 2015 Barclays Kenya Open, Haydn Porteous. His tee shot was in the bush and his caddie happened to see a red stake near the ball.

As I approached to give the ruling, the caddie was quick to point to the red-stake and asked: “This is a water hazard. Where do we take our relief from?”

The stake happened to have been a stray and Porteous did not get the relief that he would have wanted. He ended up dropping a shot at the hole but that did not stop him from going on to win the tournament.

What stood out for me from these caddies was their knowledge of the Rules and the fact that they are able to use the Rules of Golf to their advantage.

Do we have caddies in Kenya who know how to use the Rules of Golf to their advantage? It may add to the tour player’s expenses to travel with their caddie to different countries in the world but a good caddie can never be underestimated.

Simon Ngige, the best performing Kenyan at the Magical Kenya Open, had John Kagiri on his bag. They have played together from the days when they were amateurs.

Kagiri was not only encouraging Ngige, but he is also a well accomplished professional golfer in his own right and knew how to get out of bad situations. This partnership definitely played a part in Ngige’s good performance.

The player-caddie partnership cannot be downplayed. A good caddie on a player’s bag is probably more important than the clubs. Even more valuable, is one who knows the Rules of Golf and how to help his player calm down after a bad shot.

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