In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Stephen Gallacher’s son Jack reflects on quitting school to caddie for his dad, and what he’s learnt over the past two years
I’d just started my final year of school when dad asked me to caddie for him, and I jumped at the opportunity. It was a really quick conversation. He’d just split with his caddie and was at a crossroads, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do after school, so I was at a bit of a crossroads myself. He asked me on the Wednesday and I left school the next day, and now it will be two years in June.
I actually have Marc Warren to thank. We’d had a do nearly two years ago for Doddie Weir’s MND charity at Kingsfield Golf Club, and Marc was staying with us. My dad had spoken to him briefly about it the next morning to see if he thought it was a good idea, and Marc thought it was, so that’s when he decided to ask me. Everyone in my family was really supportive.
I had never caddied before, so it was straight in at the deep end. Our first event was the BMW International Open over in Germany, and it was really windy. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but we did have a nice pairing with David Drysdale and Connor Syme so that really eased me in, being in a group with all Scots. We missed the cut by one that week, it was ruthless, but it’s one of those jobs where you’re constantly learning. Needless to say, I learned a lot that week. I’m also still quite young as a caddie, so for me it was more about getting away from everybody asking if I was going to be on his bag and then the next couple of weeks I began to get a lot more comfortable.
Dad didn’t give me that much responsibility at the beginning, he sort of eased me in. He won’t like me saying this but he’s been out there a long time so he kind of knows what to do, so it was more just to help him if I could. I quickly learned not to look too far ahead because I used to do that when I was watching him, and now my motto is you’ve just got to take it shot by shot, hole by hole.
Thankfully there’s not been a lot of mistakes, but I did make a few calculation errors at the start where the maths let me down. I remember we were playing the first hole at Le Golf National at the 2018 Open de France, and I had 121 yards to the front and 29 on, and we both calculated it as 140. Thankfully it’s a big green and we cleared the water so it didn’t cost us, but I started doing my sums down the way instead of across from then on. For the most part though I’d say the hardest thing for me is making sure I’ve got the wind direction right because you only need to be a little out for it to make a big difference. I honestly don’t think people realise how big an impact the weather plays on things.
The big difference with us from other player and caddie partnerships is that we’re together all the time. Normally at events after their rounds players go one way and caddies go another way but we stay in the same house and room together most weeks. I think how we do things will change a bit once this break is over though, not just to give him a little bit more space but more for my development than anything else, because I’m beginning to spend a bit more time with the other caddies. The caddies are all brilliant, you can lean on them for anything, but Damian Moore and the other Scottish caddies have probably been the biggest influences on me.
The best advice I’ve had from other caddies is just to back yourself and be clear. Don’t be a yes man, and don’t just agree with what he’s saying. You’ve got to be able to put your neck on the line but say it in the right way and always be positive with what you’re saying – not that you want to shy away from what you’re thinking or put negative thoughts in someone’s head – and always be clear and concise about that.
I think my biggest strength is that I can read him really well. I’m a pretty calm person so I just try and keep things relaxed, don’t add any stress.. He doesn’t need too much help, he knows mostly the shots he needs to hit and what to hit. I just add little tidbits if he’s struggling or if he’s unsure just to give him a bit of clarity but also give him another option and explain that option thoroughly so he can see it. It’s just simple things, he’s been there a long time so it’s just helping him if and when he needs it. We’re quite similar to be honest. He’s a pretty calm person too, he’s calm on the golf course, and he’s very good at that so when he gets in contention he just goes to his routines and that helps him under pressure.
I think that helped us to win the 2019 Hero Indian Open. When we were walking down 18 we were actually both really relaxed - talking about if we were going to miss the Celtic and Rangers match if it went to a play-off. I know roughly from watching him for years what to say and what not to say – you don’t want to add any stress, you already know what’s at stake, so in that moment I was trying to keep us both calm..
Everyone jokes that India was the only time I’ve ever pulled a club for him. We were on the 17th and he wanted to hit an eight-iron, but I made him change it to a seven-iron. It was good to put my neck on the line because under pressure it would have been easy to do what he said, so it was great that it obviously paid off for us and we made birdie.
The win itself was a great experience. It was weird because I didn’t see him for half an hour because he was away doing media stuff, and my phone was going mad. It definitely took a while to sink in.
I think maybe the expectancy level rose a little too fast for us after that win, but we’re both still learning. It did get a little easier for me out there though after that, because I stopped getting as overawed by the cameras, and realised you actually want them there all the time because that means you’re doing something right. The win certainly made me a better caddie too, because it gave me confidence that I can say the right things coming down the stretch.
Luckily we’ve not had any big issues yet and haven’t got on each others nerves – so long may that continue. We’re pretty close. We didn’t play that much golf together when I was younger but we now go to the football together a lot of the time, and our family is close, so we do a lot of stuff together. I’ve not completely decided if I’ll be a caddie forever but I try not to think too far ahead about what I’ll do in the future, and I think it’s something I’ll still look to do as long as he’ll keep me in the job.