Davies lightens the load in Open

GOLF: WHILE Miles Byrne was left to reflect on a mistake that will surely haunt him for the rest of his life, the same certainly can't be said of 16-year-old Richard Davies.

WHILE Miles Byrne was left to reflect on a mistake that will surely haunt him for the rest of his life, the same certainly can't be said of 16-year-old Richard Davies.

The story of the final day of the Open Championship at Royal Lytham when Ian Woosnam's caddie, the Irishman Byrne, failed to spot that he had one too many clubs in the bag, has been well documented.

But what about Richard Davies, surely the youngest-ever caddie to carry a bag in the world's biggest tournament.

It was indirectly through Stephen Whymark, the long-serving professional at Ipswich Golf Club, that young Richard got the chance to rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in the game.

For nine consecutive days, the diminutive Richard carried former European Tour player Paul Curry's bag through the final qualifying rounds, the practice days and all four days of the Open itself.

Weighing less than eight stones, Richard made light of the fact that he carried Paul's bag that contained a full set of clubs, waterproofs, umbrella, two dozen golf balls, towels and fruit. In total the weight of the bag and all its contents was about two-thirds of Richard's own body weight.

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"The bag was heavy, believe me," said Richard, himself an eight handicap golfer. "Ping Tour bags are the heaviest around because of the special lining to stop the clubs getting wet."

Stephen explained the connection with Richard and he came to caddie at The Open at such a tender age.

He said: "Richard's father is the headmaster of a big comprehensive school at Preston in Lancashire and his wife Linda's mother and my wife Susan's mother were great friends.

"We've kept in touch ever since with Richard and his parents who come down regularly for holidays in Suffolk and we've been up to Lancashire to see them over the years.

"In April we all went over to Florida. We had gone out to see Paul Curry and Richard and I played a few rounds of golf with him. When Paul decided to come back home last month to try and qualify for The Open, Richard met up with him again and said to him that if he wanted a caddie, he would be delighted to do it."

So a partnership was born. Richard carried the bag for the first time at Southport and Ainsdale where Paul qualified, and said: "We seemed to gell straight away.

"The Open was a fantastic experience and a great occasion. Walking up the 18th fairway was very special,

especially on the first day when the grandstands were almost full."

Richard was a promising footballer and a member of the Bolton Wanderers Academy between the ages of 13 and 15, but was not kept on by Martin Dobson, the former Burnley and England international midfield player, because he was too small.

But he wasn't too small to carry a bag in the Open Championship and was delighted that Paul played all four days and picked up a cheque for £15,000 into the bargain.

"It was the occasion that helped me forget about carrying the heavy bag," said Richard who certainly does not lack confidence, and may himself one day be playing in The Open.s

On the first practice day at Lytham Richard went up to Fanny Sunneson, Nick Faldo's caddie, and asked her if she had a spare double strap he could use to carry Paul's bag. Unfortunately she could not help.

So Richard just got on with the job, savouring four days that he's never likely to forget.

"Paul looked after me very well for carrying his bag which he also gave to me after his final round," said Richard.

In his first two rounds, Paul played in the same three-ball as David Dixon, the 24-year-old from Somerset who won the silver medal for being the leading amateur. He has since turned professional. As far as the caddies were concerned, it was very much a case of little and large with Dixon's bagman, a massive 20 stone and towering over Richard.

On the third day Paul was paired with Stuart Allenby (Australia) and in his final round with New Zealand star Michael Campbell.

"All the players and caddies were really nice and were all very helpful," said Richard who would love to turn professional if he gets the chance.

Back home in Lancashire he is coached by Eddie Birchenough at Royal Lytham and when he comes to Suffolk, Steve runs his eye over him and gives him further advice.

"I've just been asked to play for Bury and District Under-18s," said Richard who is still walking on cloud nine after his unbelievable experience.

And who could blame him.

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