ALLY MACKENZIE has been in the thick of the action in two high-profile events in recent weeks – but in different roles.
He was on caddying duties in the Johnnie Walker Championship one week at Gleneagles then, a few days later, was playing in the Aberdeen Asset Management Northern Open at Meldrum House.
Mackenzie, who cut his golfing teeth at Liberton and is a fully-qualified PGA pro, makes most of his money these days from caddying. He is among a group of useful Lothians players who are carving out careers for themselves as sought-after caddies on both sides of the Atlantic.
Dunbar’s Stephen Neilson, a semi-finalist in the Scottish Amateur Championship at Gullane just over two years ago, was also on a bag at Gleneagles, as were West Lothian duo Scott Walker and Craig Galloway.
Neilson was working for Craig Lee, Walker teamed up with Lloyd Kennedy and Galloway was with Jamie Moul, the former world No. 1 amateur.
Mackenzie, who was on Chris Gane’s bag, first started caddying at the Old Collier club in Florida and he is heading back there in a few weeks for his latest winter stint.
“This will be my fifth season there,” said the 31-year-old, who is based in the summer at The Renaissance Club.
“It came about after I had finished my PGA training and sent around 100 letters to golf clubs in America asking if they had any jobs. I was offered a teaching position at Doral (Florida) but that didn’t come off due to the visa situation.
“Then someone got in touch saying Old Collier, who provided visas, were looking for caddies and a week later I had landed a job there.”
The exclusive club in Naples has a joining fee of $285,000 with an annual sub of $20,000.
“Caddying there is where I get my main income these days,” added Mackenzie. “I’m able to make a year’s living in six months then come home for the summer to try and keep things ticking over.
“(Former Scottish Amateur champion) Kevin McAlpine was also caddying at Old Collier for a spell, but he’s now playing on the Canadian Tour.”
Mackenzie can still get a ball round the course himself, as he showed when making the cut in the Northern Open, one of the Tartan Tour’s main events.
His preparations for the event outside Aberdeen weren’t exactly ideal due to his caddying duties at Gleneagles but he still managed to finish in a tie for 33rd, admitting his “day job” had played its part.
“My practice round at Meldrum House was the first time I’d played in eight days due to working for Chris Gane in the Johnnie Walker Championship,” he revealed.
“However, I’ve definitely found that caddying makes you concentrate a lot more when you are out playing yourself.
“It also helps with course management, you are a lot better when it comes to yardages and also pay more attention to things like green elevations.
“All those factors have probably contributed to the fact I’ve made money in most of the pro-ams I’ve played on the Tartan Tour this summer. I was fourth at Aboyne, where I shot a 65, and at Bathgate I was four-under after five holes before finishing two-over.”
It says a lot for the likes of Mackenzie, Neilson, Walker and Galloway that they’ve been able to swallow their pride and work for someone else trying to live the golfing dream.
They are all decent players themselves but are using their skills to find a different way to make a living.
In recent years, ‘Buddy’ Renwick has been the top Lothians caddie on the European Tour.
A major winner with Jose Maria Olazabal, Vijay Singh and Steve Elkington, he was working for Argentinean Ricardo Gonzalez earlier in the year.
Now there’s a new wave of bagmen carving out careers for themselves – and it’s a job that definitely has its perks.
“I’m off to the Ryder Cup in Chicago in a few weeks’ time as a guest of one of the Old Collier members,” revealed Mackenzie, with a smile.