Dave Renwick: My highs and lows with Olazabal

Dave Renwick and Jose-Maria Olazabal celebrate the Spaniard's Masters success in 1994. Pic: Getty
Dave Renwick and Jose-Maria Olazabal celebrate the Spaniard's Masters success in 1994. Pic: Getty
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Winning five majors with three different golfers – not bad, I reckon, for a boy from East Calder who had a spell as a roughneck on an oil rig in the North Sea before travelling the globe as a caddie.

My first experience of the world that was to become my eventual career path was at Dalmahoy in the days when it used to be the premier tournament venue in Scotland. My dad, who was a joiner, would take a week off his work to try and get a bag and I’d go along and pull a trolley for a pound.

I remember working one year for Roddy Carr, an Irish amateur, and when he missed the cut I picked up the bag of South African Dale Hayes for the last two rounds and, on the Saturday, we played with Mr Lu, who was second to Lee Trevino in The Open in 1972.

I remember walking over his line by mistake at the 17th, but he almost tipped his hat to say, ‘don’t worry, I can see that you are just a young lad starting out in caddying’.

I actually served my apprenticeship as an electrician, but packed that in to go offshore on the drilling side in the North Sea and also worked in that industry out in Angola for three years.

It was only after I split from my first wife and came back to East Calder that my caddying career took off, working for Italian Baldovino Dassu, Swede Anders Forsbrand and also Bernard Gallacher before I picked up Jose Maria Olazabal’s bag for the first time.

That’s where the dollar signs started – literally as he won the 1986 European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre in Switzerland the first week I caddied for him!

We also won the Sanyo Open that year at El Prat, playing with Seve Ballesteros in the last group on the last day, and I could see straight away that he was a special player.

Indeed, I remember sending a postcard – this was before the days of mobile phones – to an old friend of mine, Jimmy Watson, saying this guy is going to be ‘Top of the Pops’ but, boy, is he demanding!

I had eight years – a long time – and, in the end, he wore me out. I walked off the course at Valderrama one year. It started from the first hole that day. We were playing with Frank Nobilo and we recalled that round out in America earlier this year.

I remember saying to Frank after five or six holes, ‘I’ve had enough of this guy and I’ll be walking in’ and I did after the tenth. There’s a balance to be struck between making good money and taking someone’s crap.

I like to think I’m an easy-going guy. We all make mistakes and I’ll be the first one to put my hand up if I do make one. But, when you are constantly getting flak for no reason it all, it’s hard to take, believe me.

The highlight of my spell with Chema, of course, came when he won The Masters in 1994 by two shots from Tom Lehman with a nine-under-par total of 279.

Augusta is really challenging for a caddie. Back then, it was a lot shorter, but the greens were very firm. I remember watching it on the TV this year and it looked like a piece of cake. They were hitting 5-irons into greens and it was stopping dead.

Being on the winning bag in a major for the first time was a phenomenal experience – but I quit two weeks later due to the fact I couldn’t handle it any more. I could count on one hand the number of times in eight years that Olazabal turned to me and said ‘good club’. If you made a mistake, though ...

I was getting fed up the way he was treating me. I was getting seven per cent after tax. I remember when he won at Firestone by 12 shots and thinking, ‘if I was working for an American I’d be picking up three times this’. But he used to shrug it off.

I asked Sergio Gomez, his manager, about our set-up. I said that seven per cent wasn’t good enough and I deserved ten per cent. But he said ‘no, a deal is a deal’ and as soon as he said that I knew it was time to go.

I went home and on the Tuesday morning of the week I quit, he phoned my mum’s house and asked to speak to me. I was in the pub and my mum obviously told him that as he phoned there.

He said ‘who do you think you are? Get your arse over here’. I said I’d had enough and, even though he phoned the house every night for the next three days asking me to come back and offered to give me ten per cent after tax, I’d made my mind up that I was moving on.

One thing I do have to praise the Spaniard for, though, is standing by me as I spent six months in jail after two of my fellow caddies died in a car crash as I was at the wheel.

We were travelling from the Irish Open at Portmarnock to France and there were five of us in the car. We got the ferry from Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead and I had a couple of pints and one G&T on the journey.

I’d been sleeping for three or so hours but took over the driving close to London and we were about 15 miles from London when I fell asleep at the wheel.

The car flipped over five or six times before landing back down on the motorway and it was lucky that it was around 6am in the morning. If it had been busier, I think we’d all have been killed.

I was hauled out and breathalysed. It was nine hours since I’d had a drink and I was clear, which was a huge relief, though I was devastated that two fellow caddies and friends were killed. I had to identify one of them, Davie Kirk, before getting a flight up to Edinburgh that night.

I plead guilty and spent six months in jail. It was tough and there wasn’t a night I didn’t stop thinking about it. To be fair to Olazabal, he kept my job open and I tip my hat to him for that.

• As told to Martin Dempster. Tomorrow: The Generous Elk and hard-working Vijay.