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Zero to Hero

In one of golf's greatest upsets, Kent caddy Andy Sutton recalls the moment he was paired with a little-known American at Royal St George's. By Tom Howard

Sandwich's Royal St George's is a special place in golf, but it will always be remembered by Kent caddy Andy Sutton, who played a part in one of the sport's biggest upsets.

Sutton, a European Tour caddy, went from the game's obscurity to working with the Open Champoin in the space of a fairytale week at the Kent course in July 2003.

The Open that year will always be remembered as one of golf's biggest surprises after unknown American golfer Ben Curtis, ranked 396 in the world and competing in his first major, beat all comers and the Royal St George's course to lift the famous Claret Jug.

Yet stand-in caddy Sutton, who lives in Maidstone, could so easily have missed out on what has proved to be his biggest achievement in golf. It was onl y a phone call on the off chance looking for work at The Open that brought the pair together.

Sutton, who had been working for European Tour professional John Bickerton, was returning from Glasgow, where his regualr employer missed the cut at the Scottish Open. Wondering what to do next, he called the International Management Group (IMG), the agency looking after many of golf's top players.

He explained: "I really wanted to get some work for The Open because it was at Sandwich and I live up the road in Maidstone, so I fancied working and being able to sleep in my own bed. I picked up the phone and called IMG. I said 'can you get me on a bag?'

Ben Curtis was ranked 396 in the world, but stole the show with his first major in 2003

"They said they had a guy called Ben Curtis coming over from the US. I'd never heard of him."

From there on in the rest is history. The pair met for the first time at practice a week before the first round of the Open Championship.Curtios had never played a links course before the tournament, so Sutton would be required to share his pearls of wisdom and local knowledge more than most caddies.

And it was one of Sutton's tips that proved crucial as Curits surged to the title. Managing the wind and the undulations of the course is a critical part of links golf, especially at Royal St George's.

Sutton told Curtis to chip with an eight iron around the greens instead of the American's preferred nine iron, and it paid dividends.

The tournament started well for the pair as Curtis comfortably made the cut for the final two rounds of the Championship. The final 36 holes of a major can often produce surprises, but few were expecting Curtis to feature - even the caddy himself.

"I was out in Maidstone in the pub on the Saturday night having a drink with an old mate, and he asked me what I thought was going to happen," he said. "I'm a pessimist and I always expect the worse, so I was fully expecting him to shoot 80 and for us to finish 20th. Unbelievable."

The final round will go down in history as one of the most dramatic seen in The Open.Curtis and Sutton, who were third at the start of the round, bogeyed four of the last seven holes, but entered the clubhouse in the lead on one-under-par. With Tiger Woods, Davis Love III and Thomas Bjorn all chasing, Curtis and Sutton were left wondering where they would finish. Woods' challenge faltered after a couple of wayward tee shots, while Love III ran out of holes.

This left Bjorn as the only man who could lift the title. Three shots to exit a bunker on the 16th saw him fall back and by the time he reached the 18th he had a putt to force a play-ff with Curtis for the Championship. He missed and Sutton turned to Curtis to congratulate him on producing one fo golf's biggest shocks and becoming the first debutant to win a major since Francis Ouimet in 1913.

Lifting the Claret Jug eclipsed Sutton past best acheivements, which included helping Swede Joakim Haeggman to the Scandinavian Masters corwn and partnering him in Europe's narrow defeat in the 1993 Ryder Cup. It came only a year after recovering from an horrific leg fracture sutained in a motorcycle accident.

Now aged 46, he continued to caddy for Curtis at tournaments followign The Open up until the 2008 Ryder Cup.

With Royal St George's all set to host The Open this year, it's unlikely the course will ever produce an upset of the magnitude of Curtis and Sutton, who shocked the golfing world.

Kent Garden of England

Reproduced with kind permission of KOS Media Ltd and Visit Kent. For further information, go to www.kentnews.co.uk and www.visitkent.co.uk

 








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