Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Caddie Willie Aitchison (85) dies

Willie was one of the best of the old school caddies, judging shots and club selection by eye in the years before yardage books were invented.

Getty image Willie Aitchison on the par four 18th hole at The Old Course
Willie Aitchison on the Swilken Bridge on the Old Course, St Andrews
WILLIE Aitchison, arguably the greatest caddie ever born in the home of golf, has died peacefully aged 85.
The legendary Scot guided Lee Trevino to back-to-back Open titles in 1971 and 1972 and helped Roberto di Vicenzo win the Claret Jug aged 44 at Hoylake in 1967.
Glaswegian Willie became a professional caddie in 1951 and stayed at the top for nearly half a century. Injury forced him to retire in 1995 but he kept on serving the sport he loved as caddiemaster for the European Tour.
Willie was one of the best of the old school caddies, judging shots and club selection by eye in the years before yardage books were invented.
But he will be best remembered for the Open partnership with Trevino that began in 1968 and lasted four decades.
He once said of his old boss and friend: “I thought he was some sort of crazy man when we met, but we clicked from day one. He lets off steam at me and I’m his straight man.”
Willie caddied for other greats including Sam Snead, Gary Player, Tony Lema, Tom Watson and Colin Montgomerie.
As well as his Open successes, he helped his men win six Amateur Championships and dozens of other titles.
And he fought hard all his life to get caddies the respect they deserved.
When Willie started out, golf looked down on its caddies. At his first event, the British Amateur at St Andrews, he had to sleep in the greenkeeper’s hut at the 15th.
He once recalled: “In the early days we were treated abominably. We weren’t allowed within 100 yards of the clubhouse. We were low-life.”
By 2007, when Willie was caddiemaster at the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond, the caddies had their own luxury lounge with free food and all mod cons and the best were earning seven-figure wages.
He grinned: “It’s come a long way from the days when we had to s*** in the woods because they wouldnae let us in the clubhouse!”
Willie caddied on Tour for the last time that year, carrying young pro Jamie McLeary’s bag for the last four holes as he filled in for injured Spaniard Ignacio Garrido in the first round of the Dunhill Links at St Andrews.
In classic style, he told Jamie how to play his chip and run approach to the last, and earned his boss a birdie.
Willie, a much-loved dad of seven, grandad and great-grandad, died in front of the telly at his home in Maryhill shortly after New Year.
Son-in-law Jim Davers, 59, said: “It’s come as a big blow to the family. He seemed fine and healthy at Christmas and New Year. But we can take solace from the fact he passed peacefully at home.
“He’ll be fondly remembered in the golf world and well and truly missed.”



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