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Caddie Stories


Billy Foster on his lifelong dream of lifting the Claret Jug

Golf caddie extraordinaire, Billy Foster

For successful sportspeople it is often more about what they have not won rather than what they have.

Near misses and hard luck stories are just as captivating for fans as a narrative shaped around glory.

When it comes to golf, the names of serial winners Harry Vardon and Tom Watson will forever be associated with The Open. But so too will the names of Doug Sanders and Jean van de Velde.

Another man who has endured more than his fair share of Open anguish is Billy Foster, the star of our latest edition of Caddie Stories.

Speaking before he was on the bag for Matt Fitzpatrick's victory at the RBC Heritage in April, Foster said: “I’ve been very fortunate to win 45 golf tournaments around the world with different players. I’ve said it on record that I’d give them all away to caddie for the winner of the Claret Jug.”

The affable Yorkshireman has caddied at 39 Opens but he has yet to taste victory in the Championship than means the most to him.

It’s a remarkable anomaly given the calibre of golfer Foster has accompanied around the links, including three-time Open Champion Seve Ballesteros, 2011 winner Darren Clarke, former world number one Lee Westwood and 2022 US Open Champion Fitzpatrick.

Darren Clarke (left) and Billy Foster at the 2007 Open Championship

Billy Foster (right) alongside Darren Clarke during The Open in 2007

Foster – who first caddied at The Open in 1984, for Hugh Baiocchi – has been agonisingly close to glory on five occasions, most notably with Thomas Bjorn in 2003, when the Great Dane relinquished a two-shot lead to Ben Curtis with just three holes remaining.

Foster said: “I’d been out at 6 ‘o clock that morning looking at all the pin positions and I got to the 16th, and you literally had about six feet to the right of the hole and it was a graveyard of death. Or you had half of Kent to the left.

“When we got to the tee Thomas had the lead. It was like ‘Thomas, just hit it at the TV tower, middle of the green, 30-foot left of the hole, nowhere else’.

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“It actually set off straight at the flag and it bounced right and went down in the bunker. It took him three to get out. [He] bogeyed the 17th and lost by a shot, and I thought about that every day for six months, it absolutely broke my heart because it was there; he had the Claret Jug in both his hands.”

Bjorn’s slip came just two years after Clarke double-bogeyed the 17th when in a great position to win at Royal Lytham & St Annes, but finished in a tie for third.

The Ulsterman was runner-up to Justin Leonard at Royal Troon in 1997, which was Foster’s first experience of Open disappointment.

Foster said of Clarke: “He was tied for the lead [in the final round] and he shanked it off the second tee. It stayed with him on the front nine. He hit three or four other flighted, semi-shanks. It just wasn’t his day."

Billy Foster (left) with Lee Westwood at the 2010 Open

Foster and Westwood came close in five straight majors

Foster hooked up with Westwood soon after and stayed with the Worksop wonder for over a decade. Westwood climbed to the top of the Official Golf World Rankings and finished in the top three in five consecutive majors during this spell.

One of those major finishes came in The 139th Open at St Andrews in 2010, when he finished seven shots behind Louis Oosthuizen, although Foster believes his man had a better chance of victory at Turnberry 12 months earlier.

Foster said: “Lee led all week, played incredibly good golf. He came out on Sunday and was leading going into the back nine.

“We stood on the last tee and we’re thinking ‘make par and you’re going to be in a play-off’ [with Tom Watson and eventual winner Stewart Cink].

“He pulled his tee shot a bit and it ran and ran and ran and ran, and just dribbled into the bunker.

“He hit what I would say is the best fairway bunker shot I’ve ever seen in my life. An incredible golf shot.

“He probably left himself 50-, 60-feet. He gave it a run, hit it 10-foot past and missed the [putt] coming back, which ultimately would have got him in a play-off.”

Billy Foster (left) shakes hands with Tiger Woods

Foster caddied for Tiger Woods at the 2005 Presidents Cup

Given the pain The Open has caused him over the years, Foster – who finally broke his major duck with Fitzpatrick’s US Open breakthrough – would be forgiven if he never wanted to work at the Championship again. But his love for golf’s original major supersedes the setbacks.

He said: “It’s given me a few kicks along the way, but it’s still the biggest and best tournament in the world, and you’d like to think maybe one day, maybe before I get dug into the soil, that I might get lucky enough to win one.”

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