Inkster of the Week - Joe Devereux-Kilpatrick

Wednesday 5th April 2023

Something a little different, this week: an article recounting Joe's experience caddying at the New Zealand Open. A good read, especially if you love chasing that wee white ball up and down those long green fairways!

The New Zealand Open is considered the top golf tournament in New Zealand, and players from the Australasian Tour, Asian Tour, and European Tour often participate in it. The professionals who enter, or amateurs who qualify, play in a 4-day, 72-hole tournament. The professionals also pair up with an amateur who plays in a two-ball, best-ball format for the NZ Pro-Am Championship. Recently, I was lucky enough to caddy at the New Zealand Open. It was a great experience, and a good thing about it was that everyone had the opportunity to apply, and there was a high chance of getting a bag. Every year, there are usually caddies needed right up until a couple of weeks before the tournament.

I took away many learnings from the experience. The first was how much time the players in our group and other groups took to play their shot. Before they would approach to play their shot, they would spend time dissecting the shot, breaking down the hazards and slopes everywhere. This is why those with lower handicaps and professional players are just that much better because if they are going to miss, they will make sure they miss to a position where they still have an opportunity to hit a good shot. Having a better miss allows them to have a better chance of shooting lower with way more ease, as they won’t have to worry about trees and other obstacles that most amateurs face.

Over the days I spent at the NZ Open, I saw many different swings and techniques, but they all got the job done. This proves another learning: just because your swing doesn’t look the same, doesn’t mean it’s not going to do the same thing. A perfect example of this in the professional world is Jon Rahm. Jon has a very short backswing and has a super bowed wrist at the top of his swing, which to some isn’t considered the best technique out there, but in 2020, he was ranked number one in the Official World Golf Ranking. Your swing may not be as weird as Jon Rahm’s or maybe it’s weirder, but things like that shouldn’t stop you from playing the game of golf. Practice and time are all that is needed to improve, but most importantly, you need to be consistent.

Consistency is another excellent learning from watching the professionals. Those professionals who consistently hit good shots and hole putts do the best, obviously, but this is a lot easier said than done. As a fellow golfer myself, I can agree. Consistency is probably the hardest thing to master in golf, as every round you will have at least one bad shot. These bad shots can range from distance, direction, striking, etc. The difference between those low single-figure handicappers and the professionals is the professional’s bad shots aren’t nearly as bad as some of the lower-handicapped players. Having a better miss helps with consistency, but also how the professionals recover, as they will most likely be playing out of the rough or near where the lower handicaps may be playing from the trees, but you choose. I know what one I would take every day, and it’s not even close.

The last learning I found was your short game needs to be up to standard or better. Those players that could hit greens and hole putts did the best. Tiger Woods, who is considered the greatest golfer to ever live, said that his Dad made him practise his short game before he worried about his distance off the tee. This is because having a good short game is a better foundation to build off, rather than having a good long game. A lot of the professionals I saw, before they began their rounds, would start on the practice green and hit some putts. They would then move to the range to hit their longer clubs and dial in on their distance control then go to the chipping area and hit a massed amount of different chips. To finish, they would hit more putts so that they were best prepared for their round. 

 There were caddies for both professionals and amateurs and I was caddying for an amateur player. My player didn’t make the pro-am cut and wasn’t eligible for the professional side of the NZ Open which meant my work finished two days early but the Saturday and Sunday weren’t guaranteed days as the cut would need to be made for players to play. Instead, I was lucky enough to caddy at The Hills on the Saturday. The Hills, which is a private course down the road from Millbrook which can only be played by invite, hosted an event for those players who didn’t make the cut and both professionals and amateurs played in a team stableford format. Although my player missed the cut, I was very lucky to get the chance to be on The Hills let alone walk around the course. When entering The Hills clubhouse, I was greeted by people like Stephen Fleming, Brendon Mccullum and Sir Ian Botham all enjoying a coffee at the cafe. 

 The NZ Open was an absolute blast for me and all the other caddies. Plenty was learnt each and every day and it was awesome watching professionals go to work. Would I recommend doing this in upcoming years? Of course, even if you are not a golfer but like the game, it’s an opportunity where you can walk around one of the nicest courses in the south and be surrounded and involved with professional golfers that you see on the tv. When not caddying, Queenstown has many different things to offer, great cafes, restaurants and plenty of activities such as luging, go-karting and the iconic gondola of course. There are plenty of activities to do in the spare time you have but caddying at The NZ Open is an awesome way to get into golf or even to show your enjoyment of it so I suggest in the upcoming years, sign up and give it a crack.