Ryder Cup, European Tour titles & more: The life of caddy Mark Crane
Mark Crane, from Prestwick, is a Scottish golf caddy who made his breakthrough cadddying for Lloyd Saltman at the 2005 Open Championship, helping him win the silver medal as an amateur. He has since caddied for a number of top European players, has helped to win multiple European titles and featured at two Ryder Cups.
Were you always interested in golf from a young age?
Football was my thing, but it was my brother who really got me into golf and caddying. When I was younger, I did a paper round every day and my brother was an assistant pro at the local golf club, prior to that he caddied for an older member on a Saturday afternoon. He became a bit more skilled in the shop and he went to work in there, so that job became available. So I realised I could make the same money as I was despite working only two hours, if you do the maths it sounded like a no brainer.
When you started caddying, what were your first impressions? Did you think “I can get used to this”?
To be honest it was the money that attracted me to it first, the easiness of the money and the fresh air. I started to play a bit of golf, I got quite good quite quick. Golf became a bit of an addiction, and between the playing and caddying it became my life. It snowballed from there, I got hungry and I wanted to be the best caddie I could, so I started setting goals. Now I look back having achieved them and think “Wow, I have achieved a lot”.
Having not played a lot of golf, did you pick the game up quite quickly after becoming a caddie?
I think I picked up a lot of the etiquette, and as how to speak to people properly. When I was at Prestwick Golf Club, it was an extremely wealthy golf club where you’re rubbing shoulders with a lot of guys who are big, big people. I think it adapts your people and life skills and that’s helped me to become a confident caddie.
What are the important skills of being a caddie?
A lot of it has changed. From a caddie’s point of view you do your homework and work hard, but you have to keep it quite simple. I see a lot of people making it a bit more than it needs to be. You need to keep it to the basics, knowing where the flags will be and where to hit it on that day. You play smart to a degree, and you play aggressive.
If a player is having a poor round, how do you help them out? Is it calming them down, giving advice etc.?
It can work two ways. There are some players who don’t need it, who are mentally strong enough to turn it around themselves. Sometimes if you’re telling a player to focus and calm down, that can actually get them annoyed. Although some players are like a jockey going down the home straight, you really have to whip them up and keep their chin up. A lot of that comes down to the relationship between a player and caddie.
Looking at somebody like Tyrrell Hatton who you have caddied for, he doesn’t exactly hide his emotions, so would you have more of a chat with him or leave it to himself?
I think you can have a word with Tyrrell, although that’s not saying he takes the point across. I think that fire in the belly is how he gets results. People might think that’s a flaw, but I actually think it’s his strength. He’s easy to speak to though, he takes things on board. From what people see from the outside view of him, its nowhere near as extreme in person.
Is it an important thing for a caddie to have a professional distance with their player?
I think in recent years you have seen more friends and family on the bag for players. Rory McIlroy has his good friend Harry Diamond as his caddie, and he knows Rory better than anybody. A lot of older caddies see it as a bad thing, but I think it’s a great thing.
We’ve talked about the good parts of the job, but what are the tough parts that people don’t see?
Travel and the fact that it is a big gamble. You are relying on your players’ talent to make you a living. You get a weekly wage when you go to a tournament, but it barely covers your expenses. You can run away for a three-week trip and actually not make anything. However, there is a lot of money in the game, and if you work for a good player you make a lot of money. But you miss birthdays, if somebody passes away you can’t get home in time, but no job is perfect. You get some amazing highs though that you would never get in a normal 9-5 job, so it balances out.
What was it like caddying at the Ryder Cup? Is there a different feeling and is it a different job?
The first one (2016 at Hazeltine) was horrible to lose, but I think it made the second one (2018 in Paris) a lot sweeter to win. We were going as underdogs in 2016, Europe didn’t have their strongest team and America were on their way up. One thing I would say is that your caddying under far more pressure than ever, as it could come down to a single player, their club and their choice, to decide who wins. After the Ryder Cup I actually feel less pressure having a chance down the back nine on a Sunday, I feel very relaxed knowing that I’ll never feel the pressure that I did at the Ryder Cup. It’s a good pressure though, not a nervous one. Golf is such an individual sports and you see such a different side of players in that week.
What are your best memories of that week in Paris?
Getting that first point. You know that you’re contributing something to the team, and making your own little bit of history I suppose. The photos and the events are part of the week, they are part and parcel, but they don’t really get you excited. But the feeling of Paris; what a location and what a venue. You’re beating perhaps the best American team of all time on paper and to know you’re a little part of that is something that you will tell the grandkids.