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If you want to know what it's like inside the gallery ropes of a Ryder Cup, here it is
How We Won the Ryder Cup
By Norman Dabell

This is not just an up-dated version of a title that originally appeared in 1997 but a re-written and over-hauled model. The original idea was a simple one - to hear the caddies stories from inside the ropes of the greatest matchplay and team event in the world, and it worked beautifully for a number of reasons.

First was the writer Norman Dabell's capacity to draw people out, to let them speak and tell their own story in their own way. Second was the recognition that what you get above all else with caddies is honesty. A good caddie will not last long if he (or she, in the case of Fanny Sunesson, who is included here) becomes a yes man and does not have the strength of his or her own convictions - to say clearly, for example, they think it should be a 5-iron rather then the 6-iron chosen by the player. It is also, of course, far easier to be honest and objective in describing someone else's performance and behaviour than your own.

Third, caddies have the almost unique distinction in pro sport of being as near to the occasion as the player himself, walking the same fairways, listening to and seeing the same galleries and very often experiencing the same emotions.

But the last, great ingredient is indiscretion; saying more than a player would usually say but, in the process, giving us all a much greater insight into what it feels like to be inside the gallery ropes when the rack of tension is being inexorably tightened. For example, in the 2004 singles match between Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson we could all see the shots being hit and putts made or missed, and register the importance of Garcia winning three holes in a row from the eighth. But Garcia's caddie, Glen Murray, lets us know that Mickelson and his own bagman, 'Bones', were getting flustered and letting it show by shouting at cameramen.

The book is filled with such tiny, apparently inconsequential insights that cumulatively amount to a vivid, compelling portrait of what it feels like to not only have privileged access to one of the greatest contests in the world, but to be participating and register the same emotional highs and lows as the combatants. The role of the caddie in mano-a-mano contest is pretty much unique - the boxer's seconds are banished beyond the ropes, the jockey shares his saddle with no-one and the tennis player has to wait until the end of a match before sharing his thoughts. But the caddie is right next to his man, surveying the shot, making a judgement, feeling the tension and savouring the experience.

This book gives you all those insights and more. For any fan of the Ryder Cup, or golf, it makes an intriguing, absorbing and, (following Europe's superb record over the last 20 years - it opens in 1985), mostly pleasurable read.

Highly recommended

How We Won the Ryder Cup
By Norman Dabell
Mainstream Publishing
ISBN: 1-84018-980-0
£9.99 (paperback)

©    12 - APRIL 2005

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