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American CaddieThis summer, when Oliver Horovitz dons his St. Andrews caddie bib and picks up the clubs of some unsuspecting hacker paying homage to one of the holiest of holy grounds in the game, it will be the Harvard grad’s eighth summer as a pack mule on the Old Course.

What began as a “what the hell?” way to fill the yawning months between high school graduation and his deferred Harvard career shows no signs of ending any time soon for the 26-year-old who was born in Gloucester, Mass., and cut his caddying teeth on the North Shore of Boston.

“I would just play golf every single day — 18, 36 every day,” Horovitz, the son of playwright and Gloucester (Mass.) Stage Company founder and brother of Beastie Boys member Adam Horovitz, told us recently by phone. “If I wasn’t hitting playing golf, I was hitting balls. All my friends were kids who caddied with me at [Gloucester’s] Bass Rocks.”

Horovitz’ excellent adventure began as the high school senior was playing third trumpet on stage during his graduation ceremony. Knowing he was on the wait list for Harvard, Ollie was thrilled when his cellphone trilled in the middle of the rite and on the other end the university’s admissions officer had good and so-so news: Horovitz was in but his entry would have to wait until the following year.

“So there I was, with 365 days to kill,” recalled Horovitz, who had also received an offer from the University of St. Andrews.

With an English mother, an old English uncle (Ken) living nearby, a “girl-to-guy ratio of 65-35” at the Scottish college, and one other critical enticement to take a journey of a lifetime, 17-year-old Oliver punched his ticket for the U.K.

“As a student at St. Andrews you get the best deal in golf,” Horovitz said. “Unlimited golf on the Old Course…for about $170 for the whole year.

“It gets no better than that.”

But it did. Horovitz parlayed his year on the college golf team into a summer job as a bagman on the Old Course, where he rang up some $100 per round, and for which he delayed his Boston foray until the last possible moment. And he kept returning — for spring and winter breaks, summer vacations, and long after his Harvard graduation.

“Every single caddie wants to be a professional golfer; that’s the dream,” Horovitz said. “For me, this is the second-best.”

What unfolded was the chance to loop for personages from European Tour golfer Simon Dyson when he was locked in a final-round 2011 Dunhill Links Championship duel with newly crowned U.S. Open champ Rory McIlroy, to Larry David of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” fame, to the not atypical 10-handicap American golfer who proclaims on the first tee that “I gotta break 80.”

Along the way, Horovitz linked up with the unique characters who populate the Scottish version of “Caddyshack” (Exhibit A: “Babysitter” — so nicknamed because “you would never want to leave your kids with him”) and enjoyed the hijinks of a lifetime.

Like that double tequila shot he downed with Paula Creamer to celebrate her 21st birthday during the 2007 Women’s British Open. After learning the LPGA star was installed at the local watering hole, “inspiration struck” our star-struck hero as he rushed in and plunked down his hard-earned wages on the adult beverage.

“The entire pub was living through me for that one second,” said Horovitz, who got Creamer to down the distilled spirit but failed in other endeavors.

“I flirted shamelessly for the next 45 minutes but was completely unsuccessful,” he said.

Then there was that day with McIlroy, an exploit that Horovitz believes embodied the essence of what it means to be on the bag.

“Getting to be beside Rory in the heat of the moment on Sunday, trying to win the tournament,” he said, reliving the emotions of the event. “Being beside him walking, seeing it, that’s a look  you’re not going to get anywhere else. Caddying brings you to the center of the game, inside the ropes. For me, I’m never going to forget that round.”

Horovitz bundled his first year on the bag into a Sports Illustrated article, which grew into a book, which he hopes to turn into a screenplay. He’ll be reading excerpts from “An American Caddie” and talking St. Andrews at Bass Rocks GC on May 25 and at Rockport (Mass.) GC on May 26.

 

Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. You may follow Kay on Twitter @golfexaminer

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