King of the caddies behind Grace’s success

2012-12-08 00:00

THEY’RE the unsung heroes of the golf course, quietly going about their work with efficiency, advice and know-how. At the end of the day, they are hardly noticed, quietly slipping into the background while someone else takes the acclaim, applause and the winner’s cheque. These are the guys — and girls sometimes — who put in the work and really break a sweat on the course. These are the caddies.

It’s not only a great man who has a great woman behind him. A great golfer always has a great caddie and this is the difference between being good or great, winning once or being remembered as a legend of the game.

South African golfer Branden Grace has enjoyed a phenomenal year, but at his shoulder has been the ever-present Zack Rasego, a caddie par excellence, whose potential was recognised by none other than the great Gary Player when the Sun City course was being built.

Player saw something in Rasego and, having introduced a caddie programme, gave Rasego a chance to prove his worth. He went bigger than that, winning the acclaimed Caddie of the Year title, which offered a caddying stint on the European Tour. Rasego had found his niche in life and took his skills beyond Africa. Said Player: “He was a quick learner and had a great eye for the job.”

The die was cast and Rasego went on to spend seven years with Louis Oosthuizen, carrying his bag to victory at the 2010 Open Championship at St Andrew’s.

He joined forces with Grace last year, when the golfer qualified from Tour School. It was an inspired choice for Grace to take Rasego because the pair have made an impact in the golfing world, winning the Joburg Open, the Volvo Golf Champions, the Volvo China Open and the Dunhill Links. On the Sunshine Tour, they added the Vodacom Origins of Golf at Fancourt to their list of conquests.

Grace readily admits that Rasego sees things he cannot fathom on the course.

“That final round at Fancourt, I was battling to read the lines. I told Zack to jump in with reading the lines as I needed some clarification. Birdies at the 12th, 13th and 14th proved his prowess and drew us comfortably ahead of the field.”

Rasego was recognised as being the best around with the 2012 HSBC Caddie of the Year award in China last month. “I never expected to win,” he said. “In 1979, I was 16 when given a chance by Gary Player. I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and it has taken me around the world and given me moments I will never forget. As a young black man at the time, it was a tough start, but this award, where I was honoured by the players, media and peers, was another South African victory,” he said.

Looking back on the past 12 months with Grace, Rasego said: “Working with Branden has been amazing. He is a hugely talented player and will be remembered for many years to come. Winning at Fancourt was a highlight for me as I saw a young man overcome his nerves and beat a class field. That filled him with confidence and belief and I look forward to teeing-off at Durban Country Club from January 10 to 13 next year for the Volvo Golf Champions. I am confident Branden will defend his title.”

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