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A Conversation with Professional Caddy and Straight-shooter Billy Foster

Billy FosterThe BMW PGA Championship, which begins on May 20, is the flagship tournament of The European Tour and undoubtedly a highlight for UPS golf ambassador Lee Westwood and his caddy, Billy Foster. Despite his busy schedule, Billy was kind enough to answer some questions recently for upside and as you’ll read, professional golfers don’t hold a monopoly on colorful personalities.

Q. You have been caddying for 28 years now. What spawned your interest in this profession?

A. I was an apprentice joiner for my father getting paid £25 and being sacked three times a week. After a few local tournaments in Yorkshire and then in Spain, Hugh Baiocchi asked me to caddy for him. Being sacked every 10 minutes or carrying a top 20 bag was a no-brainer.

Q. Did you ever want to pursue any other career when you were young?

A. I wanted to be a postman, so I suppose I was destined to carry bags.

Q. Are any of your family involved in the golfing profession?

A. No, none of my family are involved in golf.

Q. What are your responsibilities as a professional caddy? Is there anything you do that might surprise us?

A. I have to know when to say something or when to keep my mouth shut. I also have to keep my boss focused and not rush decisions when under the ultimate pressure. I also have to know when to be serious or when to have a laugh to take the pressure off.

Q.  How do you train/prepare in your job?

A. Have a few beers!!

Q. Do you enjoy playing a round of golf from time to time, or is it too close to work?

A. I used to play a lot, but the last 10 years it’s been five or six times a year.

Q. Do you ever get nervous before a big tournament?

A. Tom Watson once asked Ian Baker Finch on the first tee at St. Andrews if he was nervous and the answer was ‘No’. “You aren’t human then,” replied the five-time Open champion. Yes, I get nervous before the whistle blows, but then you get on with the job.

Q. You are famous for your quick-witted comments. Is it important to keep a sense of humor when on Tour?

A. Very much so. It helps keep the pressure off.

Q. What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?

A. Caddying at Augusta National is the most demanding, both physically and mentally. If you can get through to Sunday night and still have a job, then you can hop, skip and jump.

Q. How do you juggle family life with working on the Tour?

A. It’s difficult, particularly when you miss special dates and birthdays, etc., but my boss Lee Westwood is a family man as well and he tailors his schedule so that he isn’t away for too long.

Q. What’s it like working with Lee Westwood?

A. It’s the most enjoyable job I have ever had.

Q. How was your 90 mile charity walk last year from Loch Lomond to Turnberry (in aid of The Darren Clarke Foundation and the Candlelighters Children’s Cancer Trust)?

 A. Raising £70,000 made it all worthwhile and the Scottish weather was wonderful – which makes a change!

Q. Why did you get involved?

A. I’d planned to do it from Loch Lomond to St. Andrews 10 years earlier and it didn’t come off, so I was determined to do it somewhere down the line.

Q. You’ve worked with several other prominent professional golfers during your career. Please describe some of your more memorable experiences – on or off the links.

A. The most memorable had to be caddying for Seve Ballesteros in Switzerland. He hit his tee shot on the 18th into an unplayable lie behind a wall. I pleaded with him to chip out sideways, but he went down on his hands and knees and from 130 yards with a wedge in his hand, he hit it over an eight-foot wall, through an 18in gap in some pine trees, over a swimming pool and some more trees and close enough to chip in for a birdie. It was the greatest shot of that or any other era that I have ever seen. He was a magician.

Q. Which is your favorite golf course and why?

A. Toss up between the Royals – Dornoch and Birkdale.  Sawgrass, if I was in America.

Q. What interests/hobbies do you have away from the golf course?

A. Skiing.

Q.  Which famous person would you like to meet and why?

A. I’d love to have a few beers with Jack Nicholson.

Q. After winning the Race to Dubai last year, who was the first person you called?

A. My wife, Lisa.

Q. Who do you think is going to win the Race to Dubai this year?

A. Lee Westwood, of course!!

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