I am more disappointed that the JP McManus Pro Am has been cancelled than the Irish Open or Open Championship. I would have been particularly interested to see who would get the job of caddying for Tiger? In 2000, Limerick pro, Lee Harrington obliged but in 2010, JP phoned Arthur Pierse and asked if he would kindly do him a personal favour of carrying Tiger’s clubs for two days? How could the Ballykisteen-based, former Walker Cupper refuse a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Tiger in action from such close quarters?
“I did it willingly but had absolutely no idea how much hard work carrying a professional golfer’s bag would turn out to be,” recalled Arthur.
“I was completely knackered after the 2 days! My admiration for regular bagmen soared because they have to do it for 5/6 days consecutively, week in week out. They must be as strong as horses.
“The McManus is probably the most famous, unique pro-am in the whole, wide world of professional golf. Tiger forcefully made the point that it is the only event of its type that he plays in which is a testament to his close friendship with JP.
“The hardest part was the difficulty of coping with the huge crowd. You would need eyes in the back of your head minding the clubs and bag. Keeping the zips in the golf bag closed was a full-time job. It gave me some understanding why Tiger is so wary and protects his privacy so fiercely.
“Tiger was hardly relaxed, but he was extremely courteous and reserved towards me. He seemed to be constantly on the alert. He was aware that I had played in the Walker Cup and was more than happy to talk to me about the golf swing and different ways of playing the game and how it has changed in our respective lifetimes. My devotion to the Hogan Method and a trip that I made to Shady Oaks (Ben Hogan’s home course) a few years ago to play in the US Seniors Am where I met one of Hogan’s closest associates, PGA Pro Mike Wright, seemed to catch his interest. We had a good discussion on the Hogan bible – 5-Lessons – The Five Modern Fundamentals of the Golf Swing.
“As far as I could see, Tiger was more sad, and preoccupied than angry with his personal troubles at that time. He was greatly looking forward to going home to see his children for three days immediately after the pro-am ended. It was nauseating to hear the British Press trying to trap him into saying something rash in his press conferences. A charity event wasn’t the place for that.
“Tiger still strikes the ball magnificently and once his mind is clear I have no doubt that he will win again. After all, finishing joint 4th in both The Masters and US Open earlier this year, while playing ‘badly’ gives you an idea of how good the guy is.
“Having competed in the AT&T tournament at Aronimink on Sunday and then flown the Atlantic through the night, he was completely exhausted which explains his sloppy score of 79 on the first day. On Day 2, he played a much better game and shot 69 despite putting poorly by his own high standards. I think that I detected he was using his hands too much and not merely rocking his shoulders gently as he usually does but I kept that observation to myself! I am sure that something very small could switch Tiger back into winning form again but who knows when that might happen?
“He did not ask me for any on-course advice, and I didn’t offer any, even when I felt so inclined. He particularly enjoyed playing in the same group with the jockeys, Tony McCoy, Mick Fitzgerald and Ruby Walsh. The slagging match between them all day long was hilarious. Tiger joined in wholeheartedly but only when he was well away from the galleries.
“He did not engage in any conversations on the tee (in case he might be overheard) but once he was down the fairway, he chatted away quite freely. It’s sad that one would have to be constantly on the defensive like that. Which of us would enjoy all of our utterances to be examined in public to the same extent that his are? He pays a huge price for fame and fortune. I wouldn’t change places with him.”