From the fairways to the frontline - Meet the caddie helping to fight COVID-19

Graham Low St Andrews Caddie

Right about now, St Andrews caddie Graham Low should be starting to hit his stride on the Links’ fairways.

As the nights lengthen, the traditional high season at the Home of Golf would usually signal the return of the loyal army of caddies, each carrying out their “loops” once, twice or the dreaded treble, each and every single day.

But instead of undertaking his fifth consecutive season at the world’s most famous Links, the 53-year-old finds himself walking the wards of Wythenshawe Hospital, near Manchester, playing his part in supporting the NHS response to the Covid-19 global pandemic.

Graham, who followed caddie manager Fraser Riddler from Trump International Scotland in 2016, had been closely following the spread of coronavirus. And with the traditional golf season facing disruption he took the decision to pursue alternative employment for a few months, having not enjoyed the prospect of sitting idle for any period.

• "St Andrews, where every day is Sunday"

• Jackie Pung: The major champion who wasn't

“I was in regular contact with Fraser and I think everyone was beginning to get a sense in March that this was going to have a big impact on the season and the number of visitors or rounds there might be,” explains Graham.

"I live with my fiancée Jan in Manchester and for the last four summer seasons I’ve travelled up and rented a place in St Andrews. When I began to understand what coronavirus might mean I knew it might not be a normal summer season in St Andrews, or anywhere else for that matter. I’ve always worked, I like to keep busy and I decided that if I could get a job and it could help in any small way that was what I was going to try and do.”

Last month Graham successfully applied for a post as a Porter at the Wythenshawe Hospital, part of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, initially on a 3-month contract. In a short period of time he has swapped his caddie bib and spikes for face mask, surgical gloves and medical apron, experiencing at first hand just how stark a contrast it is from the Links’ landscape he has called home in recent years.  

“The hospital is split into 2 areas effectively,” Graham adds. “One side is for non-Covid-19 patients and the other is set up to deal exclusively with Covid-19 cases. I’ve spent most of my time in the latter doing a variety of things, from moving patients and equipment to pushing laundry cages and delivering various medications to the patients around the hospital.

• Scottish golf courses "must stay closed"

• 90% of US courses to be open by May 17

“Unfortunately, some of those we have seen coming in have been very ill, and regrettably I have had to make a few trips to the mortuary. It’s incredibly sad to see, especially when so many of the patients can have no real contact with their family and friends.

“When I am on a ward I’m just trying to do my job and talk to the patients when we can, some of them like to talk about golf so I tell them about St Andrews, if they’ve never been they want to hear all about what it’s like, who comes to plays, where they come from and what it’s like being a caddie.”

Graham Low Caddie

Across the country, from city centres to genteel suburbs and village high streets, the explosion of gratitude for NHS staff, care workers and key workers has resulted in a weekly clap for carers as millions show their gratitude for those working on the frontline. And Graham insists working closely with his new colleagues has given him an even greater appreciation for their work.

“What the doctors and nurses are doing for us all and just how committed they are to saving lives is just incredible,” Graham says. “I’m obviously just on a temporary contract but from the day I walked in and had my induction there’s been a real team morale and a sense of everyone being in it together, regardless of what each shift might hold.”

• Rory McIlroy hailed as "King of the PGA Tour"

Though it’s a far cry from helping golfers to navigate the Old Course, Graham sees shades of the same camaraderie that exemplify the Caddie “Shack” at the Links.

“There’s a great group of people at St Andrews,” Graham says. “There’s a mixture of old and young and over the last few years I’ve been fortunate to get a lot of great bags. Everyone knows it’s the Home of Golf, a special place for everyone to go to and caddies are part of the fabric of it.”

Many of those caddies, whom Graham counts as friends, have been unable to secure alternative employment due to the widespread economic impact of lockdown.

And with no play possible for the foreseeable future and international travel set to be badly affected for the remainder of the summer season, Graham was hugely grateful to see Caddie Manager Fraser Riddler establish a GoFundMe account to help ease concerns over financial hardship.

To date more than £45,000 has been pledged by the global golf community with Graham, who caddied for European Tour star Erik Van Rooyen at Qualifying School, committed to playing his part to support the initiative.

“I’ve kept in touch with some players, including a few Professionals on the tour, who I’ve been fortunate to get a bag for,” he says. “So I’ve sent a few emails just trying to raise awareness because so far the golf community, especially those who have visited St Andrews want to help.”

• Member threatens to sue club over COVID closure

• Could this be the date UK courses re-open?

Ahead of another shift at the hospital, where Graham will be measured for his own permanent Personal Protective Equipment, he looks ahead to a time beyond Covid19 and a return to St Andrews.

“I’m grateful to have this opportunity at the hospital,” Graham says. “My contract is for three-months and I hope when we reach the end of it that things have maybe changed and there’s a sense of when and how I can get back to St Andrews.”

Any monies donated to the fund will be used to assist caddies who regularly work the fairways of the courses at St Andrews Links and who are in need or face financial hardship and who apply for assistance. At present donations totalling almost £45,000 have been recorded with the next fundraising target being £50,000.

For more information, click here.

Share this Article

share-logo
twitter-logo facebook-logo

Latest Videos See all videos right arrow

play button
6 ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR WINTER GOLF
golf coaching
play button
Introducing... the top 5 drivers of 2020!
Drivers
play button
REAL GAME CHANGERS – Titleist TSi metalwoods review
Titleist
play button
Is this a cheaper and better ball??? – Vice Golf balls review
Vice
See all videos right arrow

Golf News

Gleneagles to host 2022 Senior Open
Masters schedule released with one key feature AXED
Ocean Tee making sustainable waves on European Tour
Scots club safeguards future with world-class short game facility
NEW! THE BUNKERED GOLF PODCAST

Other Top Stories

Tiger Woods: Inside his $41million Florida mansion
The very best pubs in St Andrews
The Scottish Golf Course Emoji Quiz!
24 lies every bad golfer tells
Doug Sanders: The extraordinary life of golf's original playboy

Quick Fault 'n' Fixes See all videos right arrow

play button
How to hit a fade
Watch
play button
How to get your takeaway on plane
Watch
play button
Swing through the ball to hit a fade
Callaway
play button
Stop hooking the ball with a weaker grip
Watch
See all videos right arrow