THE Solheim Cup is over for another two years, and while it was a great weekend for ladies golf with an exciting win for Team Europe, there was a Cork link with two of the team caddies coming from Douglas.
Roy Clarke and Simon Keelan are long-time tour caddies on the LPGA and LET tours. The pair played junior golf together on several Mahon and Douglas teams, and while they were back together in Gleneagles, they were on opposing sides.
Clarke was on the bag for US star Jessica Korda while Keelan was working with Europe’s Caroline Masson. Not only were the pair on opposing teams, in a strange coincidence their golfers faced up against each other in the opening foursomes on Friday, and again in the singles on Sunday.
They were both winners of sorts, Korda won the two head to head matches and Europe won the overall title, giving both Keelan and Clarke something from the showpiece event.
Keelan is back caddying after a spell working in the exclusive Hogs Head resort in Waterville, and the Douglas man was delighted that Masson was selected for the pinnacle team event in Ladies Golf.
“I’m not sure where to start, I came over with the team five weeks ago when the picks were announced and was instantly blown away with the whole setup.
“The hotel, the quality of the course and how it sets up so well for matchplay.
“It’s been 10 years since I’ve been in a team room or any kind, so it really brought home all the fantastic memories from junior golf growing up in Mahon GC and then Douglas GC” explained Keelan.
There were four Irish caddies looping for the event, Wexford’s Shane Codd was on the bag for Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Tralee’s Vern Tess was caddie captain for Team Europe.
“The four of us travel and room together every week, so for all four of us to be there experiencing a week like that was incredible.
“Win or lose it was going to be an amazing experience and a week I’ll never forget.
“The icing on the cake was to be paired against Jess Korda and Roy on Friday morning for the foursomes and then again for the Sunday Singles, you just couldn’t script it,” added Keelan.
The two Douglas lads had their families with them for the weekend and Keelan was able to appreciate how special the occasion was.
“Standing together on the 12th tee on Sunday while there was a delay, we had a good laugh with our players looking at our wives outside the ropes about what a unique situation it was for Roy and I, so cool to share a special moment like that together and one I’ll cherish for a long time.
“At that point, the three-peat was looking good for the US, but Anna, Bronte and Suzann had other plans. Let’s just say the party went on long into the night!”
Clarke too was blown away by the experience. An experienced caddy who has worked with several world-class players over the past decade, he was delighted to be in Gleneagles.
“For me this time it was a different but really enjoyable experience on the USA team,” said the LPGA tour veteran.
“Especially coming up against my two Groomsmen Simon and Shane in our first match. Captain Julie and assistant captains like Nancy Lopez, Pat Hurst and Stacy Lewis brought so much knowledge and leadership to the team room. The vibe all week was fun-filled and chilled.”
“The course was designed by Jack Nicklaus and was truly built for matchplay,” added Clarke.
“The back nine entailed testing par threes, a reachable par four, risk/reward par fives all with the wind playing a big part in club choice and trajectory.
“The first tee grandstand which gets bigger year on year created an unbelievable atmosphere right off the bat. The standard of golf is truly im pressive, hopefully, we’ll see one if not more young European golfers break into the LPGA and Solheim cup in the coming years. No reason not to.”
Both Clarke and Keelan are now back to regular tour duties, Clarke has a number of LPGA events while Keelan has teamed up with Seamus Power on the PGA Tour.