here’s the bare ass in Gleneagles, the stolen buggy in Oakland Hills and Darren Clarke’s cold shoulder for 24 hours.
The stories flow quickly from the mouth of Billy Foster, Matt Fitzpatrick’s caddy, and European Ryder Cup folklore could hardly have benefited from a more colorful character.
We talk a lot about the atmosphere that reigns in the European team’s locker room during the Ryder Cups. Foster will be the most experienced leader this weekend having made his debut as a bagman for Gordon Brand Jr in 1987 and missing just two Ryder Cups since.
He was absent in 1995 after an argument with Seve Ballesteros while the Miracle of Medina played with him on his couch after suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury. He caddyed 15 times, another time as an assistant to Thomas Bjorn and Lee Westwood.
At 58, he knows his opportunities in this event continue to diminish and he doesn’t know if it will be his last – he doesn’t hope so – but he is certain of one thing.
“I’ve done some stupid things over the years and I won’t behave well this time,” he says. Standard sport.
Not that Captain Luke Donald should be overly concerned. Although Foster has been guilty of some bad behavior, he lives and breathes the Ryder Cup to the extent that he twice slammed his player into the skipper during the event when he felt they weren’t playing well enough .
He says he will do the same in the unlikely event that world number 8 Fitzpatrick’s match starts to unravel in Rome.
He advised Ian Woosnam to drop Clarke – he was his caddy at the time – at the K Club in 2006 after he played poorly. Woosie duly obliged and somehow the story got back to the Northern Irishman.
“I told him it was the best thing for the team and that if he had to fire me, he would fire me,” he recalls. “He didn’t speak to me for 24 hours. It was the worst 24 hours of my caddying career. I thought I was gone.
“The other time I did it was at Hazeltine (in 2016). I was caddying for Westy (Lee Westwood) and he was really struggling. I go to Thomas Bjorn (the vice-captain) and have him dropped off for the afternoon. I’ve never talked about it before. I’m not sure Westy will thank me for reading this but, ultimately, I would do it again for the team.
It was the K Club with Clarke, despite the earlier coldness, which undoubtedly remains the highlight after he won the singles cup just weeks after the death of his wife Heather.
It was this moment that will forever remain the highlight of Foster’s career, eclipsing even his first major victory as Fitzpatrick’s fundraiser for his US Open victory.
As for the lows, there were two, with Brand Jr missing a putt at the last at the Belfry, resulting in a draw, and being forced to watch the drama at Medinah from afar.
In total, he says there are four or five ups and downs in every edition of the cut he’s experienced, and there’s no shortage of funny moments, either.
“I remember pinching Bjorn’s golf cart at Oakland Hill and it was like Lewis Hamilton or something, it was twice as fast as everyone else’s,” he says. “I jumped on it standing up with my bag on my shoulder.
“It was like a scene from Benny Hill with six guys chasing me. As I put my foot on the gas, the momentum of the buggy threw me and I did a triple summer flip across the fairway. The buggy continued to drive without a driver at 24 km/h through the crowd.
“I’m on my knees thinking I’m going to kill people or at least harm them, but it was like the sea parted in Galilee. Darren Clarke was screaming and yelling, “You fucking idiot,” while Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood laughed and cried.
“Then there was the team photo at Gleneagles, I went up the hill, pulled my pants down and showed my bum, so there was this nice background of my bare bum hanging out !”
On the more serious side of this week’s event, he rates Europe’s chances highly thanks to a surge of rookies like Ludvig Aberg but also the return to form of some big hitters in what is a new European roster look.
Foster believes that LIV outcasts Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter should have been involved, given their experience and expertise, but, at the same time, he understands the exclusion.
Win, lose or draw, he’ll end the final day the same way, packing his bags immediately afterward and heading straight to the team bus the morning after the after-party.
“I don’t think I’ll ever go to bed, I just don’t want to miss a second of such an event,” he adds. “I don’t think I’ve missed many over the years.”