By Andrew Both
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Illinois (Reuters) – Tom Watson has provided valuable assistance to Ryu So-yeon in the South Korean’s rise to the women’s world number one ranking, although he is not the eight-times major winner.
Watson is Ryu’s Australian caddie, and his name is no coincidence. His father, a huge fan of the Tom Watson, named his son after the American great.
It has been more of a curse than a blessing for the caddie, who once embraced the name, even using ‘eightmajors’ in his email address, but is now sick of being asked about it.
“Watson won his second British Open in ‘77, beating (Jack) Nicklaus in that famous ‘Duel in the Sun’ and I was born about eight months later and it went from there,” Watson, 39, told Reuters at the Women’s PGA Championship.
Watson flirted with a professional career before becoming a full-time caddie, and hooked up with Ryu in 2012.
“Definitely didn’t help me when I was playing,” he said of his name. “I found it a struggle. I just got sick of it, the pressure of it, especially when I was playing a couple of pro tournaments.
“It was tough. Now it is what it is. People ask me about it all the time, especially over here (in the United States).”
Ryu said she did a double-take when she was first introduced to the man who now works for her.
“First time I met my caddie Tommy I was like ‘Tom Watson, really, the Tom Watson’, but now I’m so used to it,” she told Reuters.
Ryu, 27, said she was 13 or 14 when she first learned about the great Tom Watson.
“I knew (all about) the Tom Watson since I started to play golf. He was (a) superstar,” the South Korean said.
Ryu added that caddie Watson had helped her greatly both on the course, and also in learning English. She has even picked up some salty language in her second tongue.
“I’m surrounded by Australians so I’ve learned a lot of swear words but at the same time I’ve learned a lot of good English as well,” said a smiling Ryu. “I think Australia is one of the warmest-hearted countries in the world.”
Caddie Watson acknowledged that Ryu is now proficient in the Australian vernacular.
“Her English is nine out of 10 now,” he said. “She’s dropping (swear word) bombs everywhere.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both; editing by Ken Ferris)