He has put his foot in his mouth during his controversial interview given to CBS’s David Feherty after his new charge Adam Scott lifted the 2011 World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational and for being the man who was dumped by former world number one Tiger Woods, but there is much more to learn about caddy Steve Williams.
The abrasive New Zealander began his career at the tender age of six, caddying at his home club near Wellington. A keen golfer during his formative years, Williams was a two-handicap golfer by the time he was 13, splitting his time between playing and caddying, though it was at this time the New Zealander revealed that he found caddying more enjoyable than playing.
His big break came in 1976, when as a 13 year old, his father arranged for him to caddy for Australian golfing legend Peter Thomson at the New Zealand Open. The seasoned golfer found himself impressed by the 13-year-old’s professionalism and knowledge and he became Thomson’s regular caddy when the golfer visited New Zealand. During his holidays from school, Williams also travelled to Australia to gain further experience caddying in tournaments there.
Gaining a reputation as a fine caddy, Williams took a major gamble in 1979 when before he turned 16, he travelled to Europe in an attempt to gain a job on the bag for Greg Norman. For the next ten years, a number of Australian professionals employed his services, notably Ian Baker-Finch and Greg Norman. Williams finally became Norman’s full time caddy in 1988, but a year later, the Great White Shark fired him, although Norman later admitted that he felt this was a mistake.
Ray Floyd the American golfer quickly hired Williams who caddied for the veteran until 1999 when Butch Harmon, coach of Tiger Woods at the time, approached the New Zealander to take over the bag for his protégé. After a brief interview in Florida, Woods hired Williams on the spot and the pair would share some of golf’s greatest moments in the next 12 years before their acrimonious split a few weeks ago.
Although he is known for his brash nature at times (including throwing a $7,000 camera of a spectator into a pond after the spectator had made a cardinal sin by taking a photograph while Woods was making his backswing) there is a side of Williams that few people get to see.
There have been the occasional comic moments in his career, namely when Williams stumbled on a rock while cleaning Wood’s 9-iron during the 2006 Ryder Cup at the 7th hole, and dropped it into the lake. It was only recovered after a diver swum down to retrieve the club and hand it back to Woods at the 15th.
In 2001, Williams started a charitable foundation in New Zealand to help golfers from that part of the world improve and realise their dreams and his services to the cause has seen him awarded the prestigious New Zealand Order of Merit in 2007. In addition, he donated NZ$1 million to a cancer ward at Starship Children’s Health, one of the first purpose-built children’s hospitals in Auckland New Zealand, in 2008.
It is also not widely known that Williams is a champion Speedway Racer in his spare time away from the course; winning the New Zealand national Super Saloon car championship in 2005/06 as well as the Saloon car title in 2009/10. The sport is immensely popular in New Zealand and Williams has gained extra fame in his homeland through his exploits as a winner on the track.
Indeed, winning seems to be the trait which best sums up Williams, his success with both Norman and Woods has led him to being recognised as one of the best caddies in the game. Now he has repeated that success with another Australian star in Adam Scott. He’ll always be outspoken, unafraid to speak his mind and willing to air his views and while some may view that as a negative, it is a character trait which those who have worked with Williams, have come to recognise equally as being a real positive.
Who is Steve Williams caddying for now? His new employer, Adam Scott, has already had a ‘quiet chat’ with Williams over his interview following Scott’s magnificent victory in the Bridgestone Invitational, but the Aussie golfer will know that having Williams on the bag, makes him a formidable opponent on the golf course.
To his credit, Williams has also apologised for his heat of the moment outburst.
All of which provides an intriguing back-story to see how the duo perform against Tiger Woods and co at the forthcoming USPGA Championship.
Only, don’t expect Steve Williams to be quite so quick to speak to reporters after the event this time around.
Images by Adam Scott by Alexander Bespoldenov