Belfast Telegraph

Portrush caddy cannot wait for big tee-off... but he's carrying the battle to Europe for Americans

By Ann W Schmidt

Like any aspiring golfer, Ricky Elliott always dreamed of being part of the Ryder Cup.

And that ambition will be realised this weekend as Europe go for four-in-a-row against the Americans. Except he won't be on the European side - the Portrush man will be working for Team USA.

Ricky is a caddy for American golfer Brooks Koepka.

It will be the first time in at least two decades that a European has caddied for the opposition at the prestigious competition.

Adding to the irony is the fact that Portrush is also the home of Team Europe captain Darren Clarke.

Ricky has caddied for Koepka for the past three years, so to continue with him for the Ryder Cup was a no-brainer - even if it means helping out the old enemy.

"I'll be getting plenty of good needle, but it's all good fun," he said. Ricky stays with the other European caddies when they're on tour, but he's certain about his loyalties.

"When it comes down to the matches, might they be a little wary in the team meeting? You just don't know. But it's all about getting the cup back to this side of the pond," he said.

"And I'm working for the American team."

Koepka started his career on the European Tour and received an exemption to the 2013 PGA Championship. His regular caddy had visa problems so Ricky, who was between caddy jobs, stepped in.

"First time I ever met him was on the range at one of the tournaments," he added.

"He's striking these shots and I'm like 'happy days'. I was still in Europe, but you know what it's like when you see a good player.

"He made the cut that week, played with Tiger (Woods) on Sunday and said to me in the locker room: 'Do you fancy doing a few in Europe'?"

Ricky has been working with Koepka since then. Koepka is world number 22 and this weekend is his first Ryder Cup.

The famous golf event tees off at Hazeltine National in Minnesota tomorrow. In the past, other European caddies have chosen to stay loyal to their continent instead of staying with their golfer.

Terry Holt, Dave Musgrove and Andy Sutton are all English caddies for American golfers who chose not to work during the Ryder Cup.

Holt, who worked for Paul Azinger in 1993, opted not to go with him to The Belfry.

Musgrove, who worked for Lee Janzen in 1997, was concerned about a conflict of interest so didn't go to Valderrama.

And Sutton, who worked for Ben Curtis, did not work for him at Valhalla in 2008.

In fact, it is believed that the last European caddy for an American golfer was England's Brian Bellenger for US golfer Bill Rogers at The Belfry in 1981, but there is no official record. The PGA of America only started keeping track of Ryder Cup caddies in 1995.

Ricky currently lives in Florida near his good friend and pro-golfer Graeme McDowell, also from Portrush.

Last year Ricky decided to become a US citizen.

"I had to say a sentence in English, then spell a word, and I just squeaked by that," he said.

"There was about 80 of us in the room and 2,000 people had come to watch.

"I was there on my own, sitting beside a wee Chinese man waving the flag. It was cool."

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