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Northern Ireland caddy Ricky is unsung hero of US Open champion Koepka

By Leona O'Neill

It takes skill, patience and experience to be a good caddy - and Northern Ireland man Ricky Elliott at the weekend proved he is the best in the business, guiding his player Brooks Koepka to US Open glory for the second year in a row.

Ricky (41), from Portrush, has been on the bag for Koepka for the last six years and Sunday's success at Shinnecock Hills is the American's second victory at a Major.

Ricky bagged £151,000 for his crucial role in the win.

Now based in Florida, he was a successful amateur player in his youth, winning the Ulster Boys' and Ulster Youths' Championships.

He still frequents the links at Royal Portrush Golf Club, where he played as a boy.

It is there that Ricky learned his trade, according to Royal Portrush head professional Gary McNeill.

"Ricky was a very good junior player," Gary said.

"He represented Royal Portrush on a variety of the teams in tournaments and competitions and he represented Ulster and Ireland as a boy.

"He has a good golfing pedigree and is a very personable, great guy.

"Through his position as an assistant professional out in the States, he then got the opportunity to caddy for some really good players, so that's how he ended up where he is.

"It's no surprise that he has ended up where he is. He works hard, is a very laid back kind of guy and makes friends easily. Brooks Koepka obviously trusts him and he trusts what Ricky will advise him out on the course.

"Players can develop a good bond with a caddy and they become firm friends as well having the professional relationship.

"I think the two of them are good friends.

"Ricky is a very experienced caddy. He has been out on the various tours now for the best part of 15 years.

"I think he would be very knowledgeable and knows his job inside out. Winning a Major for caddies is a tremendous achievement."

Gary said learning the ropes at Royal Portrush as a boy paved the way for Ricky's current success.

"Being a good player helps Ricky be a good caddy," he said.

"He has played at a high level and won championships.

"That experience helps, when you've been out there and you've closed down tournaments yourself.

"But also he would have learned a lot over the years working with a variety of different players and learnt the trade and how players like to prepare for tournaments.

"He would learn how to give advice and when not to.

"There's a certain relationship that gets built over a period of time.

"Sometimes players and caddies don't last long together, sometimes they do.

"Brooks is obviously very comfortable having Ricky with him there when he's playing, so that's a good thing."

Ricky still has strong links with home. His parents Pat and Martha live in Portrush and his brother Peter owns a golf shop in Coleraine.

Gary said that Ricky likes to hit the links at the Royal Portrush whenever he's home.

He is confident that knowing the lay of the land will give Ricky's player a distinct advantage when the Open comes to Portrush next July.

"He's a great guy and he is still a very good player," he said.

"He was back here a few weeks ago and was out on the links.

"Ricky just rolls up and goes out. He has a lot of friends who are members. He drops in and plays a few games and then heads off to whatever tournament his player is in.

"I think Ricky really developed his game at Royal Portrush and that obviously helped him to become the player that he was, and the player that he was then helped him to become the caddy that he is.

"Ahead of next year's Open Championship Brooks will make it his business to come to Royal Portrush to do his preparation, Gary added.

"When the Open comes here, with Portrush's Ricky on the bag, it will certainly make him a real contender for the championship.

"Ricky will be on home turf again, knowing the lay of the land, because he grew up on those links and he'll certainly have an advantage."

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