Ireland's influence at the 2021 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits will be pretty evident through Team Europe captain Padraig Harrington, vice-captain Graeme McDowell and players Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy - but when it comes to caddying, there'll be some split loyalties.
There will be three Irishmen on the bags in Wisconsin, while Harrington’s caddy Ronan Flood has also travelled over as Team Europe attempt to defend their title on opposition soil. It’s a wonder then that the tournament isn’t being played on the 'Irish’ course at the Sheboygan venue.
Here we look at the three Irish caddies and their journey to this stage.
Harry Diamond (caddy of Rory McIlroy)
After a bumpy start, Harry Diamond has become the familiar face we see alongside Rory McIlroy as the former world number one paces up the fairway towards the hole.
Eyebrows were raised when McIlroy placed Diamond, who would be best man at the player’s wedding to Erica Stoll in 2018, on his bag four years ago.
McIlroy had just broken up his long-term partnership with the highly respected - and highly experienced - JP Fitzgerald and when Diamond stepped in most assumed it would be a short-term appointment until he found a ready replacement.
Four years on, Diamond is preparing for his second Ryder Cup having been at Albatros Course of Le Golf National in 2018 as Europe triumphed on French soil.
Their on-course connection wasn’t completely out of the blue. Back in 2005 at Carton House, Diamond was on caddy duty for a youthful McIlroy who had turned 16 just two weeks earlier. A second-round 81 ensured that they wouldn’t be around for the weekend.
Perhaps Diamond’s acceptance amongst fans came in May this year as he made a telling contribution as McIlroy claimed his first title in two years at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Two shots clear going down the last hole, McIlroy went way to the left and looked in serious bother with the threat of water making the situation even more perilous. McIlroy looked determined to play, but Diamond talked him into taking a penalty drop and the trophy was won by a shot.
"Harry was awesome out there, especially that decision on the last," McIlroy said afterwards. In a moment, Diamond deflated a lot of the scepticism.
Brian ‘Bo’ Martin (caddy of Shane Lowry)
One of the greatest Irish sporting moments in recent years was seeing Shane Lowry walk down the 18th at Royal Portrush in 2019 on his way to the Open title. The man he embraced as he approached the green, Brian ‘Bo’ Martin, was named HSBC Caddy of the Year off the back of that major win as Lowry took the course apart on the back nine of his third round.
As he stepped up to the tee box of the 72nd hole, Lowry looked to the skies and was strongly exhaling. Nerves were getting the better of him, but a few reassuring pats to the chest from ‘Bo’ brought back the smile.
The Offaly man has spoken about how much of a calming influence Martin has been on him, and those skills will be required again when Lowry steps up to hit his first-ever Ryder Cup shot in the coming days.
‘Bo’ is a scratch golfer out of Ardglass Golf Club in Down and has caddied for Gary Murphy, Peter Lawrie, Alex Levy and Lucas Bjerregaard previously, winning three European Tour events with those players.
He came onto Lowry’s radar in 2018 when he replaced Dermot Byrne, with Lowry’s brother Alan stepping in during the transition.
They were soon on the winning trail as Lowry claimed the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in January 2019 and then would come that famous few days in Portrush six months later.
Once that Claret Jug was raised, it seemed certain that Lowry would be set to seal his Ryder Cup dream, and ‘Bo’ would be along for the ride.
Ricky Elliott (caddy of Brooks Koepka)
Ricky Elliott grew up in Portrush, 60 miles away from Diamond and another 30 miles or so further away from Martin, but he’ll be in direct competition with his northern comrades over the coming days.
He represented Ireland in the 1990 European Youth Championships and is a good friend of fellow Portrush man McDowell, but his job here will be to help Koepka try and win as many points as possible for the home side.
After caddying for Ben Curtis and Matt Fitzpatrick, who is part of the European team this week, Elliott linked up with Koepka in 2013 and they haven’t looked back since.
McDowell played a big part in that hook-up as he recommended Elliott to Koepka’s swing coach Claude Harmon ahead of the PGA Championship at Oak Hill eight years ago. Jason Dufner took the honours but Koepka had made the cut and despite a difficult final round 77, he asked Elliott to stick around.
The player was on the Challenge Tour for that event but soon progressed to the European Tour and the PGA Tour. Major titles - four of them - would follow and Elliott would be on the bag for all of them.
His Ryder Cup record alongside Elliott is in the black as he is 4-3-1 after the 2016 event in Hazeltine and 2018’s version in Paris.
Koepka has garnered the majority of the press in the build-up to the event as topics such as his well-documented feud with Bryson DeChambeau and the belief that he maybe doesn’t want to be involved have taken centre stage.
American captain Steve Stricker has said that he has no concerns about the player, and Elliott will be looking forward to getting him away from the media scrum and onto the course to try and add more winning points to his tally.
Road to redemption
While the Irish fraternity will be strong at Whistling Straits, there is no doubting that the caddy most in the spotlight will be Eric Larson, who will be working with Harris English.
When his dreams of becoming a professional golfer faded, Larson turned to caddying and was working with Mark Calcavecchia when he was jailed for 13 years, fined $25,000 and had to serve five years of probation after being convicted of drug dealing.
Larson would end up serving 10 years in prison and struck up a friendship with fellow inmate Jordan Belfort, more commonly known as ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’
He worked hard in prison, earning a college degree in business, and now will be helping Ryder Cup rookie English navigate the course at Whistling Straits. Larson can call on previous experience though having caddied for Anthony Kim in 2008 and Jeff Overton at the 2010 event.
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