If there was no Billy, it had to be invented! Matthew Fitzpatrick wasn’t the only one who thought so after winning the US Open. Fitzpatrick waited eight years for his first major since turning professional. For Billy Foster, it took 40 jobs as captain after Gordon Brand Jr., Thomas Bjorn, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke and the great Sif Ballesteros, before “winning” the major.
The endless messages of joy to Billy from all over the world are evidence of the relationship with previous players and those who developed a growing affection for the popular pack. At the age of 16, he worked for his father as an apprentice carpenter.
He was paid 20 pounds for 5 days of work and was laid off three times a week. He then starred in the cans at his local club, Bingley St Ives, in 1981, Lawrence Batley International. which others followed in England. Two years later, a friend suggested that he go to Spain for six weeks.
“We can make cans at the Spanish Open and then move on to the Portuguese Open and the Sanyo Open.” It seems like a good idea. “I left with 50 pounds and a bottle of brown sauce in my pocket,” Foster adds.
This was the plan. But when I arrived in Spain, Hugh Baiuchi made an important proposal to me. He asked me if I wanted to carry his cans full time. It was 1983. “I had intended to do this for two years, learn more about the game, so that I could play a little better, and travel around Europe.”
“There wasn’t much money. I couldn’t afford to go anywhere. I mostly slept on buses and trains at night.” One night I slept in a forest. In the middle of a highway in France, I was commuting long distances. In general, it was a difficult existence.
There were no cell phones, laptops, or credit cards. The camaraderie was the impetus to move forward. Play golf and with the best players. I learned a lot about the game, even if I wasn’t making money. There were no yardage books or practice balls.
And no food for cans. Like everyone else, I had to stand at the back of the driving range and catch the balls your player threw at you. It was dangerous. But I wouldn’t change any of that. It was very educational. It wouldn’t hurt some young people to go through something like this.
I’d like to see some without the yardage book for a week. And without free food. Then a short story about the beginnings of the collaboration with Seve (Severiano Ballesteros) I had worked with Gordon Brand Jnr, but was offered a job as a professional assistant at Ilkley.
I’ve been on the tour for eight years, so maybe it’s time to take advantage of what I’ve learned and improve my game. I wasn’t bad at the time. I accepted the job but before I started Seve asked me to carry a briefcase for him. Imagine the idol you grew up with asking you to work with him.
I couldn’t believe it when he asked me. He told me I was too young to be a pram anymore and that he was looking for a new one. I leave. Then I discarded that in the next 16 holes. But that night, I came home and thought, “Damn stupid.”
So, the next day, I followed him all over Hole 1 and when he came out of the green I gave him a piece of paper with my name and address. “If you don’t want me to end my can making career, you know where to find me.”
Two weeks later a letter came to my house. I still have it, framed on my office wall. It started with a bit of a fuss. He liked the stand of the can etc. Then he immediately dictated the rules: “These are my terms.
You never have to talk to the press. You should know that the player is always right, there is no need to argue. You have to take care of measuring the field.” It was a revolution. He was very demanding. But I had five wonderful years with him and learned a lot.
Everyone is talking about that shot at Kranz 18 in Switzerland. But every week I saw three or four shots where my jaw fell. Today’s players won’t even be able to imagine those shots. This was the difference. And he did that every week.