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UBS Hong Kong Open 2016

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‘I’m still in shock’ – tributes paid at Hong Kong Open after death of two caddies in past week

Carlos Pigem hopes to win tournament for late friend Pedro Ramseyer as players and caddies wear black ribbons following twin tragedies

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 December, 2016, 4:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 December, 2016, 10:30pm

Caddies are the unsung heroes of the golf world, lumping bags the approximate shape and weight of a baby hippo around for miles and taking the blame for every bad shot, in exchange for a modest tithe of their boss’s winnings.

That’s if you’re lucky enough to have a player who actually makes cuts consistently. If your man – or woman – is struggling it can be a long, penniless trudge. Little wonder the community is tight-knit.

They were united in grief at the Hong Kong Open after not one but two of their number died on separate golf courses this week.

First Pedro Ramseyer, a former bag-carrier for the legendary Seve Ballesteros who started caddying at 16, died on the eve of the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa last Friday, aged 60.

And on Wednesday Max Zechmann, a 55-year-old father of three, collapsed with a heart problem on the fairway during the Dubai Ladies Masters and died in hospital.

Players and caddies wore black ribbons at the Hong Kong Open in tribute.

Ramseyer was on the bag of Spain’s Carlos Pigem in South Africa. This week at Fanling, local pro Fred Morales, who teaches at Whitehead Club in Ma On Shan, is filling in.

“I was in shock last week and maybe now I’m even more in shock, I still don’t believe it,” said Pigem, who shot a two-under 68.

“My caddie was perfect on Wednesday and his wife told him some very good news and he was very happy.

“Then he didn’t arrive for the first round. I was very worried but thought maybe he just wasn’t feeling that great, then when I finished my round the tournament director came and told me ‘Your caddie’s dead’.

“That night I was crying, his wife called me crying, I couldn’t sleep all night. I still don’t know how I played well last week.

“His wife has cancer and she phoned to tell him she had an operation and doesn’t need chemo so it was really good news. That night Pedro died. It’s so sad.”

Some have wondered if the tours could do more for caddies, perhaps provide regular health checks, but Pigem said: “When you have a heart attack it’s tough to do anything … I don’t know what else you can do, it could happen to a player, too.

“I try to forget about it on the course but you always think about it. Last week I played pretty good and it was for him. I hope this week can be even better and I can win it for him.”

Paul Peterson, one of the journeymen whose caddies might struggle ever to buy a yacht, won his first tournament this year at the Czech Masters and was off to an impressive start at Fanling with a four-under 66.

“I didn’t know [Zechmann] but it’s just I think it’s kind of a travelling family out here,” said the 28-year-old American.

“We’re all trying to do our best and it’s sad to see someone who has worked hard for players out here pass away, and the fact that we’ve had two in two weeks isn’t great with Pedro down in Africa,” he added.

“It’s sad for the caddies and the friendships that they have created; to have two guys go in two weeks is really sad.”