From AIB to PGA

Irish caddie Ronan Flood speaks to Kevin Beirne about his illustrious career alongside the most successful golfer this country has ever produced

To casual golf fans, the name Ronan Flood means very little, yet he has won back-to-back British Opens in 2007 and 2008. A victory in the 2008 US PGA Open brings his career total to three majors and two Ryder Cups and still the man remains almost anonymous amongst fans of the sport. The way in which golfing enthusiasts probably know him best is as ‘Padraig Harrington’s caddie’.

A UCD graduate, Flood has been Harrington’s caddie since he left his job in AIB in 2004. The two had known each other since childhood and are now brothers-in-law, yet it still seems like a career that Flood stumbled upon by accident. “At the time, he asked me if I would do a few weeks for him,” he recalls, “because he was changing caddie and he didn’t want to approach someone on tour and take their caddie mid-season”.

He accepted the offer and took a career break from AIB to spend, at most, six months caddying for Harrington until a replacement was found. However, by the end of the season, both were happy with the situation and Flood agreed to continue on a permanent basis.

With over six years experience, Flood has been a part of some great victories. “To do two majors back to back was unbelievable. The first [Open] was probably the most exciting and enjoyable, because it was the first one and the way it looked like he had thrown it away.”

Despite the immense pressure on the player during the closing periods of such tournaments, Flood can’t allow himself to feel it. His job is to do the exact opposite. “Generally we just talk about everything and anything, bar golf, between shots.”

At the beginning of October, Harrington and Flood travelled to Wales for their third Ryder Cup. “The Ryder Cup is something totally different and special to anything else,” Flood says of the unique format of the tournament – a format which makes it unusual and challenging for a caddie, as many games are played with a golfing partner: “We played three matches in a pair so you’re talking to someone else about slopes and putts.”

Although his career consists of constant travel between exotic locations, Flood says that he rarely gets to see more than the airport, hotel and golf course. Despite the next three stops on the agenda being Shanghai, Singapore and Dubai, he feels that “it sounds a lot more glamorous than it is”. However, he does appreciate how lucky he is, admitting: “It’s hard to beat being out in sunshine, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, travelling all over the world.”

Most recently, the pair visited Malaysia, which saw them win the Iskandar Johor Open – Harrington’s first victory in a ranking tournament since the US PGA Open of 2008.

Despite waiting over two years to win the first major, neither Harrington nor Flood ever felt like there was a problem that needed addressing. “It’s more people on the outside looking in talking about the monkey off the back,” he says. “Winning is funny, because you can play well one week and not win, and then other weeks you can play badly and win.”

Hopefully, from an Irish supporter’s perspective, the two can build on this success and acquire more championships in the future. In this current economic environment, the caddie seems to have found himself in a highly enviable position, compared to his former AIB career. With Harrington finding his form and a baby due in December, it is bound to be a busy 2011 for Ronan Flood.