Colin Byrne, a professional caddy on the European Tour, gives advice to those golfers who have entered the 3 Irish Open Pro AM competition in their local club. Colin was previously a caddy for Retief Goosen. The 3 Irish Open Pro AM takes place in the Co Louth links course of Baltray and Irish golfers have a chance to play with all the competitors of the 3 Irish Open by contacting their local club secretary.

There are very few sports where you as an amateur can gauge yourself directly against the best. We can all watch soccer and marvel at the high speed skills of the world’s best, we could never pit ourselves against these players for real. Same with a tennis player, racing car driver or whatever sport you marvel at the skill of the true exponents is. Golf is an exception in this regard.

On a weekly basis throughout the hectic calendars of world golf there is an opportunity for amateurs of all shapes and talent to play with the worlds best golfers the day before their tournament for real begins. A bizarre phenomenon which would never apply at the top of any other sport, but such is the culture in professional golf.

Okay so maybe I have over-simplified the opportunity to play with the stars in a real situation but with this year’s 3 Irish Open in Baltray, Co. Louth, there is a realistic chance for Golf fanatics to play in the Wednesday pro-am through your local club qualifying competitions. Competitions are being run throughout the 392 clubs across the county until the end of the month.

Knowing professional golfers as I do and having witnessed the bum twitching experience us amateurs feel if a passing stray dog stops to look at you as you make a pass at the ball on an isolated golf course, the thought of presenting your idiosyncratic swing on display to the world’s finest golfers and their baying fans beyond the ropes is one that fills most with fear and the creativity to make up endless mental excuses as to why you couldn’t do it.

From a spectators perspective the Wednesday pro-am can be a hair raising spectacle and I have often thought that the best head gear for the day is a hard hat and not the customary golf course baseball cap. The roping system at a professional event is set up with the pin point accuracy of a professional in mind. The mis-directed tee shot of an 18 handicapper from say, Waterford, with limited talent, trembling knees facing a strong south-easterly wind on the exposed Baltray links does not bode well for the expectant gallery peeking over the fairway ropes in anticipation of a glimpse of John Daly. They might get more than they bargained for.

In fact as a caddie you are in peril of getting hit unless you exercise extreme caution. Those of us who loop for good golfers every day become complacent about where we stand in relation to where our golfers are hitting their ball. The rules change on a Wednesday. Most of us bagmen and many of our employers have been hit at some stage of our careers, whether by bad luck or carelessness.

My own experience of pro-am terrorism dates back to the Tour Championships in Altanta five years ago when my boss Retief Goosen was in his prime and the amateurs who played with him were not pulled from a hat, they were the sponsors favourites.

As the round progressed gradually myself and Retief edged perilously further down the fairway in front of our amateur partners. Suddenly I found myself with the 20 kilo bag on my back looking at this little white missile honing in on me a high speed and the screech of one of our amateurs as I desperately tried to jump out of the way of the ball. After a loud crack from my ankle than reminded me of the sound from my youth near the cricket ground of leather on willow. By the time I got to the green my ankle had swollen to the size of a cricket ball.

The offending golfer was both embarrassed and extremely apologetic. By the time we got to the tenth hole which ran adjacent to a road a garbage truck was easing its way towards the tee and its driver had his arm draped out the window as the day way beginning to warm. At about 150 yards from the tee our errant amateur hit his tee shot and immediately shouted fore. The driver was obviously not a golfer. Our man had managed to hit the driver on his cooling arm draped nochalantly out the open window.

The 3 Irish Open Wednesday pro-am is supposed to be an enjoyable day out for the participating amateurs even if it is a necessary evil to those professionals who are obliged to play in the event. It is the price of success where the pros are chosen from last years order of merit.

Unfortunately for many of the amateurs the day fills them with fear. I have seen the terror in many of our partners eyes over the years as they twitch with anticipation on the first tee before their name is called. In Sweden many years ago when golf was in its embryonic stages one of our players managed to hit himself on the foot as he nervously contorted his body in a desperate effort to get the weapon in his hands to make contact with the golf ball. It was hard not to laugh as he leapt around the tee clutching his left foot in agony after the misdirected blow.

If you are lucky enough to be invited or good enough to qualify to play in the 3 Irish Open pro-am in Baltray, County Louth, next month then you are in for a treat. Most pros and their caddies despite being obliged to play will make every effort to make your day both enjoyable and memorable. Remember people are not there to see you play, so try not to be self conscious and look outwardly, most will not notice your personalised swing.

The 3 Irish Open pro-am is a rare opportunity to get the unique hands on experience of golfing with the best and a reminder of just how good you have to be as a golfer to consider attempting to make a living out of the game the best make look so easy.

For further information on the 3 Irish Open please visit 3irishopen.ie. To book tickets, please visit www.europeantourtickets.com or call the following number: +353 (0) 1-890-252-698 (Freephone in the Republic of Ireland).