Lee Westwood’s remarkable return to the winner’s circle had an added talking with his partner Helen Storey playing her part in his victory, writes WADE PRETORIUS at Gary Player Country Club.
Throughout the week at Sun City and then even more so on the weekend as the Englishman climbed the leaderboard the question was asked: ‘Who’s that on Lee’s bag?’.
The story of Story assuming caddie duties is unpleasant with long-standing bagman, Billy Foster, leaving Abu Dhabi in 2017 to attend to a family bereavement.
Storey stepped in and a top 10 followed. For the seasoned campaigner, the change was bound to be refreshing. And as form returned, the pair lost in a playoff in Denmark, the combination made more sense.
Now, they have their first win.
‘Absolutely amazing,’ an ecstatic Storey told Compleat Golfer.
‘Lee’s had a few close ones recently –a second and a fifth – and I’m so proud of him and how he’s continued to play so well. We finished top ten in Abu Dhabi first time around but to get this win, it’s just something else. So incredibly special.’
‘We stood in the tunnel when he was going to pick up the trophy and I was like “Oh my … he’s done it!” and the tears started to flow. I wasn’t going to hold them back.’
Fortunately for Storey, who carries the tour bag and not a lighter stand version, her ‘day job’ comes in handy with her work as a physical trainer in a Newcastle gym setting her up for the long walk around the world’s best courses.
Her fitness was certainly tested in South Africa as the harsh sun beat down on the golf course throughout the week.
‘It was hard work, yeah. I was plodding along the par 5s and thinking “Crikey this is a long course” but watching him play really well was lovely. The bag is always lighter after a birdie that’s for sure.’
The theme of an English winner in SA with their partner on the bag in SA is now certainly developing into something more serious.
Will more English players be asking their better halves to take up bag duties with the evidence of success starting to pile up?
‘A few might and certainly there are some that won’t,’ she said with a laugh.
‘It just works for us. It really does. We don’t really talk too much about golf actually. It’s more a case of keeping up and staying out of the way; that’s the difficult part (laughs).’
‘I was looking on 16 and I thought it was looking quite nice. But I didn’t want to get excited or get him excited. It was all about sticking to the process and you know, going through the routine.
‘I only relaxed on the last green. I’ll admit then that I thought he’s done it.’
Westwood now has a conundrum to deal with – does he go back to his employed caddie or stick with the winning formula? And what then is made of the winner’s cheque?
‘It’s been brilliant. She’s caddied twice for me this year and we lost in a playoff in Denmark and we’ve won here. Have to have a bit of a rethink, not least about who caddies for me, but our percentages,’ the three-time NGC winner said.
Storey laughed off the writer’s suggestions that she will take 100% of the nearly R18-million cheque her partner earned this week.
Maybe 10% and a permanent job will do?