Above: Marianne Skarpnord of Norway and fiancé Richard Green
The women golfers have been relishing their chance to tee up as Olympic athletes and, unlike in most other sports, they have the unbelievable opportunity to share their unique experience on the field of competition with those closest to them in this Olympic golf week.
More than a third of the 60 competitors in the women’s Olympic golf event has brought a relative or significant other to the Reserva de Marapendi golf course to act as their caddie.
Of those 21 players, there are five parents, five siblings, five husbands and six boyfriends or fiancés carrying the bag for their loved one and building memories that they will share for a lifetime.
While Canadian Brooke Henderson and Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum have their regular full time caddie, sister Brittany and brother Pornpong, at their sides for the competition, the sibling teams also include the identical Maguire twins from Ireland, who are both talented amateurs in their own right. Lisa is caddying for sister Leona, who said: “It’s special to have her with me this week, because with it being so far away from home, it’s nice she gets to be a part of it. We get along pretty well and she’s a good caddie.”
Italian Giulia Molinari selected her younger sister Sofia, who also played college golf, to join her in Rio and she commented: “It was such a once‑in‑a‑lifetime opportunity that I would love to share it with my sister. So we can remember it like something that we did together forever.”
Spain’s Carlota Ciganda asked her brother, Iñigo, to caddie, because: “He just loves sport and I wanted to live this unbelievable experience with him. He knows every athlete, everything.”
Only Paraguayan star Julieta Granada has her mother, Rosa, on her bag, but there are four fathers assuming the role with Aditi Ashok of India joined by her father, Ashok Gudlamani, Malaysian Michelle Koh and her father, Hock Huat, Lexi Thompson and her father Scott, from the United States and Swiss amateur Albane Valenzuela joined by her dad Alberto.
Ladies European Tour rookie professional Ashok commented: “He’s been caddying for me since a young age. So to have him here with me at the Olympics is obviously going to be a great experience for him, too. Also, having him on my bag will help me a lot this week.”
Of the husbands on the bag, for Team GB, Graeme Matthew has been a regular presence on wife Catriona’s bag, as has Fred Bonnargent, husband of Frenchwoman Karine Icher and Mika Wikstrom, husband of Finland’s Ursula.
Tim Vickers has caddied for wife Azahara Muñoz of Spain several times, but this week marks a first for Jacob Lovelady, who will caddie for his Brazilian wife Victoria. She said: “It’s so special. I’m very happy that he’s able to be part of this experience with me. He’s also able to stay at the village, so being a caddie is like the full experience for him, as well. You know, it’s something that we’ve been looking forward for the past six years, and now we can celebrate it together, live it together, and he’s been such an amazing support all these years, so I’m very happy that he’s right by my side.”
South Africans Ashleigh Simon and David Buhai (above), who are due to marry in December, are also working as partners on the course this week and Simon added: “We’ve experienced so many things together; being able to see the world, and this is just really unbelievable. I didn’t think we ever thought this would happen, because golf was never in the Olympics. It’s just kind of a cherry on the top to a fantastic year so far.”
There is an interesting twist for Norwegian Marianne Skarpnord, as she has her Australian fiancé, European Tour professional Richard Green, acting as her caddie for the week – a relationship Skarpnord described as a ‘perfect match’.
“The last probably three to four years, he’s caddied maybe between three and five times a year. It’s been pretty good. It’s been a couple of incidents on the course, but the last couple years, he’s been all right!” she said.
Other regular caddie boyfriends include Daniel Taylor for Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg and Nicki Hansen for Denmark’s Nanna Koerstz Madsen, while Belgium’s Chloé Leurquin and Finland’s Noora Tamminen have decided to bring their boyfriends Sebastien Wulf and Roope Komulainen (below) respectively especially for this Olympic golf week.