This was supposed to be a story of life as a golfer with an unsupportive partner.
Hamish Blake and Andy Lee, two university friends who enjoy each other’s company so much that they have worked together on radio and television as “Hamish & Andy” for the past 12 years, can survive overseas travel while confined to very small living quarters but did not share a love of golf.
A keen sportsman as a kid, Andy took up the game at a young age and now plays off a very respectable 11 handicap at Southern Golf Club in Melbourne. Hamish failed to recognise golf’s intrinsic value despite Andy’s repeated attempts to coax him into joining the group of golf buddies. That was, until recently.
We walked and chatted with the boys at the 2011 Australian Open pro-am , a laughter-infused conversation where Hamish repeatedly finished Andy’s sentences and we discovered that a shared love of golf could eventually bring to an end their incredibly successful radio partnership. On this occasion, Andy, a Golf Australia ambassador and regular pro-am participant, was wielding his custom-made Henry-Griffitts clubs while Hamish played the dutiful caddie, carefully measuring distances with a rangefinder and offering oversize tees on par 3s.
Their interactions were hilarious and seemingly made for TV, but there were no cameras anywhere to be seen. This was another case of two mates who have found themselves struck by good fortune, enjoying a glorious day in the sun and not for a moment taking any of it for granted.
“I’ve never found them difficult because there are no expectations,” Andy said of the nerves associated with a pro-am appearance. “That’s the funny thing, everyone says, ‘Oh, you must be nervous?’ No, not at all.”
Hamish: “We’re on the ‘Am’ side!”
Andy: “With a capital ‘AM’.
As Australian Golf Digest’s writer-at-large – and massive fan of these two boys’ work – I was ready to grill Hamish about all the times he had ridiculed Andy’s love of the links; refusing to stop at the home of golf, St Andrews, during their Great Britain “Caravan of Courage” tour and generally being an unsupportive partner of a golfer. But then something happened. After the obligatory wise-cracks about his dedication to the craft of caddying, Hamish revealed a piece of information that would change everything: He’s become a golfer.
“As you can see that’s now a redundant question because I’m here and I’m all about Ando,” Hamish said as we strolled down The Lakes’ third hole. “I’ve limbered him up… I came out last night and personally laid down in a straight line and rolled across every green so that I had it memorised in my body. My body knows these greens… I’m one with them.”
So, Hame, never even been tempted to give it a go?
“You know what? I’m in,” Hamish reveals. “Callaway were lovely enough to fit me out with a set of clubs and Andy and I actually spent a weekend in New Zealand playing Jack’s Point so the change has come through. I’ve been touched by the tee.
“I never took lessons but I took five lessons and now it’s a whole different sport! I may as well have been out there with a tennis racquet; in fact, I wish I was!
“When we got back from doing “Gap Year” in America we had a few weeks to breathe and I turned to Ando and said, ‘It’s time. It’s time that I join you on the podium.’ I’ve since sent off my measurements for a green jacket and I’m ready.”
Andy: “We’d all planned a golf trip away to New Zealand and obviously he wanted to come for the drinking aspect but realised that because it was called a “golf trip”
and not a “drink trip” – even though most golf trips are disguised as drink trips – he thought he’d better come and get a couple of lessons from the guys at Southern.
“We played Jack’s Point and then it snowed for the next three days – this is in November mind you – and so unfortunately it turned into exactly what we all thought it was going to be, a drink trip.”
As many golfers will attest, the scariest aspect to encouraging a partner to take up golf and share your passion is this; they might actually take you up on it. Worse still, they become better and more obsessive than you are.
In a friendship that spans more than 15 years, the prospect of one day being beaten on the golf course by his partner in crime is one that scares Andy to death.
“I tried for years to get him into it but I think it’s a bit like the teenage boy who didn’t want to take up piano. If the dad keeps pushing him, he’s not going to do it,” says Andy.
Hamish: “And all of a sudden, look out, we have, “The Shining 2”.
Andy: “But then suddenly the dad steps away for a bit and we see Hame getting a few lessons and hitting a decent ball. When we were in New Zealand Hame actually started hitting a really good ball. So what would crush me even more, similar to “Rocky V” I think, was if he was to grow up and challenge me.”
Hamish: “I’ve been driving balls into dead horse carcasses…”
Andy: “When Hame commits to something – i.e. body-building, trampolining, getting himself into the Magic Castle in LA
– he can generally pull it off, actually. So I’d like to see him commit, although he loves equipment so he’ll definitely go and buy everything brand new before he decides whether he likes something or not.
“It’s very exciting to watch Hame. He’s got a little way to go yet but it’s very encouraging.”
Hamish: “I had a cricket shot, so I’d play a lot of shots off the back foot. When I was playing under-15s cricket I was absolutely menacing with a pull shot, which is great for the cricket field but it’s a very back- footed shot. So trying to get that out of me has been difficult, because the last time I actually played sport was when I was 15.
Trying to rid myself of that muscle memory and turn it into a decent golf swing has been difficult to say the least.
“I’m very keen on golf fashion. I don’t want people to call me the Versace of the golf world but if they start to, I won’t stop them.”
But for now, Andy is far and away the most accomplished golfer. He strikes a really long ball and when he listens to the head pro at Southern Golf Club, Sean Kirschenberg, and not his sometime caddie, his course management is generally quite good.
“He probably first came to me two years ago and we play a fair bit of golf together,” says Kirschenberg.
“We’re supposed to have a game this month sometime actually. There is a group of four of us who play; the lead guitarist for Powderfinger, Darren Middleton, he loves his golf and he plays with us.
“Andy was probably a 16 or 18-marker when he first came to me, so he was a pretty solid player. We’ve made a few changes; we changed his grip around a little bit, did some work on his short game, his swing and a little bit of work on his course management.”
So what does this mean for the “Hamish and Andy” multi-media juggernaut that the Australian public shows no signs of tiring of anytime soon? Are the boys the new face of golf commentary in this country? Will their No.1 radio show become a shrine and place to discuss all things golf?
“We’re going to change the name of the show to ‘4 ‘til Tee Time’,” says Hamish.
But can the partnership survive the stresses associated with five hours on a golf course and the niggling and snide remarks that come with playing golf with a mate you know so well?
“Hame and I think there is a clock somewhere just ticking down to the second where we just get sick of each other,” Andy says. “We’re going to wear synchronised watches and set it to 4 hours and 36 minutes from when we tee off. At that point both watches will go off, we’ll shake hands and walk in opposite directions.”