Oliver Horovitz has been caddying in St Andrews every summer for over 10 years. In his time here, he has filmed both a documentary and written a best-selling book, An American Caddy in St Andrews. As both a student and a caddie here, Horovitz has developed an immense love for both the town and the University.
In 2004, Horovitz received a phone call in the middle of his high school graduation ceremony. Rushing offstage to answer, he learned that he had been accepted into his dream school, Harvard University, but he couldn’t start until the next year. With a year to wait, Horovitz, a golf fanatic, decided to do a First Year Abroad (FYA) at St Andrews.
Horovitz was no stranger to the town though. “I started coming here when I was 12 to visit my Great Uncle Ken,” he said. “I remember seeing all the University students and thinking ‘Oh my God, this is like another world!’”
Despite being an American student in a small town on the east coast of Scotland, Horovitz quickly adjusted to life in St Andrews. Living in St Regulus Hall, he played on the golf team and took classes in English, International Relations and Modern History. He spoke about the amazing diversity he found in St Andrews: “I met people from all over the world, from Germany, Sweden, Hungary, France and Canada and so many more,” he said.
When the time came to leave St Andrews before the summer and get ready to start at Harvard, Horovitz found he wanted to stay. “I just wasn’t ready to leave yet,” he said. Having heard a lot about summer caddying from people on the golf team, he decided to stay and spend as much time as he could in the town.[pullquote]When I first got to Harvard, it was a bit of a let down after St Andrews[/pullquote]
Although Horvitz had been caddying during summers at home since he was around ten or 11, he quickly discovered how caddying in St Andrews was completely different. He described how, in St Andrews, “when you start as a caddie, you’re the lowest of the low.” There is a hierarchy of caddies, with trainees such as him at the bottom.
He faced some difficulties fitting in at first. The fact that he was both an American and a student did not help. Horvitz talked about some of the challenges he faced: “There’s all these unwritten rules, and every day I was making all these mistakes.” As time went on however, his talent for golf (boasting a 1.8 handicap) and his family connection to the town through his Uncle Ken, an active member of the local community, he slowly started to gain respect. “Between these two things, I sort of won them over.”
Horovitz remembers that upon returning home to start his first year at Harvard, he missed what he described as “the coolest summer job ever” – as well as the town, the University and his fellow caddies.
So every summer after that, when he finished his final exams at Harvard, Horovitz would get on a plane and come to St Andrews to spend his summer caddying. Indeed Horovitz, a film major, even wrote, directed and produced a documentary in his junior year about life caddying in the town.
For Horovitz, Harvard was initially disappointing. “When I first got to Harvard, it was a bit of a let down after St Andrews,” he said. And although he quickly began to love Harvard as well, he always missed St Andrews. “Coming back every summer was my way of maintaining that link to the town.”
After graduating from Harvard, Horovitz spent two years as a teaching assistant in the film department there but felt he just could not stay away from St Andrews. So he came back to caddy for a time during the summer. “This is when I started thinking about the book,” he explained.[pullquote]For most of the guys I’ve caddied for, it’s been the best four hours of their life, this is the dream for them, to play at St Andrews[/pullquote]
Horovitz wrote most of his book – a memoir about his life studying and caddying in St Andrews which made the New York Times bestseller list – in the University library.
He spoke about the grueling routine he would undertake every day during the writing process: “I would get up at five in the morning, go to the office of my friend, who’s a professor in the modern history department, write for about an hour, then the library opened and I’d write there until about eight o’clock, then go do a caddy round, and then go back to the library afterwards to write.” However, despite the huge amount of work that he was doing, Horovitz said that, “for me, St Andrews is the perfect environment to write”. He commented that it is especially good compared to how “hectic and busy New York is.”
Horovitz clearly loved his time as a student at St Andrews too. His favourite class was English and he remembers being amazed as he looked out on to the sea from Castle House. Indeed Horovitz says that, “I would have all my friends do what I did; I would have them all come to University in St Andrews.”
Horovitz explained how amazing some of his experiences caddying in St Andrews have been as well. “For most of the guys I’ve caddied for, it’s been the best four hours of their life, this is the dream for them, to play at St Andrews”. Although it hasn’t been completely easy: “You can also have guys that can be a little more problematic”.
There are so many things he loves about St Andrews, which keep him coming back to the town summer after summer and which gives him a deep rooted connection to the town. He spoke of his love of shops and restaurants like Fischer and Donaldson and the Grill House, as well as visiting and helping his Uncle Ken.
“I just love that everyone in the town plays golf, from your taxi driver to old ladies in Tesco,” he said.
Reflecting on the huge impact St Andrews has had on him, he said: “Every year that I come back, St Andrews becomes more of part of my life, it’s a place where so many of my growing up, coming-of-age moments have happened.” Horovitz said that St Andrews is where he has both “learned to be a writer and had success as writer”. His caddying in the town has also led him to write articles for different sports magazines.
Horovitz plans to keep writing, including another “golf-related project” he is working on right now. But, he said: “I’m always going to make time to come back to St Andrews.”
As he speaks, Horovitz is getting ready to caddy for the famous singer, Huey Lewis in the upcoming Dunhill Links Championships. Lewis is not the only celebrity he has encountered throughout his time as a caddie in St Andrews, caddying for actors and writers such Andy Garcia, Larry David and Michael Douglas.[pullquote]For me, St Andrews is the perfect environment to write[/pullquote]
If Horovitz had any advice for other American students coming over to St Andrews for the first time, he would say: “Embrace everything, embrace Scotland as much as possible. Try haggis and black pudding, wear your red gown around town and walk along the pier.” He also encourages students to explore the whole of Scotland and the great experiences it has to offer. He says to do things such as, “climb Ben Nevis, and get out of St Andrews to explore the area around Fife.”
“You’re in St Andrews, embrace it.”
Horovitz said that coming to St Andrews has had a massive impact on his life. “There are parts of being a student that I’ll never forget, like the foam party during Raisin weekend, the May Dip, and getting dressed up for the May Ball.” He feels that, “you really grow up in that first year at St Andrews.”
Horovitz can’t really choose between his experience as a student and his experience as a caddy in St Andrews. “Caddying has had a lot of life-changing moments as well, it’s not really one or the other.”
Horovitz clearly has a huge passion for St Andrews, both for its status as the Home of Golf and the fond memories of his time studying at the University. He would have continued to study in St Andrews if Harvard hadn’t been his “dream school”.
For him, his time as both a student and a caddie in the town, “all just blend in to these amazing memories of St Andrews.”
His great love for St Andrews is evident most, however, in his description of his first year in the town as “the best year of his life”.