THE name Brian Nilsson is one you wouldn't normally associate with Tiger Woods or Adam Scott.
However, the former Gympie man has been touring the world with the globe's best golfers and making a name for himself as a professional caddy for the past 10 years.
Nilsson was back near his home Gympie golf course at the weekend, caddying for Peter O'Malley at the Australian PGA at Coolum, after he and O'Malley teamed up for a shot at the Australian Open.
The former Gympie South and James Nash State High School student turned pro himself in 1991, after honing his skills at the Gympie Golf Club.
As luck would have it, missing out on qualifying for major events as a pro golfer helped him turn into a professional caddy.
It is a career that takes him all over the world to some of the world's biggest golf tournaments.
“I missed out on a few tournaments as a pro golfer and Jon Senden asked me to caddy for him,” Nilsson said.
“I have been caddying ever since.”
Nilsson has caddied in eight British Opens and many USA PGAs and spends most of his time in Europe.
He does most of his work for professional golfers Peter O'Malley, Adam Scott, John Senden, Brett Rumford, and Danish golfer Anders Hampson, and was flying out yesterday to caddy for up-and-coming German golfer Marcel Siem in the South African Open starting tomorrow.
According to Nilsson, a caddy doesn't just carry the clubs – what he does has a lot to do with the success of a golfer.
His role starts before the tournament, mapping out the holes, knowing pin placements, helping with club selection and making sure the only thing the golfer has to think about is hitting the ball.
“We are bit like the on-course psychiatrist,” Nilsson said.
“Lots of things go on on a golf course and we have to keep our golfer calm and relaxed, as well as be his butler.
“I like to think I am quite a big help,” he said.
That sort of help can be quite rewarding for a professional caddy. Most of them are on a retainer, but they also get a percentage of the golfer's winnings, which in professional golf can be considerable.
Nilsson said even some of the smaller tournaments in the US and Europe can have some pretty hefty prize money.
“Prize money has gone through the roof – the corporate world loves golf,” he said.
He said some caddies can make $100,000 in a good week and people like Steve Williams, Tiger Woods' caddy, would be “giggling” all the way to the bank.
Nilsson has met Woods numerous times and says he is a freakish golfer, but like most of the famous golfers he is just a regular guy.
“When I first started caddying, I used to think people like Greg Norman and Nick Faldo – my childhood heroes – were superstars.
“But after a while you realise famous people still have to wipe their own backside.
“They are just normal,” he said.
Nilsson, 39, lives in Hua Hin, Thailand, with his half-Chinese, half-Thai fiancée.
He said because of all the travel involved in being a professional caddy, Asia was a good base.
“I live close to a good airport. It lets me get all over Asia – Dubai, China, Korea – easily,” he said.
The caddy credits his time playing as a member of the Gympie Golf Club for a lot of his success.
“Playing golf from a young age, I got to mix with a lot of different people from all backgrounds and ages,” Nilsson said.
“Playing golf, you play against the course, your opponent and yourself.”
“The game teaches you a lot about etiquette and life,” he said.
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