This week’s Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne is one of golf’s biggest stages.
For 34-year-old Tour looper Dale Vallely, who’s been on the bag for rising international star Abraham Ancer since the summer of 2016, he can’t believe how far they’ve come together since then.
And that includes a trip back to the Korn Ferry Tour.
“Watching him come from where we were three or four years ago to where he’s at now being in the Presidents Cup is pretty amazing,” Vallely said.
Ancer, a 28-year-old from Mexico, earned an automatic spot (fifth) on Ernie Els’ International team thanks in large part to his solo second-place finish in August’s Northern Trust and a trip to his first Tour Championship two weeks later where he finished a career-best 21st in the FedEx Cup rankings.
For Vallely, who first went to Australia last year with Ancer for the ISPS Handa Melbroune World Cup, there is much to look forward to this week at Royal Melbourne.
“Honestly, the biggest thing is just being inside the ropes with 30,000 or 40,000 fans watching these golfers, watching my boy compete to be honest,” Vallely said. “A lot of people know who he is, but a lot of people don’t realize how good he is. They’re going to find out this week I think.”
Vallely feels fortunate to get to this stage with his player.
“Nowadays the player/caddie is a team thing, so I get to go watch Abe play with these guys. It’s amazing that I’m going to be right there watching, and be a part of it,” Vallely said.
Vallely grew up in Alberta, Canada, and remembers watching Mike Weir in the early 2000s as he won multiple times on the PGA Tour, including the Masters in 2003.
Vallely will be in the same team room with the Canadian megastar all week as he serves as one of Ernie Els’ assistant captains.
“Oh, it’s awesome,” Vallely said of spending time with Weir at last week’s Emirates Australian Open. “We had breakfast with him Saturday morning, too, and I was just asking him a bunch of questions. We only ever played with him nine holes this summer and got to spend a little bit of time then. He’s an awesome guy. I loved listening to all of his stories. He was one of my heroes growing up, that’s when I used to play pro golf. He won the Masters when I was about to turn pro.”
Ancer and Vallely also spent time with another International team leader last week: Captain Els. They played a practice round with him on Tuesday and, “Ernie was super chill,” Vallely said.
Unfortunately, no one added up the score to see if Ancer, last year’s Aussie Open winner, beat his captain but Vallely was still amazed at how competitive both Els and assistant captain K.J. Choi are on the course.
“It was the kind of thing where if you’re playing good, you can show your captain how much you want him to play you,” Vallely said. “We also played with Ernie at the British Open when we were still trying to get onto the team, so to play with him immediately before the (Presidents Cup) was nice, and he seems to really like Abe.”
Vallely has watched most of the past Presidents Cups on TV. But he’s never attended any in person. “They’ve always been just way too far away and hard to get to,” he explained.
“Being Canadian, I’ve always watched the International side and watched Mike Weir play against Tiger on TV at Royal Montreal,” Vallely said of the 2007 singles match, which Weir went on to win 1 up.
Back then, Weir had veteran Canadian caddie Brennan Little on the bag. This year, after looping in five Presidents Cups for Weir and the International side, Little has crossed over to the U.S. team room with his current boss, Gary Woodland.
His fellow countryman is ready to give Little some grief for the move.
“I sure will give him a hard time,” Vallely laughed. “I’ve got to throw at least one jab in when I see him (on the other side).”
Vallely says the two are good friends who’ve known each other for six years. Both are coming off career seasons looping on Tour.
And Ancer’s career season opens the door for many big events on the upcoming calendar.
“There’s a big benefit for working for an international guy like Abe,” Vallely said. “You get to do a bunch of these things and he’s just getting going. We had the World Cup last year, the Presidents Cup this week, the Olympics next year. I know how excited he is. I’m just equally excited to be honest. This week’s going to be incredible.”
Vallely has chatted with a few of the Australian caddies on the team with experience at Royal Melbourne and he likes what he’s hearing about the world-renowned course.
“We’ve been speaking to a few of the caddies and everyone is really, really excited about this one and Royal Melbourne,” he said. “The golf course is just amazing. There are some good guys who are ready to show the world how good they are.”
He was given some yardage books by the International team before this week so he’s been studying up on the course and has been added to the group chat for the team.
“I can’t imagine how fun it’s going to be honestly,” Vallely said. “This is just incredible.”
The Las Vegas resident, who’s a roommate with fellow Canadian caddie Kurt Kowaluk, Cameron Champ’s caddie, knows there are plenty of amazing Australian local dishes like their famous meat pies. But he’s sticking to what he knows and won’t add culinary adventure to his first Presidents Cup.
“No meat pies for me, that’s for sure,” Vallely laughs. “I’m a really picky eater and that’s the truth.”