Meet ‘The Singing Caddie’ – a man who once won a talent competition with Ringo Starr on drums and has looped for many of the game’s greats
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was originally published in April 2019. It has been updated since Stevens made an appearance on The Voice Australia on June 2, 2020, which you can see below.
If you want a really good story, spend a few minutes chatting with a caddie.
If you want a great, almost unbelievable story, spend some time conversing with Paul Stevens, aka, “The Singing Caddie.”
For instance, before embarking on a legendary, 53-year career as a professional caddie on the European, PGA and Australasian tours, the Englishman was the winner of a talent show – think something similar to American Idol or the old Star Search with Ed McMahon – and performed with drummer Ringo Starr just before he became a mega star with The Beatles.
Here’s how it went down…
In July of 1960, Stevens was a contestant on a talent show called “Talent Quest” in North Wales.
Liverpool’s top group at the time was “Rory Storm and the Hurricanes,” whose drummer was Starr. The band backed the singers for the competition. Stevens wanted to sing a song called “Bluebeat Bop” by Gene Vincent. The band – except for Starr – wasn’t familiar with the tune.
Starr sang the first few bars and explained to his bandmates how to play it. Stevens then took over lead vocals, won the heat and eventually the entire competition with his rendition of Chuck Berry’s hit, “Johnny B. Goode.”
“I won a cash prize, plus a test recording, but most of all it gave me the confidence I needed to get started in show biz,” Stevens, 78, who resides in Sydney, Australia now, recently told The Caddie Network. “The experience there was the biggest factor.”
Shortly after, Stevens started his own band called “Paul Stevens and the Emperors of Rhythm,” and he’d bump into Starr again, but this time with three other lads named John, Paul and George.
“In 1962, my band was booked to open for The Beatles at the Cavern Club – where they played their first gig – and Ringo had joined them that year,” explained Stevens.
That would be just one of countless brushes with greatness for Stevens over the next half-century.
In that span, he caddied for many of the game’s best, including Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Seve Ballesteros, Ben Crenshaw, Hale Irwin, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy.
“Sam Snead was the finest golfer that I caddied for, even at the age of 65,” Stevens recalled. “He was closely followed by Tom Watson and also Greg Norman who was the finest driver of a golf ball ever.”
In the 1973 Ryder Cup at Muirfield, Stevens had the kind of highlight every caddie dreams of.
It happened during the morning foursomes matches on Day 2. Stevens was caddying for England’s Peter Butler, who was teamed with Scotland’s Brian Barnes, squaring off against Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf.
On the 16th hole, a 188-yard par 3, Butler fancied a 4-iron.
Stevens wasn’t shy about his disapproval. It was chilly and the hole played slightly uphill. He felt the shot called for a 3-iron instead.
Butler heeded the advice and once the ball settled – at the bottom of the cup – he had the first hole-in-one in Ryder Cup history.
“What a moment,” Stevens said. “The nicest thing about it was when Jack Nicklaus turned to me and said, ‘Nice caddying, Paul.’ That was worth more than money.”
Stevens has loads of mementos from his caddie life with complimentary messages and notes of appreciation from players through the years.
Like this one from Norman:
Your dedication and commitment to golf was exemplary. Thank you for the tremendous work ethic you gave me.
May your life be full of health, happiness and success.
Or this from Watson:
Thanks for the great job!
And this from Garcia:
To my friend and caddie Paul Stevens.
All the best in your future,
That’s impressive stuff.
So, what makes a great caddie, which clearly defines what Stevens was?
“I think it means having confidence, assertiveness and saying the right thing at the right time,” Stevens said. “I loved instilling confidence in my player with words like, ‘you can hit this club as hard as you like, and you will not go through the green.’ I always wanted to be the greatest caddie in the world.”
Other career highlights for Stevens include winning the 1984 Australian Open with Watson, “because it was regarded as the ‘fifth major’ at the time and it was at Royal Melbourne, my favorite course in the world,” as well as a win at the British Masters at Woburn in 1992 with Christy O’Connor Junior, “pulling every club correctly and reading every putt.”
In all, Stevens caddied his players to 11 wins worldwide:
- 4 German Opens with Mark McNulty
- 2 Cannes Mougins Opens with McNulty
- 1 Monte Carlo Open with McNulty
- 1 British Masters with McNulty
- 1 mixed event with McNulty and Marie-Laure Lorenzi de la Taya
- 1 British Masters with Christy O’Connor Junior
- 1 Gold Coast Classic with Bob Shearer
Along with the wins, Stevens also caddied for Peter Oosterhuis when he was runner up in the 1974 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes and McNulty when he finished T2 in the 1990 Open Championship at St. Andrews.
Stevens retired from walking the fairways with the game’s greats in 2006.
His final loop? Sixteen-year-old Rory McIlroy.
“Rory’s former manager, Chubby Chandler, felt that I was the best caddie for young players,” Stevens said. “I had caddied for Sergio Garcia in his first professional event and I also caddied for Charl Schwartzel in pre-qualifying, as well as first, second and final stage of European Tour Qualifying School and helped him obtain his card. I caddied for Rory just the one week, but unfortunately, my body was telling me that 53 years was long enough and at the end of that week, I retired.”
Is it a decision Stevens regrets? Certainly, having seen the player McIlroy has become.
“I feel as if I missed out on making a fortune with him and winning majors!” Stevens joked.
Throughout his caddying career, Stevens also kept up with the singing.
“I had always been a singer — rock and roll, pop, cabaret and big band swing – and always used to entertain the players and caddies in such far flung places as Malmo, Sweden; Crans-sur-Sierre, Switzerland; Praia de Rocha, Portugal and Port Douglas, Australia,” said Stevens, hence ‘The Singing Caddie’ moniker he’s always gone by.
All that globetrotting made for some entertaining caddie stories, too.
Like the one year at the German Open when the sponsor allowed a caddie to drive a courtesy car with the understanding that he would drop the car off at the tournament car station when the event was over.
The caddie did drop it off, “in France the following week!” Stevens laughed.
Stevens recently took on the biggest fight of his life – throat cancer – and beat it.
“It was very difficult indeed and the same throat cancer as my good friend Pete Bender, the only caddie who comes close to my 53 years,” Stevens said. “I’m very grateful to have beaten it and now devote a lot of my singing in raising money for Children’s Leukemia and Cancer Research.”
In addition to that, Stevens has started a business as an “after dinner speaker.”
“My main work now is after dinner speaking worldwide and relating my experiences as the longest serving caddie in the world in golf clubs and on corporate golf days and sportsmen’s dinners and lunches,” Stevens said. “I normally speak 45-60 minutes and always socialize with members and guests afterward with sort of an impromptu Q&A.”
Let’s be honest: Who wouldn’t want to hear more of these kinds of stories from Stevens?
To learn more about Paul Stevens – The Singing Caddie – visit his website, where he can be contacted for speaking engagements. You can also click here to visit him on Facebook, or contact him by phone at +61417776102.