Tour caddie Ray Farnell was on vacation with his wife and two young daughters in his native Australia in December 2015 when he got a call from a fellow caddie.
The question: Could the 11-year veteran caddie loop for just one week in the Australian PGA at the RACV Royal Pines Resort?
“I said ‘no’ at first when my friend called me on the Sunday before the tournament,” Farnell said. It’s not like family vacations to Australia’s Gold Coast come every year, and Ray and his family were certainly in vacation mode.
“Then on the Monday, he texted me again and said that Harold Varner knew I was out there on vacation and understood, no pressure,” Farnell said. “So, I spoke to my wife and she was like, ‘do it, do it’.”
How many of us would have a hard time convincing our better halves to turn a family vacation into a work trip?
Exactly, but that’s how it worked out for the Farnells.
The next challenge was figuring out how to get golf clothes for the week because — like most husbands and fathers on a family beach trip — Farnell only brought t-shirts and sandals.
That problem was remedied the first day he got to the tournament venue.
“I went in the (tournament) course’s pro shop before I met Harold on that Tuesday and bought a bunch of polos,” Farnell recalled with a laugh. “I hadn’t caddied in Australia since 2009 and then I ended up caddying for this kid.”
Why not, right? He was only staying 20 minutes away from the course with his family. What did he have to lose?
Farnell says he’s always been a big believer in getting just one week on a bag and that’s all he needs to make a good impression with players.
A few years earlier on a one-week trial with Australian PGA Tour pro Nathan Green, Farnell did well enough to get invited to caddie full-time for the Aussie. That lasted for two years. Farnell got another one-week trial for Ricky Barnes at the 2009 Wyndham Championship in Greensboro and performed well enough to stay on Barnes’ bag for over five years.
“I was asked to do a week with Harold and here we are four years later,” Farnell said.
That first week for the Varner/Farnell duo saw Varner get all the way to a three-way playoff, one that they would ultimately finish tied for second in.
“I got to see the pressure side right away with Harold,” Farnell said. “Usually with pressure, your player is already amped and you have to calm them down.With Harold it’s the other way. I’m like, ‘hey man we’re playing, let’s get serious’ and he’s like, ‘alright, cool’.”
The only difference Farnell observed with Varner down the stretch was that he walked a little more quickly.
“He got a little faster in his walking rhythm and so in that situation, I deliberately walked slower and took longer to get to the ball,” Farnell said.
This was Farnell’s way of ensuring Varner wouldn’t miss any of his pre-shot routine as the pressure mounted.
Nathan Holman ended up winning that Australian PGA title in the three-way playoff with Varner and Dylan Frittelli.
“After the week I told Harold, ‘all the hard stuff you do well, and the easy stuff you just need to tidy up a little bit (chipping and putting), but you can be really good’,” Farnell said.
Farnell got back from Australia two weeks later and received a call from Varner asking if he wanted to keep going with him and meet up in Hawaii for the Sony Open.
Yet again, Ray asked his wife what she thought. She gave the green light.
And their partnership continues.