In the aftermath of the trophy presentation on the 18th green, as hands were shaken and congratulations offered, Billy Foster stood alone in the middle of the fairway. He spoke to his family on his mobile phone. He took it all in.
A few minutes later, he confided to Sportsmail that he thought this cherished day might never come.
In Seve Ballesteros, Lee Westwood, Thomas Bjorn and Darren Clarke, Foster caddied for four of the greatest ball strikers in the history of the European game. He enjoyed wonderful days of triumph at the Ryder Cup and partied with the best of them. But he had not experienced the ultimate. He had not won a major.
In the aftermath of Matt Fitzpatrick’s (left) trophy presentation, Billy Foster (right) stood alone in the middle of the fairway
But before the Englishman’s US Open victory on Sunday, he had not won a major before
Goodness, it was not through a lack of effort, or opportunity. He saw Bjorn throw away the Open in a bunker at Sandwich in 2003. ‘I thought about that every day for six months,’ he said. ‘It broke my heart.’
He saw Westwood lose a classic duel for the Masters to Phil Mickelson. He saw the same man three putt the 18th to miss out on a play-off for the 2009 Open.
‘I had about six or seven close calls and, of course, you build up doubts,’ he said. ‘There was an awful lot of scar tissue.
‘I’ve done this for 40 years and I only have two or three years left. You’re getting down to your last few majors and you’re thinking — are you ever going to win one? Probably not.’
Foster caddied some of the best ball strikers such as Lee Westwood (right) without experiencing the ultimate
When Westwood decided to go his own way in 2018, Fitzpatrick was quickly on the phone to Foster. He thought he was just the experienced hand on the bag he needed. Fitzpatrick can be too hard on himself and he valued his fellow Yorkshireman’s dry sense of humour to lighten the load.
For his part, Foster was impressed by Fitzpatrick’s prodigious work ethic. But a major winner?
‘I take my hat off to him for what he’s done over the last 18 months,’ said the 59 year-old. ‘He was always a good, solid player but I have to be honest, I didn’t think he would become this good. The improvement is incredible.
‘That round he’s just played to win the US Open? That might be the best ball-striking round I’ve seen and I’ve seen a few contenders.’
For his part, Foster was impressed by new champion Fitzpatrick’s prodigious work ethic
The day was not without its panicky moments, mind, those sinking feelings of deja vu.
‘We all know Matt is one of the best putters on tour, so when he started missing five-footers I was thinking: ‘You little b*****d!’,’ said Foster, laughing. ‘He was doing my head in. I thought he was trying to do me in.
‘Then we have a difference of opinion on the 18th hole, where he likes to hit a driver and I like him to hit a three wood. So he hits a three wood and puts it in the bunker and I’m thinking, ”Oh, no”. I can’t tell you how good that recovery shot was — thank God!’
As he spoke, Foster’s phone never stopped buzzing. The caddie friends he had seen win majors were all desperate to get in touch and welcome him to the club.
The day was not without its panicky moments, mind, those sinking feelings of deja vu
‘I’ve obviously missed my flight home tonight and I can’t see me making my flight tomorrow afternoon, either,’ he said. ‘Fitz is off for a fortnight so, if it was left to me, the party would go on all this week and all next week, but we’re supposed to be going on holiday on Wednesday, so I better get home for then.’
With that, he broke into a trademark grin. Asked whether this was his finest moment in his 40 years, there was no hesitation. ‘This makes up for all the heartache, it’s my best moment without a doubt,’ he said.
‘I’ve had some lovely days with Seve and when Darren beat Tiger to win the WGC-Match Play. Great days with Darren and Lee at the Ryder Cup. But this is the shining jewel, 100 per cent.’
Asked whether this was his finest moment in his 40 years, there was no hesitation