On the Sunday after we arrived we were invited to the golf club. We were served drinks upstairs by a lady with a hibiscus behind her ear. Her eyes lit up when she saw Teresa and she said to her “I have a caddy for you who will make you a dress.” Somewhat alarmed by this bizarre statement, Teresa replied that she didn’t play golf. “But your husband does” said hibiscus woman, turning her attention to me. She wrote the name Matlin on a coaster and gave it to me.
“Matlin will caddy for you and will make your wife a dress. It’s a tradition.” Not knowing much about local traditions, I thought I had better go along with this. After all, the tradition of cannibalism had only died out in these islands a few generations ago. Still, I did wonder about this guy, Matlin, and his skills as a dressmaker.
On the morning of the Pro-Am I approached the caddies at the back of the driving range and asked for Matlin. They pointed back to the clubhouse. On the other side of the clubhouse I asked again for Matlin. “Anyone here called Matlin? Matlin?” A very large lady shuffled over and asked me where my bag was. “This must be Matlin’s mum,” I thought. “You have buggy?” she asked. I was under the impression that we wouldn’t be using buggies in Vanuatu, one of my many misapprehensions, and had tried to empty as much extra stuff from my bag as possible to make it easier for the caddy who was going to carry it. When I said “No” she gave me the kind of look that I would associate with a spaniel on death row at the pound. “OK, OK” I said, “I’ll get a buggy. I just hope Matlin appreciates what I’m doing for him – when he turns up.”
So, away we went. It was a shotgun start and my group had drawn the first tee. I didn’t disgrace myself by putting my ball through the clubhouse window, which was a huge relief. The large lady started pushing my buggy and we made our way, slowly, very slowly, down the fairway. After two or three holes the penny dropped. “Is your name Matlin or are you Matlin’s mum?” I asked. “I am Matlin” she said.
The best Matlin moment came when I completely stuffed a tee shot on the back nine. Matlin was sitting with the other caddies under a tree about 150 metres away. By this stage I had her trained so that when I held up my hand with three fingers it meant I wanted my three wood. She thought about getting up for a moment and then she took the three wood and gave it to one of the other caddies to run it over to me while she remained seated.
When we turned up for the presentations, everyone was wearing Hawaiian shirts and the ladies were in Mother Hubbard dresses made by the caddies. Now I understood the tradition. I felt a bit left out. Then out in the darkness I saw some teeth gleaming and there was Matlin waving to me. She had a shirt for me, and a dress for Teresa. I thanked her profusely even though the shirt was too small there were no buttonholes and the buttons were on the wrong side. However, Teresa’s dress fitted her perfectly.