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A dozen pint-sized autograph seekers followed Nick Faldo from the driving range to the first tee of the PGA Championship at Shoal Creek. Plodding behind them, her ponytail bobbing with every step, was 23-year-old, 5'6" Fanny Sunesson, who was carrying a giant Wilson bag filled with 40 pounds of golf clubs, balls, apples, bananas, granola bars, bottled water, sunscreen and an umbrella.
"Ah declare," one surprised Alabaman said. "Faldo's got himself a guhl caddie."
That he does. And a good one, too. In this, their first year together, Faldo and Sunesson have been one dynamic duo, winning the Masters and British Open and coming within a putt of making the playoff for the U.S. Open title. They've won $700,000 and a zillion hearts, which is why applause for Faldo turns to cheers whenever Sunesson arrives on the scene.
"I get so embarrassed by the attention," says Sunesson, who is from Karlshamn, a small town in southern Sweden. "After all, I'm not the one who's hitting the ball." But she is the only full-time female caddie at the game's top level, and like it or not, she has become one of the game's newest sweethearts.
"Can you believe she can carry that bag all this way in the heat?" one spectator asked during the PGA. "Bless her heart. That's like hauling a four-year-old five miles straight."
Sunesson shrugs. She refuses to consider herself anything out of the ordinary. "It's no big deal," she says. "I'm used to it. I carry on both shoulders, and I'm strong."
And tough. A good caddie has to be. A caddie is part secretary, part coach, part counselor. A caddie watches for problems in the boss's" swing, fetches water, reads greens and suggests which club to hit. It is not a job for the timid or the easily offended. "You can take a lot of verbal abuse out there," says Mike Hicks, who caddies for Payne Stewart. "But you have to take that. It's just part of the job."
Fortunately for Sunesson, Faldo has not had much to complain about since the two teamed up in February. However, she did get a taste of the boss's wrath at the PGA, where Faldo played some of his worst golf ever, shooting a 16th-place 295 that included his third-round, eight-over-par 80.
"Christ, give me the right club," he yelled at her during the second round, after he had hit a five-iron over the green on the par-3 13th. As they walked toward the 14th tee, Sunesson stumbled and fell to the ground. Faldo didn't turn around.
"It was my fault," she said later of the club choice. "I should have given him the six. But you just shrug it off and go on. You can't take the shot or the club choice back. Fortunately, I haven't made too many of those kinds of mistakes."