WHEN Jeff Brighton was 12, he bunked off school to meet his sporting hero, golfer Colin Montgomerie.
That encounter inspired Jeff to pursue a career on the fairways as a caddy working on some of the world’s most famous courses.
Now the Ayrshire man’s journey has come full circle after he met his hero again, this time on a sun-kissed golf course in Phoenix, Arizona, where Jeff was caddying.
Growing up in Girvan, Jeff lived just a short distance from the famous Turnberry course, where Ryder Cup hero Montgomerie had an academy.
“I loved watching Monty play, he was always my favourite,” said Jeff, 29.
“He was doing a book signing at the local Ottakar’s bookshop after releasing his autobiography and my mum wrote me a sick note so I could miss school to attend.”
Jeff and his mum, Ellen, were first in the queue and just so happened to be filmed by the evening news, which had sent a crew to cover the event.
The pair realised their fib had just been exposed.
“News travelled fast because Girvan is such a small town and not a lot happens there, so it was a bit of a big deal when someone local was on TV,” said Jeff.
“I think it might actually have been my mum’s idea to take the day off. Everyone was a bit more relaxed about that sort of thing back then, so I didn’t get into trouble at school.
“I didn’t realise it at the time, but looking back it was a big moment.”
Jeff played golf from an early age but knew he wasn’t good enough to turn pro, so instead became a junior caddy at Turnberry.
He caddied on lots of tournaments, including the Senior British Open, and mixed with famous names.
“I used to caddy for the late actor, Dennis Hopper, whenever he came to Scotland.
“My gran lived in America for 40 years and was a nanny to his kids, so when he came over later in life to play Scottish courses, he asked me.”
Jeff was forced to take on a few different jobs like working on cruise ships and in digital advertising when it looked like becoming a pro caddy wouldn’t come to fruition.
But when the Women’s British Open came to Turnberry three years ago, he decided to give his dream another shot.
“I knew the course like the back of my hand, so I sent around 100 personalised emails offering my services as a caddy,” he said.
“Jin Yong Ko, who had never played over here, accepted my offer and I took a week off work to caddy for her.
“She finished second and it brought a lot of attention.
“Swedish golfer Carro Hedwall invited me out full time and I worked with her for the last two years. Now I’m with American golfer Christina Kim.
“It’s the best job in the world.
“I carried the scoreboard for the Women’s British Open at Turnberry when I was 14 and now I’m working with a lot of those women.”
Last month, Jeff met Colin while they were working in America.
“He was practising nearby and came to watch an LPGA event. I was introduced to him and told him the story about the last time we’d met, which he found funny.
“I didn’t say to Colin at the time, but I would love to caddy for him just once.”
Proud mum Ellen added: “Jeff looked at Colin as an inspiration and followed his career all those years.
“I knew their paths would cross again someday.”