But to merely remember Sweden’s Fanny Sunesson as the first is to overlook the fact she was also for a time the best.
Standing by Nick Faldo’s side throughout the 1990s, Sunesson guided the legendary English golfer to four major titles.
In at the deep end
After over two decades at the top, it’s hard to believe a teenage Sunesson initially envisaged caddying for a matter of months, thinking of it “as a chance to see the world.”
Everything changed in late 1989 when Faldo, one of the game’s top players, decided he wanted someone by his side as single-minded as he was.
Sunesson, who had cut her teeth with Spaniard Jose Rivero and Englishman Howard Clark on the European Tour, jumped at the chance.
Just a few months into her new role, the girl born in Gothenburg was going to Augusta National for the 1990 Masters.
“It was like a fairytale, a dream for golfers,” Sunesson tells CNN Living Golf in a rare interview. “The architecture and aura there — it was amazing to be there, and to caddy for the defending champion wasn’t bad either.”
Faldo went on to win a playoff against Raymond Floyd for his second Masters title, making Sunesson the first female caddy in the history of the game to win a major.
Just three months later, the duo added the Open Championship title at the home of golf, St Andrews.
And Sunesson chokes up as she recalls walking up the eighteenth with Faldo by her side.
“When we hit our tee shot on the eighteenth, we knew were going to win,” says Sunesson. “I’m so grateful for what Nick did walking off the tee: he turned around to me and said ‘savor this moment!’.”
‘One of the best rounds I’ve seen’
Sunesson grew up in the Baltic port town of Karlshamn and was a keen amateur golfer who harbored dreams of playing professionally herself. Those ambitions may not have materialized but her winning partnership with Faldo more than made up for the disappointment.
Another Open victory came two years later, but the most iconic moment of all was still yet to come at the 1996 Masters — a tournament enshrined in golf folklore forever.
It all came down to Faldo against Australia’s Greg Norman on the final day. And, as they began play on the Sunday, Norman had a seemingly insurmountable six-shot lead.
Sunesson never lost hope.
“History-wise, we had beaten Greg almost every time except once,” she says, recalling the spectacular eventual 11-shot swing.
Norman’s game famously fell apart — the Australian stumbled to a six-over par 78 — while the ever-reliable Faldo posted a near flawless round of 67, birdieing the last to clinch his sixth and final major title by five shots.
“I was very focused on what we were doing. You couldn’t miss what was happening with Greg, of course, but then you still have to do it. It’s a long way back.
“To shoot 67 that day? I think Nick deserves more credit for that round. They said Greg lost the tournament but I think that’s a bit unfair. It was one of the best rounds, if not the best I’ve seen.”
Preferring to ignore gender, Faldo credits Sunesson for the most successful spell of his career.
“I didn’t get the relevance of having Fanny Sunesson — a lady on my golf bag,” Faldo tells CNN Living Golf. “I thought she was a great caddy, a great girl, good entertainment.
“You know, the most important thing is you’ve got to be able to communicate. She was very professional, did her yardage books which take eight hours to do, so you got every bit of information. We had a great relationship.”
But it’s her unique relationship with Faldo she treasures most — one that endures to this day.
“I think that we were a fantastic team,” she says. “We worked so well together; it was almost like we were one person thinking.”
Many miles apart, wedding separate partners, Faldo addressed the coincidence at the time saying: “We’re thinking of having an internet link for a laugh.”
“You know, we’re still friends today,” she says. “He’s like a brother to me.”