If you haven’t noticed, Justin Timberlake was in town this past weekend. Whether you made your way down to the Old Course to catch a glimpse of him or saw him secondhand through your friend’s Snapchat story, it was a big deal, and my most frequent conversation topic for days. Despite all the noise, JT’s presence wasn’t, in itself, the biggest event happening over the weekend and he was not the sole motivation behind the firework show over West Sands on Saturday night. The real reason you got catcalled by 3 different old men on your walk home from the Union was because of a very important golf tournament happening down by the beach: the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Every year golf fanatics, residents, and even St. Andrews’ students make their way down to the Old Course to get a glimpse of the professional golfers and celebrities who graced our presence for one weekend. For many of us the only evidence of an ongoing golf tournament was the extra-long line at Pret and the annoyance of being stuck walking behind a moseying golfer when running late for a class across town. So, why is this specific tournament so special?
The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is the only major professional tournament played annually at St. Andrews. Participants golf over a series of three courses, the most famous being the Old Course at St. Andrews, known around the world as the ‘Home of Golf.’ In 2001 the tournament was born, and since then it has split into two separate competitions. The first is for professional golfers. Victor Perez took the title this year along with a US $4.8 million prize. He is the first Frenchman to ever win the championship. The second competition is for teams. Professional golfers are paired with an amateur (think Morgan Freeman, Hugh Grant, and Bill Murray) and can win a US $200,000 prize. This year’s winners were Tommy Fleetwood and Ogden Phipps.
Regardless of one’s affinity, or lack thereof, for the sport or its professional players, the impact felt by the town cannot be ignored. The population of St. Andrews seemed to double over the weekend, with visitors filling the shops on Market Street. This weekend is an opportunity to pause and think about the conflicting communities that exist within our tiny town. There is a distinct tension between the residents of St. Andrews and the students who attend the university. The clashing agendas of the families that build a life here and the students who come to study and party are easily spotted. However, there is also another population, one that rises and falls as the temperature fluctuates, and that is the community of golfers and golf-fanatics who flock to the ‘Home of Golf’ to witness the ancient courses and stunning architecture. How does that population, one big enough to deserve their own category, affect the dynamic of the town and the population as a whole? For one, the average age of the population definitely rises when an influx of golfers comes in for the weekend and the pubs are more crowded. Beyond that, it’s difficult to see how our town functions differently with their presence. Perhaps even more challenging would be to consider what St. Andrews would look like without the golfers altogether.