Simon Dyson summed up the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship perfectly as the worlds of sport, show business and celebrity get ready for their annual celebration of links golf at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.
Asked for his thoughts on this week’s $5 million extravaganza, the Englishman, winner of the event in 2009, replied: “It is my favourite tournament of the year. I just love it. Three amazing courses and links golf – it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Indeed it doesn’t.
Dyson will join another impressive international field in the Home of Golf this week, all of whom will play with an amateur partner for the first three days, taking in the Old Course at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns before the final round – featuring the leading 60 professionals and the top 20 amateurs – is played over the Old Course to determine the winners of the professional and team competitions.
“The format is totally different and something we only do once a year, so that is probably why everyone enjoys the week so much. We play the same way for about 30 weeks a year, so when you get the chance to do something different it is just great fun,” said Dyson.
“I have been very lucky over the years and had some amazing partners – Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Matthew Pinsent, Sir Bobby Charlton, Hugh Grant; and I played with Kelly Slater the year I won, so I never forget hm.
“We had a great week that week – Kelly and I were third in the team event and I won the pro tournament, so I will never forget him and we kept in touch for a few years after that.
“I think the amateurs really enjoy getting so close to the pros and seeing how we go about our business. Then the golfers are just as interested in the amateurs because you have some real legends from sport and the movies and music, so there are always some interesting chats going on.”
Andy Garcia and Hugh Grant head an A-list group of showbiz legends in the field, along with Don Felder from The Eagles, Riverdance idol Michael Flatley, rock star Huey Lewis, Kyle MacLachlan of Desperate Housewives fame and actors James Nesbitt and Luke Wilson.
The golfing stars will be led by defending champion Branden Grace and 14 Major Champions including Ernie Els, Darren Clarke, Retief Goosen, Padraig Harrington, Martin Kaymer, Paul Lawrie, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Vijay Singh.
Grace returns to St Andrews hoping to become the first golfer to win back-to-back Alfred Dunhill Links titles.
Entrance to the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship will be free of charge at all three courses on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. A ticket price of £20 (concessionary £15) will be charged for the final day’s play over the Old Course on Sunday, September 29. Entry for under-16s and students is free. Tickets are available through the ticket hotline on 0870 010 9021, or at the entrance gates.