The town of St Andrews was brought alive during the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship Event held two weekends ago.
Our tiny bubble buzzed with excitement as locals, students and tourists flooded the town’s golf courses and local pubs in celebration of the 35th year of Dunhill sponsorship.
Despite the slight nip in the air, the dramatic scenery and autumnal feel of the town felt truly cherished, and a sense of pride stirred throughout the streets as we shared our perfectly mowed fairways with some of the most celebrated professional and amateur golfers.
Since the very first Dunhill Cup Event played on the Old Course in 1985, St Andrews has welcomed enthusiastic golfers, as well as non-players of the sport, to become involved within the event.
For University students Dunhill poses many opportunities in which to fully immerse oneself in the thriving atmosphere of the event; from acting as a mere spectator wrapped up in hat and scarf on the course paths (with perhaps a hip-flask of whisky in hand), to working the long weekend for the events management team, Dunhill provides the chance to take part in a unique and spectacular event that stands apart from our usual university balls and dinners.
With big celebrity names arriving and exploring all St Andrews has to offer, students were pulled away from studying and set off on wild goose chases in search of autographs and selfies with their favourite stars.
In order to find out what Dunhill meant to those lucky enough to help prepare for and work the event, I sat down with two students, second year Jess Jones and third year Liberty Strachan Brooks, to hear about their individual involvement and why they think such a renowned event serves as an important contrast to the usual student functions we hear so frequently discussed.
The Saint: What were your job roles within the event?
Liberty: I worked as a VIP waitress for table 37 in the VIP tent.
Jess: And I was on the Carnoustie course in the Quarter Way House serving refreshments (hot dogs, soup, teas and coffees) to the golfers.
The Saint: Why did you decide to become involved with the event?
Jess: Because it was an opportunity to not only immerse myself in St Andrew’s golfing nature, but obviously also to earn money and meet unforgettable people. I was able to appreciate the experience of working at the Home of Golf.
The Saint: What did the event bring to St Andrews?
Jess: The event brought a genuine buzz of excitement to students and locals alike, but definitely more for golfers however. But there was a massive excitement and “fan-girling” over famous actors, such as Justin Timberlake and Bill Murray.
The Saint: Do you think most students are aware of the event taking place and the opportunities it can offer them?
Liberty: Dunhill is the most publicised event held in St Andrews and it occupies the whole town, therefore it is unavoidable and impossible not to hear about. It makes a good effort to involve students as well — the company I worked for directly recruited students from the Women’s Golf Society.
Jess: As long as you have some sort of connection to the event, either a contact of someone who has worked there previously or a connection through a society, working at the event becomes easily accessible. I got involved thanks to my academic mother who handed me the contact of a company recruiting students.
The Saint: Do you think that the event is as exciting for students as university events are to them?
Jess: For me Dunhill is better than most events … You get to wake up in the morning with no hangover but having had a wonderful time and being on the course watching the celebrities and professional golf players tee off and putt was amazing.
The Saint: What was your personal highlight whilst working for Dunhill?
Liberty: My personal highlight was the atmosphere in the VIP tent and the chance to hear celebrities perform at the dinner, in particular Brad from The Vamps. The VIP tent was decorated with flowers and fire pits; it was very rustic. When Ronan Keating sang “When You Say Nothing At All”, everyone was in tears. It was a fun job; serving South African Champagne to 400 guests wrapped in space blankets outside the VIP tent whilst watching the fireworks over West Sands was incredible.
Jess: When we started working in the Quarter Way we got given a sheet of all the players and the professionals names, so obviously I scrolled down and saw Peter Jones was playing. I was so happy. I’ve watched Dragons Den since being young, so I was really looking forward to meeting him. I was expecting him to have a daunting presence, and therefore for people to be too scared to talk to him. But as soon as he came up to me there seemed to be no barriers and we got on really well and were soon laughing. He is truly a lovely man and even asked if I wanted a photo with him and Bill Murray. It was an absolute pleasure to meet him.
The Saint: What is your overall opinion of the event?
Jess: The overall experience was definitely unforgettable. The people who hired us provided us with so much food, amazing pay and they catered to our needs. There were people waitressing in the pavilion in the evenings and lunch times, but I was lucky enough to work where I did because I asked to be on the course in Kirkcaldy. I also met a new friend who I worked with for the four days. I cannot wait to work again next year.
The Saint: Did you find serving the celebrities intimidating?
Liberty: We obviously had to work with a professional attitude and contain our excitement around the stars. The celebrities were all very polite to us as staff and took particular interest in the female members of our team. Bill Murray even stacked and passed the plates from his table to me as I cleared!
Jess: I was really worried at first that the golfers and celebrities would look down on us or be rude, demanding, “Can I have a hot dog or a tea?” But it was the complete opposite. When they came over (more likely to be the amateurs than the professional golfers) everyone was lovely, so sweet, so kind. They have genuinely left an amazing impression on me.
The Saint: Is it important for large events, such as Dunhill, to be held here in St Andrews?
Jess: I think it is vital that in St Andrews, being the Home of Golf, we do have these large scale events brought to us and its brilliant that they get the students involved during the term time, so even non golfers can immerse themselves in the golfing culture. It would be brilliant to see more events like this come to St Andrews. It would even be great for students to hold their own Dunhill event – student golfers paired with non-student golfers would be quite entertaining!
Dunhill has definitely left a lasting effect upon St Andrews and its students this autumn, with its celebrity presence seeming to increase year to year.
In providing both thrilling and legendary entertainment in between lectures and life-changing work experiences amongst public figures over the weekend, students were exposed to life outside their cosy University bubble, while still remaining inside the bubble.
But most importantly, they were reminded of the treasure that is St Andrews and its capacity to host events of a world scale.