• Linden Grigg

Alfred Dunhill Links Championship Returns to St Andrews

Play has concluded at the 2021 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, with Englishman Danny Willett winning the professional tournament.

Amateur Maeve Danaher, from the Republic of Ireland, won the Team Championship crown alongside professional Michael Hoey.

The annual championship is played across three courses: the Championship Course Carnoustie, Kingsbarns Golf Links, and the Old Course St Andrews, which Golfweek describes as ‘the best one-week professional rota in golf.’

Play takes place over a period of four days, in which the three courses are played in rotation. In the professional Championship, the field is reduced to the leading 60 professionals after three rounds, with the fourth and final round being played over the Old Course.

Willett went into the final round with a three-shot lead, ultimately finishing 18 under par. It became his eighth European Tour win.

Afterwards he said, “I felt comfortable all day. It was a good thing that scoring was low. I had 20 under par in my head. I didn’t think anyone would reach that. I did hit a few average shots towards the turn. But I holed a great putt on 10. And I played really well on the back nine, which can be brutal as everyone knows. I didn’t do anything silly, although it would have been nice to make a couple more birdies.

“It’s magical. On British soil. It’s been a great week.”

Commenting on the event in general, Willett was unambiguous: “We just had a great week, seeing all the guys. I haven’t done this format for two years now. So, it’s nice that the Championship is back on, and it’s lovely. It’s a big one.

“It’s been a relatively average year till this. Fingers crossed now we’ve got six or seven events left till we put the clubs down at Christmas, so hopefully we can push on a bit from this.”

In the Team Championship participants teams are reduced to 20 for the final round. A pair’s score is calculated as the lower of the professional and their amateur’s net score at each hole.

Danaher and Hoey finished on 36 under par. This equalised their scorecard with Australian cricketer Shane Warne and professional Ryan Fox, but Danaher and Hoey won the day on countback.

Danaher’s victory meant she became the first female player to win the Team Championship. After her victory she was ecstatic.

“It is absolutely amazing to win this competition, in such an exciting finish, and I am especially happy for Michael [Hoey]. He is an absolute rock, he’s fantastic.”

Willett’s victory saw him take home $782,928 in prize money, while Hoey received $50,000 for winning the Team Championship as the professional. A total pot of $5 million was up for grabs across both competitions.

Hoey later commented on the vast pot of money resting on the success of his final putt. He said, “I knew there was a bit of money on my last putt on the 18th, but I was trying not to think about that.

“It was probably four feet, but the wind was picking up and if you don’t strike it solid, it can easily go off-line. I’m glad I made a good stroke, but it was more about the team as well. I didn’t want to let Maeve down on that final hole because I knew we had a chance to win it.”

The sporting fixture is also renowned for bringing many high-profile celebrities to St Andrews to play in the Team Championship. Among these this year were Jamie Redknapp, former Liverpool-and-England footballer, Ronan Keating, Irish singer, and journalist Piers Morgan.

The latter made headlines for the wrong reasons ‒ slicing a ball into the Old Course Hotel while teeing off on the 17th hole. Brushing off the poor shot in a typically brusque way, Morgan joked, “That could make the front pages tomorrow that one,” before adding, “I think that was [Room] 406 or 408, wasn’t it?”

Special guests at the Championship, which has taken place in St Andrews since 2001, were treated to a Gala dinner on the final night at which Keane frontman Tom Chaplin and Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford performed.

The night before had seen a huge fireworks display light up the St Andrews skyline.

The Old Course is due to host the 150th Open Championship in July next year.


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