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Pietersen salutes camaraderie

ST ANDREWS, August 8, 2016 – Former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen has paid warm tribute to the enthusiasm with which the world’s top golfers embrace the amateur players in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

The Championship is unique for its team spirit and camaraderie and Pietersen, who played 104 Test matches and scored 8,181 runs for England, will be back at St Andrews in October to play in the event again.

He said: “It’s unique. You are allowed into the professionals’ arena and you are playing with them. It’s incredibly special. I understand what professionals are like when they are in the zone. I think it’s wonderful how they let amateurs like me into their space. If I was playing at Lord’s, the MCG or in Sydney, I wouldn’t want them batting alongside me.”

Many cricketers have competed in the event, which this year takes place from October 6-9, and Shane Warne and Ian Botham will also playing alongside Pietersen. Will there be keen competition between the cricketers?

“They are all mates. There is no rivalry between us during the week. Last year all the cricketers threw in £200 a head and the winner took the pot. That’s the nearest I get to competitive. I’m not competitive at all at golf,” said Pietersen.

“I only began to play seriously a couple of years ago, and now I love it. It challenges my mental space like cricket did. I’m off seven handicap now and I just want to become as good as I can get.”

The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is played over the Old Course, St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, which Pietersen says is his favourite course of the three.

“It’s beautiful, picturesque, and reminds me of The National in Australia. Of course everyone loves the atmosphere and the history of St Andrews, though I hope I do slightly better than I did on the Old Course last year.

“I was playing with Ernie Els against Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher in a practice round on the Wednesday, and on the 1st tee I was so nervous and shaking so much I couldn’t load my ball on to the tee peg. I almost had to get my caddy to do it for me. Fortunately I hit the fairway, though we ended up losing on the 17th.”

Last year he played with young English professional Eddie Pepperell in the Team Championship and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“It’s one of the very special sporting weeks of the year. I just enjoy being part of the event and playing there. This year I would like to contribute a little bit better to the team score, whoever I play with. Making the cut would be amazing,” added Pietersen.