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Standing together – a week to remember

At precisely 1.15 pm on the third day of the 20th Anniversary Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, a horn blared out and all the hustle, bustle and excitement of a premier sports event came to an abrupt halt on three golf courses – the Old Course St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns

The world of golf stood shoulder to shoulder – professionals, amateurs, caddies, officials, marshals, scorers and spectators – for one minute’s silence to remember the victims of the covid-19 pandemic in Scotland and around the world.

In everyone’s thoughts were those who lost their lives, families who lost loved ones and the many whose lives have been changed forever. The moment also paid tribute to the many thousands of health care workers who made so many personal sacrifices

It was a stark reminder of the backdrop against which the 2021 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship took place and reflected the massive effort of co-operation and team work which allowed this hugely popular international event to go ahead.

The Scottish Government, Richemont (the parent company of Alfred Dunhill), the European Tour, event manager IMG, plus a state-of-the-art medical team collaborated to ensure the safety of participants, officials and spectators. During the week, over 2,000 covid tests were administered.

And how that effort was worth it, as one of Scotland’s most loved and most international sports events delivered a classic.

The champagne corks popped as Danny Willett celebrated his 34th birthday with one of the biggest wins of his career. The former Masters and Alfred Dunhill Team champion shot a final day 68 on the Old Course for an 18-under-par total to win by two.

Danny, for whom it was his eighth European Tour victory, said: “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. It’s lovely. It’s a big one.”

Ireland’s Maeve Danaher made history, becoming the first female player to win the Team Championship, playing with former professional champion Michael Hoey. Maeve, a left-hander who putts right-handed, is from the Republic of Ireland, while Michael, the 2011 Alfred Dunhill Links winner, is from Northern Ireland.

Among the amateurs teeing up this year were enough rock stars to form a top band - Ronan Keating, Huey Lewis, Tom Chaplin, David Farrell, Tico Torres from Bon Jovi and Brad Simpson from The Vamps - plus Hollywood legend Andy Garcia and Peter Jones from TV’s Dragons Den.

There was a strong sporting contingent including cricketers Lord Ian Botham, Joe Root, Michael Vaughan, Darren Gough and Shane Warne, former world heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko, footballers Ruud Gullit, Andriy Shevchenko and Jamie Redknapp, seven-time snooker world champion Stephen Hendry, racing great Sir Tony (A.P.) McCoy and rowing legend Sir Steve Redgrave, who has played in all 20 Alfred Dunhill Links Championships.

The professional line-up included European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington, three of his players, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Shane Lowry, and vice-captains Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer. They were joined in an emotional appearance by Javier Ballesteros, son of the great Seve Ballesteros, who died ten years ago this year.

It all came together as an amazing spectacle, matched by the annual fireworks on the Saturday night - a magnet for families in St Andrews, for whom the Championship has a very special place in the life of the community.

It was a week we will all remember!