Former England batsman Kevin Pietersen. Photo: Action Images / Andrew Boyers

FIFE, Scotland - The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is not only about the top professionals trading birdies for $5-million in prize-money; it’s also very much to do with the celebrities, business big wigs and leading sportsmen and women from other walks of life coming together for a celebration of links golf.

Jamie Dornan and Irish heartthrob Ronan Keating are here, presumably for the benefit of the fairer sex and, yes, us guys couldn’t help taking a peak at Kelly Rohrbach, the American actress and model, best known for her role as CJ Parker in Baywatch and as the 2015 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition cover.

Come to think of it, she doesn’t look that bad in her golfing gear either. And her golf’s hot, too.

And talking of golf, a pre-tournament “big match” for the amateurs on Tuesday was between the man in charge, Johann Rupert, and his Joburg stockbroker partner Rurik Gobel - a pretty mean operator with club in hand - up against Kevin Pietersen and Allan Stanton, the South African who’s a big noise with Gulfstream Aerospace.

It turned into a fiercely contested clash and they come to the last hole at St Andrews, the short par-4, all square. Rupert, Gobel and ‘KP” all made two-putt pars but Stanton, an eight handicap, hit his wedge close and then rolled in an eight-footer for birdie, a personal return of 73, a 1-up victory and a big hug from ‘KP”.

“Great golf guys,” conceded Mr Rupert (everybody calls him Mr Rupert), “but, Stanton, you’ve just ruined your week! You simply can’t play off eight and shoot 73, so I’m cutting your handicap.”

And, bad news for Stanton, what Mr Rupert says, goes. Gobel, incidentally, breezed round in three-under-par 69. He’s a member of the Gauteng senior provincial team and wouldn’t look out of place alongside the pros.

The ancient Royal Burgh of St Andrews, the Home of Golf is, meanwhile, as captivating as ever. Tuesday was a gorgeous, mild, autumn day with the rosy-cheeked students from St Andrews University doing their shopping on the buzzing High Street. 

Good rains have made the golf courses - all nine of them - looking green and ever-so inviting. And the retired policeman who drove me in one of the Dunhill cars the 80km from Edinburgh Airport to St Andrews gave me a bit of a running commentary about Scottish history as we passed through the beautiful countryside.

“There’s Loch Leven and right in the middle of it, on that island, is the castle where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned for three years,” he said. “Now they even make Mary Queen of Scots beer in the area, and talking of beer, why don’t you go local today and try a St Andrews Brewing Corporation Oatmeal Stout and a Scotch pie for lunch?”

I took his advice and, yes, it was delicious. Friendly people, these St Andrews folk. And, gosh, they really do love their golf. Roll on tomorrow and the start of the tournament proper.

The Star

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