"Have you rooms?" The voice making the inquiry came from the
foyer of the bed and breakfast at 5 Pilmour Place. Within
seconds the frustrated supplicant emerged, to the smiles of
passersby. It wasn't his shorts and silk shirt that marked him
as a stranger, although they seemed odd in a town where wool is
king. No, it was the man's audacity in thinking he could find a
room in St. Andrews during Open week. "He can have a room on
Munday," said an old man on the sidewalk. "He win be havin' a
room befoor Munday."
That turnaway was typical last week as 35,000 spectators a day
flooded the "auld grey toon" of 15,000. An apology written on a
blackboard on the steps of the Dunvegan Hotel read, "Sorry, we
are not serving lunch today, as the bar is too busy to provide a
sensible service." Farther up North Street, at The Golf Shop of
St. Andrews, a sign taped to the door put it more bluntly: "If
you want to browse, go find a field! If you want the best prices
in brand-name golf equipment...."
One hastens to explain that these establishments were not in
some distant city center but so near the Old Course that roars
from the 1st- and 18th-hole grandstands caused shoppers to lift
their heads in speculation. A narrow lane of stores and private
clubs runs parallel to the final hole, affording passersby a
better view than paying spectators get at other championships.
Another principal street, The Scores, terminates at the Royal
and Ancient Golf Club and offers kaleidoscopic views of
fairways, tents, traffic and West Sands beach. Here comes Phil
Mickelson, clacking up Golf Place in his spikes. There goes John
Daly, pursued by autograph seekers as he strides up the hill
toward the Scores Hotel.
This splicing of town and golfing ground is nothing new. Opens
have been played at St. Andrews since 1873, and golf for three
or four centuries before that. There's no record, though, that
the ancient Picts, the original residents, played with sticks
and balls. In early Christendom the place was known as
Cennrighmonaid, and the headland to the east of what is now the
Old Course was an ecclesiastical precinct. The saint for whom
the town is named didn't enter the picture until the eighth
century, and he came piecemeal, so to speak, as a kneecap and a
few other bits of bone in a reliquary.
July 30, 1995
The town center consists of three commercial streets, which
connect the ruins of a once massive cathedral on the headland to
the golfing ground on the west. The ruins could serve as a
warning to those who would make a religion of golf and a shrine
of the Old Course. Native sons who make their names at one end
of town often wind up at the other end, under ponderous slabs of
chiseled stone. Last week the cathedral graveyard endured an
onslaught of tourists paying their respects to former Open
champions Old Tom and Young Tom Morris.
For many tradespeople Open week is not the cornucopia one might
expect. "The locals don't come shopping this week," said Stuart
Cairns, owner of A. Mackenzie & Son, Ironmongers, a hardware
store. At Spokes of St. Andrews, Craig Grieve reported mixed
results: "Bike hire goes mad, but nobody buys anything." Said
Anne Lightwood, a potter, "Actually it is rather irritating.
You can't go where you want to go, and all the prices go up."
Cairns, Grieve and Lightwood were quick to add that a week of
inconvenience every five years is a small price to pay for the
worldwide publicity generated by the Open. And some merchants
said they didn't have to wait for their reward. At Ancient
Heritage, an antiques shop on South Street, proprietor Andre
Gabriel bent over his drawing table and put the finishing
touches on the hand-painted family histories of a couple of "top
players," whom he declined to identify. (Colin Montgomerie?
Jumbo Ozaki?) Business also seemed brisk at the Baked Potato
Shop, where a sign invited Open participants to autograph the
unpainted wall. By Friday afternoon 15 names were scribbled on
the plaster, including those of Davis Love III, Jamie Spence,
Ben Hogan and dead rock star Jim Morrison. "We've had a few
hoaxsters," conceded a counterman, "but we'll wash those off and
keep the real ones."
Reading St. Andrews requires the same sort of discrimination.
When covered with clouds, as it is more days than not, the town
is indeed "auld and grey." One local artist, accustomed to whole
weeks when slate-gray skies and the sea blend into ancient
stonework, paints canvases that are literally shades of gray,
with horizons suggested more than expressed. But when the sun is
out, as it was last Friday and Saturday, the full palette of
colors emerges. Ruth Walker, one of the town's best-known
artists, chooses such times to set up her easel near the harbor
or the cathedral. "I think it's an open, outward-looking town
for such a wee place," she said last week in her house full of
porcelains, miniatures and paintings. "It's thought to be
toffee-nose, sort of snobbish, but I find a lot of warmth and
friendliness." The openness, Walker said, owed to the
centuries-old presence of St. Andrews University, whose
scarlet-gowned students outnumber golfers most of the year.
The most visible victims of Open week, it turned out, were the
St. Andrews caddies. Only a few of the locals had bags--out of
some 85 who normally work the Old Course. The others bided their
time at the Jigger Inn, the Niblick Lounge and the Dunvegan
pub--wizened old men, some of them, with red noses and
crosshatched skin. Tip Anderson, the most celebrated of the St.
Andrews caddies since he carried Arnold Palmer's bag in the 1960
Open, held court at the Dunvegan. "During the golf season this
is my establishment," he said, standing rigidly straight in the
manner of a man who sometimes has to worry about his balance.
"In the wintertime it's the Keys in Market Street."
The financial disadvantage to the local caddies was significant.
Allan Jones, who spent the week helping out at the Dunvegan, put
his loss at roughly L60 a day, based on two rounds daily at L20
each, plus an average tip of L10. The Tour caddies who displaced
the locals, of course, not only made more money than that, they
invaded the St. Andrews caddies' pubs as well, packing the rooms
so tightly that a man used to drinking his pint with a raised
elbow had to lap his lager with his arms pinned to his side.
"They have to accept it, but they don't like it," said Anderson,
referring to his out-of-work colleagues. "But there's only six
that's any good," he added with a shrug of dismissal. "Good
enough for the pros, that is. They're a' right for tourists."
Still, in some respects, life in St. Andrews seemed scarcely
touched by the Open. On Thursday afternoon the lawn bowlers made
their usual appearance in Kin-burn Park, and tourists nosed
around the exhibits in the St. Andrews Museum. On Market
Street, women with shopping baskets walked through sun showers
that were over before you could pop an umbrella. And in the most
emphatic disregard for the primacy of golf, a restored touring
car swept down Doubledyke Road with its backseat occupied by a
bride in billowing layers of white silk, satin and chiffon.
The motorcade, of course, was one car long. For the people of
Fife, the real marriage--between St. Andrews and golf--took place