On the eve of the Millennium Open past Champion golfers will be granted the Freedom of Links by the St Andrews Links Trust. In a special ceremony the Chairman of the Trust, Mr Bill Ritchie, will present a hand-made embossed certificate and silver bag tag to each of the past Open Champions – from Sam Snead, winner in 1946, to the defending champion, Paul Lawrie. This will take place on Wednesday 19 July between 5pm and 6pm outside the Royal & Ancient Golf Club after the golfers have played four holes on the Old Course.
Freedom of the Links entitles the holder to play any of the six links courses at St Andrews. The most celebrated are the 600-year-old Old Course, the New Course, laid out by Old Tom Morris in 1895, and the Jubilee Course, which opened with 12 holes in 1897 and is now a tough championship course.
Freedom of the Links has been granted only on special occasions in the history of the Links. The first recipient was Reverend Harcourt Just who received it in the 1940s for his services to St Andrews Links. There were three awards in 1974 – Neil Mackenzie, Town Clerk, and Bill Duncan, Buildings Surveyor, for their contribution to the creation of the Links Act, and Gordon Adam, the first chairman of the Links Management Committee. The only person to receive it for golfing achievement is Alex Soutar, a St Andrean who was the Scottish Boys’ Champion in 1962.
The suggestion to honour past Champions at the Millennium Open came from Madras College teacher, Keith McCartney, who is a keen golf historian. The Trustees welcomed the idea, as Chairman of the Links Trust, Bill Ritchie, explained:
“This is such an important year for St Andrews Links that the Trustees felt it was appropriate to commemorate it by honouring past Open Champions in this way. To have them here together at St Andrews is a unique and historic event, and the Trust is delighted to make these presentations to these great golfers.”