St Andrews Links Trust marked the visit of the 144th Open Championship to the Home of Golf by presenting past Open Champions with the Freedom of the Links.
Ahead of the Champion Golfer’s Challenge, Chairman of Trustees Richard Muckhart and Chief Executive Euan Loudon presented 2010 St Andrews Champion Louis Oosthuizen, 2011 Royal St George’s Champion Darren Clarke and 2013 Muirfield Champion Phil Mickelson with the special award.
Freedom of the Links entitles the holder to play any of the seven links courses at the Home of Golf, including the world’s most famous Links, the Old 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 the Home of Golf. 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.
This year’s award follows in the vein of recent Open Championships when Trustees have elected to present it to Past Open Champions. Mr Muckhart said: “It is always a special occasion to host The Open at St Andrews Links and given the rich history between the Championship and the Links the Trustees felt it was appropriate to recognize the great champions who have lifted the Claret Jug since it’s last visit to the Home of Golf.
“To have Phil, Louis and Darren here together at St Andrews is fantastic, and the Trust is delighted to make these presentations to these great golfers.”
Louis Oosthuizen, who lifted the Claret Jug at the Old Course in 2010, said: “It’s always great to come to St Andrews, I have a lot of great memories here and to receive this is a great honour.”
2011 Champion Darren Clarke added: “This is a huge honour and privilege. St Andrews is a very special place, there really is no place like it.”
Phil Mickelson, who negotiated the Muirfield links in 2013 to claim his title, said: “I love coming to St Andrews and playing here. This is just an amazing place and I am delighted to receive the Freedom of the Links.”
2014 Open Champion Rory McIlroy, who is unfortunately absent from the 144th field due to injury, will be presented with the Freedom of the Links at a later date.
St Andrews Links Trust http://www.standrews.com