The New Links event of 2018, held in partnership with Youth on Course, took place amid the best summer weather Scotland has enjoyed in over 25 years, with clear blue skies and warm temperatures an almost daily norm.
Brayden Johnk, 17, from California, said: “I had rain gear, rain gloves…an umbrella: I could’ve used it for the sun!”
The unusual conditions allowed the North Sea to stand in for the Pacific Ocean as Brayden and his colleagues enjoyed their first shot at surfing. “None of us had surfed before. Once I got out there, I actually successfully got up on my feet, once for 23 seconds. It was a really cool experience”.
However, in common with the rest of the group, it was golf that provided most of the week’s highlights.
Colorado School of Mines freshman Brayden particularly remembered a putt on the eighth green of the Old Course. “I missed it pretty far right with a seven iron. It was a right-to-left…a bender. I went up to it, hit it, saw it tracking and tracking, and then it dropped. I thought: Let’s go! I measured it to 70 feet. It was the longest putt I’ve ever hit”.
All told, the group played the Old Course, the New Course, the Jubilee Course, the Eden Course and the Balgove Course at St Andrews Links; The Duke’s Course; the Torrance Course at Fairmont St Andrews; and the hickory-only Kingarrock Course at Hill of Tarvit. They also toured the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and the British Golf Museum, and there was a very special Q and A with Frank Thomas and Valerie Melvin. Most evenings were spent in the company of local counterparts who showed them around the town.
Harrod Tang, 18, and about to start at UC Davis, said: “It has changed the way I see golf. Before this, I was playing golf because I liked it and it was fun. After Kingarrock and meeting Frank and Valerie I have more respect for it and I cherish it more”.
Harrod also commented on the overall experience of being in St Andrews. “It really starts with the people, though. You feel at home. A city is so fast you get disconnected. Here, you slow down and just focus on the moment”.
Elizabeth Scholtes agreed. “St Andrews isn’t necessarily a place, it’s the people. We fit right in. The people were very accepting and willing to help us. It was an experience of community”.
Elizabeth, 18, a plus one player who has signed up to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, loved her introduction to links golf. “I don’t feel I have another shot in the bag now! Links golf is a completely different game; it is so fun… and everybody here plays really, really fast. For me, a five-hour round is normal. Here I just went up to the ball and hit it. I can definitely use that later. I know I over-think things”.
Hayley Jang, 18, is about to enrol at Berklee College of Music, and she took the chance to play a Feurich piano at the University of St Andrews’ Music Centre. She chose to play pieces by Bach and Brahms and to improvise two passages on songs by Adele and Andra Day.
On Bach’s Toccata in E minor, BMV 914, Hayley said: “It is one of my favourite Bach pieces, it’s very different…it is so unique but it has all of the characteristics he’s known for”. The other selection was Brahms’ Rhapsody in G minor, Op.79 No.2. “It reminds me of a storm…there are lots of repetitions and triplets”.
Youth on Course chaperone Michael Lowe summed up the week. “We just enjoy and appreciate this opportunity. Our core purpose is creating life opportunities through golf. There is no better life experience than travel. For these students, to experience the Home of Golf, and live it, is a unique experience. In particular, the relationships formed with everyone here; friendships that will last a lifetime”.
New Links co-founder Kenny Wood expressed his thanks to all those who helped make the visit so successful. “I want to thank St Andrews Links Trust and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, David Scott at The Duke’s, especially for his inspirational talk to the group, Amy Yeates at Fairmont St Andrews, and Ross Wilson at Kingarrock for all they did to help us put together a fantastic golfing itinerary. Hannah Fleming at the British Golf Museum was a perfect guide to the incomparable history and traditions of golf in St Andrews. Beth Shotten director of International Admissions set up tours and meetings at the University. Our final thanks have to go to Guy and Jamie McKenzie of Blown Away and their team, who provided a fabulous day out on the West Sands and the North Sea. They teach Californians to surf!”
New Links is a St Andrews-based charity dedicated to helping young people achieve their potential through education, international travel and the game of golf. Around 160 young people from Scotland, Kenya, South Africa and the USA have participated in New Links activities since it was founded in 2006 and the organisation has also funded a four-year scholarship at the University of St Andrews.