For all the years that I have covered a golf event under the Dunhill banner at St Andrews, I have never actually come across Johann Rupert in the flesh, so to speak. In fairness, he was always a busy man during the week of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, both on and off the course, and has a great team running the media side of things on his behalf.
Thanks to the head of that operation, I managed to get an interview with Rupert last week after it emerged this year’s event had been called off and what a treat it was to chat to the chairman of Richemont, Dunhill’s parent company.
He told me that he doesn’t agree to many interviews but had wanted to do this one because, in his words, I understood that the decision had been taken due to complexities of an event that involves lots of “moving parts” and, of course, is held at three different venues.
Disappointing as it may be, it is the right call and, believe me, Rupert, inset, was speaking from the heart when he said: “I love St Andrews too much to endanger it”. From start to finish, there was no hiding his passion for the event and the Fife town, where he is already looking forward to holding court at a delayed 20th anniversary next autumn.
Through the Dunhill Links, Rupert has been able to help promising young Scottish amateurs by spending time out in South Africa over the past decade, during which time they have landed some big wins.
“We spoke to Scottish Golf and suggested to them that in the winter months they could come out to and have great practice facilities,” he said before adding with a hearty laugh “Of course, I didn’t realise they would take on so quickly out there that they would start beating us like a drunk!”
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