"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.
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 �60 a day, based on two rounds daily at �20 each, plus an average tip of �10. 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."