Five-a-side? Dunhill Links plays host to the ultimate 'Golfing Footballers'

The 2019 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship gets underway tomorrow, featuring a talented quintet of ex-footballers.

The Old Course at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns are the proving grounds for celebrities and professionals alike over the next four days at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

A glance at the draw for this European Tour staple reveals a stacked professional field, including three of the world’s top ten golfers in Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm.

Amongst the amateur competitors, however, are a slate of accomplished sportsmen who have caught the golfing bug.

Five famous footballers will grace the links’ this week, boasting an eye-watering number of career goals, titles and awards between them.

Such is their pedigree, we’ve no doubt they’d combine as the ultimate ‘Golfing Footballers’ five-a-side squad.

Here are the ‘green-to-green’ playmakers to keep an eye out for this week:

Jamie Redknapp

Redknapp still counts his unique experience at the Dunhill Links in 2009 as one of his biggest sporting highs.

After making the cut alongside Luke Donald – who he will join again this year – he found himself playing in the final group with Donald, Rory McIlroy, and McIlroy’s father Gerry.

Speaking ahead of the 2017 tournament, Redknapp recounted his memories of that day:

He said: “Back in 2009, Luke and Rory were trying to win, so Gerry and I kept out of the way, but Luke was a real gentleman. Even if he hit a bad shot, he would come and give me some advice, about maybe the club I was taking.”

“It’s a great format and I think the pro’s enjoy it”, he summarised.

The former Liverpool midfielder is a member of Queenwood Golf Club in Surrey – a stone’s throw from Wentworth, where he played alongside his father Harry and Arsenal legend Ian Wright in last week’s BMW PGA pro-am.

Redknapp has previously partnered Justin Rose, Simon Kahn and Thomas Bjorn here, and his three handicap is amongst the best in the amateur field.

Ruud Gullit

As a single-figure golfer, Gullit’s penchant for the game is reflected in what will be his 16th appearance here in Scotland.

In 2018, the Dutchman teed it up with eventual runner-up Tyrell Hatton – who has won the professional tournament twice, courtesy of back-to-back wins in 2016 and 2017.

Gullit, a member of The International in Amsterdam, first experienced this event alongside Ryder Cup winners Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood.

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The former Ballon D’or winner has a fondness for all three courses in play this week, citing Carnoustie as the toughest challenge.

Gullit favours Kingsbarns for the scenery but for its history, St Andrews rules supreme.

He will play with compatriot Wil Besseling this week.

Vinnie Jones

Football’s best-known hard man is making his first appearance at the tournament this year.

Jones revealed in 2017 that he gave up drinking to concentrate on golf – his handicap subsequently plummeting from 18 down to 5.

Although not as low as he used to be, golf continues to take up plenty of his free time.

The former midfield enforcer counts the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles among his favourite courses abroad, with the Centurion Club in Hertfordshire a firm favourite in the U.K.

Jones will partner South African pro Justin Harding in his Dunhill debut.

Luis Figo

The legendary attacking-midfielder will partner Matthew Fitzpatrick in his fourth appearance at the Dunhill Links.

Figo joins Fitzpatrick a week after the Englishman hosted Cricket World Cup stars Ben Stokes, Joe Root and Jos Buttler at Wentworth.

Figo, who joined Real Madrid in 2000 for a then world record £37 million, is a member of two golf clubs in the Spanish capital – Encin and Moraleja.

He has stated that his greatest golfing memory was watching fellow-Spaniard Sergio Garcia win the 2017 Masters at Augusta.

Andriy Shevchenko

Ukraine’s record goalscorer is quite used to being around the professional game, having made his debut on the Challenge Tour in 2013 at the Kharkov Superior Cup.

Shevchenko scored 175 goals in 296 games for AC Milan, before moving to Chelsea alongside fellow golfer Michael Ballack.

Ballack, incidentally, won the Team Event here in 2015 with German pro Florian Fritsch.

The left-handed Shevchenko will partner Danish youngster Nicolai Hojgaard in this year’s iteration.

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