For some, music has been running through their veins since the day they were born. In the world of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and former Eagle Don Felder, his guitar has been his form of expression for almost six decades.
But then something replaced his signature double-neck guitar – a set of golf clubs.
It was 2003 when Don, who plays off a 12 handicap, first visited Fife to take part in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship which is played over three links courses – the Old Course St Andrews, the Championship Course Carnoustie and Kingsbarns. Don was in the fourball with Lee Westwood, the eventual winner of the tournament.
Don recalls: “My favourite memory of this event was coming up on the ninth hole at Kingsbarns when Lee made an albatross.
“There’s a plaque there on the fairway to commemorate that shot and I’ve threatened many times to put up another one of my own reading: ‘Don Felder was standing right next to Lee Westwood when he made that famous albatross!’ But I’d probably get banished for life.”
And for this, his tenth tournament, it’s like Christmas, Thanksgiving and a family reunion all rolled into one for Don.
“This is the time of year that I really look forward to,” he said. “I love catching up with people that I’ve met over the years.
“Golf is my favourite pastime so it’s fantastic to get the opportunity to take part in the Dunhill Championship.”
And its not just the golf that brings Don to the region.
“I just adore Fife,” he continued. “The people are really friendly and such a delight to meet. And you can’t forget the scenery which is just out of this world.”
“The views right along the coast and out to sea are like nothing else that I’ve seen while on my travels as a musician.
“I try to get out and about as much as I can and see Fife. I’m always rambling about and it’s a great part of the world to be in. No matter what the weather, from glorious autumn sunshine to howling 50mph gales, it’s an amazing place to be. There is just something quite magical about the Kingdom.”
It was while recording The Eagles’ fifth studio album that Don’s love affair with golf began.
“It must have been 1976 and the band were in Miami laying down tracks for Hotel California.
“We had been stuck in the studio for hours on end often for days at a time – we were so pale we glowed! Finally Bill Szymczyk, our producer, said ‘we need to get out of here!’”
After an ill-fated deep-sea fishing trip lead to bouts of sea sickness, golf was suggested.
“It was just a silly idea and we were quite reluctant at first,” Don laughed. “But eventually we ventured outside – we were lucky we didn’t turn into piles of ash – and with a crate of beer tucked under our arm we headed to the nearby course and I just instantly fell in love with the game.”
And after the producer upped his game, Don decided it was time to take professional lessons.
“It was so funny,” he continued. “We all struggled at the beginning and then all of a sudden Bill is a pro! He’d been taking secret lessons.
“I decided I needed to take some of my own to keep up and now I love having a game in my spare time and I always take a set of clubs on the road with me.
“Recently, when I was on tour with Foreigner and Styx, we often played a few rounds of golf together – it got quite competitive after a while!”
Don arrives in Fife this week and sees it as a welcome break before getting back to his day job as a musician.
“I find golf relaxing and of all the places that I’ve played, the Old Course at St Andrews is my favourite,” he said.
“Every time I cross the bridge at the 18th hole, I feel the ghostly presence of hundreds of golfers who have walked before me.
“I‘ve been on stage in front of thousands of people armed only with my guitar and I don’t bat an eyelid, but give me a golf club and the nerves kick in.
“My first time playing at the tournament, I was petrified that I would hit somebody with a golf ball,” recalled Don. “I had visions of me standing over someone who I had just killed with my rogue ball being beamed out to millions on Sky Sports!”
Don is set to get back in the studio to start work on his next album after the tournament.
“I’m always writing songs and I’ve got a few tracks finished and hopefully the new CD will be out late next year or early 2017.
“But at the moment I’m focused on the upcoming Dunhill Championship – and my long-awaited trip to Fife.”
Stars lining up to take a swing
Joining Don at the 15th Alfred Dunhill Links Championship are England cricket legend Sir Ian Botham and five-time Olympic gold medal rower Sir Steve Redgrave, Ireland rugby star Brian O’Driscoll, footballers Michael Ballack, Johan Cruyff, Ruud Gullit and Luis Figo, Australian cricketer Shane Warne, World Cup skier Franz Klammer and Wimbledon hero Tim Henman.
In addition, stars of entertainment are heading to Fife, including Hugh Grant and Ronan Keating.
The championship takes place from October 1-4 and is committed to developing young amateur golfers in Scotland and South Africa.
The Foundation also supports the University of St Andrews and the St Andrews Pilgrim Foundation.
For more information visit AlfredDunhillLinks