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Friday, December 9, 2022
Memorable summer for NOTL native in Scotland

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – It’s the summer of a lifetime.

You love to play golf, are really good at it, and you get to live in a Scottish village at the historic home of golf.

And you’re working on a beautiful golf course, high on a ridge, with all of St. Andrews laid out before you.

For Niagara-on-the-Lake’s James Grigjanis-Meusel, nothing could be better.

He wasn’t sure what to expect when he saw an online job posting and applied last winter. The location, St. Andrews, caught his attention but he wasn’t sure if the course was part of the famous St. Andrews Links group. It isn’t. But it doesn’t matter.

Grigjanis-Meusel is a long way from home but he’s enjoying every minute of it, he says. The NOTL native grew up working at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club spread over almost a dozen seasons.

He’s 25 now and having spent four years at Johnson and Wales University in North Miami, Fla., taking off to Scotland this year seemed like a great next step along his journey. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he says, seated in the ornate lounge of his new employer.

Until September, he’s working with the club pros at The Duke’s, a beautiful “parkland-style” course high on a hill overlooking historic St. Andrews. Parkland courses are lush, North American-style layouts, rare in the land of links courses, known for their fescue and gorse and pot bunkers.

The Duke’s is owned by Kohler, the company better known for taps and plumbing products. Kohler also owns the Old Course Hotel, located along 17th fairway, the famous Road Hole, on the Old Course at St. Andrews Links.

The toughest thing to get used to this summer? Scotland’s notoriously fickle weather. By early July, almost two months into his odyssey, Grigjanis-Meusel is still trying to figure out the climate.

“I brought seven pairs of shorts with me for the summer and I haven’t worn any of them yet,” he says. Long pants, layers and wind or rain gear are mandatory. But especially layers.

He’s really been impressed with how dog-friendly Scotland is. Even many restaurants welcome canines, something that’s just not allowed back home.

And dogs often show up on golf courses, when people are playing.

“Everyone has dogs here, no one has leashes,” he says. That may be a bit on an exaggeration, but it is indicative of how widely accepted pets are.

On Sundays, the Old Course is closed to golfers as it becomes a public park, with hikers and picnickers and dogs cavorting all day.

“The dogs are so well-trained here,” he says.

The Jubilee, one of the St. Andrews Links-owned courses, is located beside the famous Old and New courses, and abuts the beach made famous in the Oscar-winning movie Chariots of Fire.

“When we played the Jubilee, someone was walking on the beach and they came up onto the golf course and they literally just had three dogs walking all around them. The dogs looked around but never moved away from their owner. It’s amazing.”

And it not just in St. Andrews, he says. “People take their dogs on trains and they just sit there. They’re so well-behaved.”

At The Duke’s people often bring their dogs along when they are golfing, even if they’re in a buggy (what we call power carts in North America). “They just take a tennis ball, chuck it out, the dog will go chase it, they’ll play their shot, the dog comes back.”

If he ever tried that with his dog at the NOTL Golf Club, “she would be chasing someone down on Queen Street or chasing a bird into Lake Ontario,” he says with a laugh.

He’s leaving his plans for the future a bit open-ended. Having a British passport helps open a lot of doors (his mom Dina is British, dad Heinz is of German ancestry). While his brother Matthias resides in Toronto, another sibling, Patrick, is living near Glasgow, so maybe some more travel is in the offing.

Meanwhile, he’s sure to stay in top shape with his 30-minute bike ride to work – uphill. At the end of the day, he looks forward to the cruise back to his flat, though. It’s a breezy downhill glide most of the way.

James golfing at Girvan, near Turnberry, while visiting his brother Patrick. In the background is Ailsa Craig. (Submitted)