Why this red-backed hawk is one of the 2022 Open Championship’s heroes

Enya, right, has an important job this week at the Open Championship.

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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — You don’t need an alarm clock in St. Andrews. The early-morning squawking of seagulls will wake you. The birds are everywhere: on park benches in town, gliding over West Sands Beach and, yes, here at the Old Course, site of the 150th Open Championship.

Just not when Enya is around.

Enya is a red-backed hawk that is on site here this week with an important role: scaring off seagulls and other avian nuisances from nabbing fans’ lunches. It’s a real problem. Turn your back for a second or two in the areas around the course where food and ice-cream trucks are congregated and there’s a better-than-decent chance that a gull will swoop in for a nibble of your fish and chips.

“It’s been relatively quiet but that’s because she’s been on site since this morning,” Enya’s minder, Stuart Milne, told me Tuesday morning. He had a thick beard and even thicker Scottish accent. “If I was to go away and pop her back in the van for half an hour, the gulls would be back.”

Milne works for Elite Falconry, which as part of its pest-riddance services offers “the country’s very best birds of prey.” Last week, another of the company’s staffers — an Indian eagle owl with a six-foot wingspan named Sage — was here patrolling the Old Course and letting gulls and crows that they are not welcome. At least not during Open week. Another concern was that their droppings could muddy the playing field.

The gulls aren’t just a problem at the golf course. A couple of weeks ago, Linden Grigg, a student at St. Andrews University, wrote a column for a Scottish paper, The Courier and Evening Telegraph, with the alarming headline: “Are we going to let gulls wreck St. Andrews’ shot at Open glory?”

“These pests are large, single-minded, and dangerous,” Grigg wrote. “And as the student population increases here year-on-year, so does the size and boldness of the gulls. It is not uncommon now to see them pinching food from unsuspecting tourists and raiding any lidless bins they can find. They have become a serious public nuisance.”

Alas, not if Enya is about.

On Tuesday, as Enya rested on Milne’s left arm, her talons clasped to his hand — and with not a seagull in sight — I asked Milne if his hawk had an Open pick.
 
“I’m not sure she’s that into golf,” he said, laughing.
 
To be fair, she has more important things to worry about.

alan bastable

Alan Bastable

Golf.com Editor

As GOLF.com’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at GOLF.com, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.