Without a win in Golspie since the Tarisgeir Trophy was crafted by Stornoway golfer Dennis Hall, the annual trip to Sutherland is now taken more in hope than expectation. A glut of golf trips in recent weeks resulted in a number of withdrawals and it was a rather lightweight Stornoway squad that gathered at the Ferry Terminal last Friday in the midst of an autumn gale. Bleak prospects became even bleaker with a four hour delay in departure until the worst of the storm had passed.
When the ferry eventually limped into Ullapool, the lengthy delay had unforeseen consequences. The company supplying a bus to Golspie had long standing contracts to honour and could no longer provide transport. While team captain Murdo O’Brien made frantic efforts to find a replacement, most of his squad happily repaired to a local hostelry to discuss tactics.
Some six hours after their scheduled arrival, and with an unexpected detour through an industrial estate courtesy of a navigational error thrown in as a bonus, bedraggled team members hauled themselves off the bus at Golspie Golf Club and almost immediately took their places on the tee.
It would be difficult to envisage a more disastrous preparation for golf and, when Murdo O’Brien lost out to Jimmy Yuill in the opening match, the contest appeared to be following its customary pattern. Another match was lost and the numbers began to stack up on the Golspie side of the scoreboard. Just as things seemed to be slipping away, wins for Richard Galloway, KJ “Choi” Macleod, Ali Maclean and Iain Mackenzie put the match back on an even keel.
In the gathering gloom, Kenny Macleod and John R Gillies emerged victorious to tilt the balance in favour of Stornoway and, with the final game halved, an unlikely win was secured. For the first time in a decade, the Tarisgeir Trophy is making the return journey across the Minch.
(Winning Stornoway team with the Trophy - missing is John Fraser)
The Golspie team was magnanimous in defeat and, as always, their hospitality impeccable. The club reserved places for the Stornoway team in a heavily subscribed charity competition on the following day and took every opportunity to ensure that the visit was a resounding success. This is a thriving club with excellent facilities, superb catering and a vibrant atmosphere. Above all, Golspie offers a challenging golfing experience and the condition of its greens matches anything that the more renowned mainland links courses have to offer. When the sun shines and the wind blows, as happened last weekend, the course is a stern test for even the most accomplished of golfers.
Victory celebrations are best left unreported, but they often reveal character traits that are otherwise hidden and equally baffling. It is almost incomprehensible that the small head on John Fraser’s shoulders can contain such an encyclopaedic knowledge of music and lyrics, together with a seemingly infinite archive of the kind of nonsense that is really only of any value on a night out. And no one could possibly have known that KJ “Choi” Macleod is a closet DJ: once he had elbowed his way into control of the sound system in the hotel bar, it would have required a fire crew with cutting equipment to dislodge him.
Before a veil is drawn over the trip, it is worth recording one lasting impression. It is the surreal image of the team hotel at 2am, with lights dimmed, a giant screen playing mercifully silent WWE SmackDown highlights, dance music pumping through the speaker system and DJ “Choi”, dressed from head to toe in golfing gear (and possibly still wearing his golf shoes), announcing: “I think what we need now is a little bit of KC and the Sunshine Band”. And at that point, the curtains will be drawn on a memorable mainland visit. Form an orderly queue for places on next year’s trip to Golspie.
Those who remained at home had the opportunity to compete for the Lifeboat Spoon and a healthy field of fifty entered. Kevin Macrae posted the lowest gross score of the day with 71, but his nett 68 was only good enough for fourth place overall.
Scott Macaulay knocked a stroke off his handicap with nett 68 for third place. Birdies on the Manor and Caberfeidh underlined a steady performance.
Pete Middleton continued his fine form from last month with another sub par round. His nett 67 had two birdies, on the Manor and Memorial, in an outward half that was only two over par. A triple bogey on the Ranol was the sole reason that he took runner up spot behind Arthur Macintosh, who also recorded nett 67.
Arthur eagled the Manor and birdied the Redan to reach the halfway point three over par. A further birdie on the Ditch helped him to a similar three over par on the inward half. His reward is the silver spoon that he missed out on at birth.
The ladies compete for the Lifeboat Spoon over the next two weeks, while the men have the last Jackson Medal qualifying competition and the final itself before the start of Winter League competition.