The old adage that a dog is man’s best friend was never more evident than last Saturday afternoon on Stornoway golf course. Golfers generally make every effort to avoid hitting innocent bystanders, runners, walkers, animals and birds in the Castle Grounds. That often entails a lengthy wait until no one is within range. “Within range” can cover an area that includes adjacent fairways and even extends some distance behind the golfer.
One group of competitors in the weekend medal competition reached the Redan tee to discover that a dog owner and pet had taken up residence on the steps around 100 yards directly in front of the tee. Signals to indicate that they intended to play in that direction had no effect and, after considerable delay, the three golfers agreed that they could safely hit over the man and his dog. The first two players sent their tee shots soaring up the fairway; neither man nor dog flinched.
The last to play, John “Shillegan” Gillies stepped onto the tee and took a couple of practice swings. Almost immediately, the dog sprang into life. Those familiar with “Lassie” films would have recognised the warning bark that, roughly translated, means “Let’s get right out of here. Now!” Fortunately, the dog owner also recognised the significance of the barking and both man and dog raced off along the path without once looking back.
Had they taken a backwards glance, they would have realised that they were never in any danger, as “Shillegan” had taken the precaution of hitting the ball so high that all three golfers lost sight of it for about thirty seconds. However, there is no doubt that the dog was astute: four tee shots later, “Shillegan” sent the ball screaming over two hundred yards, following the contours of the fairway and never more than five feet above the ground.
On a more serious note, “Shillegan” was one of a number of multiple trophy winners at the annual prize-giving held last week. Alongside Cal Robertson and David Black, he collected more than his fair share of silverware. The only pity is that there were not more members there to see it. They would also have seen Steven Bryden pick up the award for the most improved golfer this year and Adam Longdon winning the Junior Club Championship trophy. And they would have seen Norrie “Tomsh” Macdonald bring a touch of class to the occasion – if it is possible for a Rubhach to bring a touch of class to any occasion – by appearing fully kitted out in a tuxedo.
On the course, the weekend October Medal was won by Donald Macsween. Donald has found a level of consistency in the past month and this round was as steady as he could hope for, with the exception of the easiest hole on the course. Having negotiated every other hole with aplomb and even maintaining his nerve to finish with a par, his triple bogey on the Caberfeidh is a bitter pill to swallow. Nevertheless, a round of nett 63 is superb under any circumstances and Donald now begins the Winter League by contributing two fewer strokes for handicap than anticipated by his partner.
There has been a trend amongst new members to struggle in the three rounds required for establishing their first handicap. Having secured a handicap, they immediately defy logic by faring better in competition than in practice rounds. The latest example is Andy Murray, who was issued with his first handicap last week. One day later, he posted a nett 64 to take second place in his first competitive outing. His round included three birdies, on the Manor, Memorial and Cup, and showed plenty of evidence that his new handicap of 20 may still be too high.
Andy’s Winter League team mate, David MacMillan, will have his first handicap award in time for next weekend’s Autumn Medal and it would be no surprise to see David emulate his partner’s debut performance.
Third place in the competition was taken by Liam Mcgeoghegan, whose round of nett 65 owes a great deal to an excellent start culminating in a birdie on the Heather. It would be remiss not to mention Chris “Tex” Graham, who continued his excellent run of form with a nett 66 for fourth position. His eclectic score over the past month is gross 65, which gives some indication of the high standard Chris is playing to at the moment.
It is sad to record the passing of a long-standing member of Stornoway Golf Club, John Douglas Macintosh, at the age of 88 years. Douglas was a true gentleman, full of wit and charm, and still playing competitive golf until a couple of years ago. Douglas was part of a generation of golfers that developed and modernised both the golf course and club facilities in Stornoway, where he was a member for over forty years. Current members are greatly indebted to Douglas and his colleagues for the legacy of an excellent course and clubhouse. Condolences go to his family; he will be sorely missed.