The three teams leading the Car Hire Hebrides Winter League competition failed to register scoring points last weekend. That may be some consolation for the remaining teams but it is probably the only good news from the fourth round of the campaign.
In most competitions, sponsors are rewarded with extensive hospitality and rules may be bent to accommodate them. Not in Stornoway. John Cunningham of Car Hire Hebrides had to scramble around the course like everyone else and, when he and partner Scott Maciver posted a commendable nett 46, four under par, they were graciously awarded a single scoring point. Welcome to the nothing for something culture, John.
David Black and Iain “Boozy” Macdonald battled through twelve holes on an increasingly dreich afternoon to post a superb gross score of one under par. Their reward was a miserly four scoring points. That was enough to turn David’s mood black and tempt “Boozy” to live up to his name.
Three teams returned nett 44. All three were registering their first scoring points of the season and, although six points each seems scant return for their efforts, they will welcome anything at this stage in the competition. Jamie Duncan and George Macaskill played an impressive second half that included birdies on the Redan and Manor; Neil Rowlands had a similar experience, with birdies on the Heather and Memorial; and Alastair Henderson and Dave Gilmour equalled the lowest gross score of the day (48) in a near flawless round of ten pars and two birdies, on the Gunsite and Caber/Foresters.
The winning total was nett 43, a score achieved by no fewer than four teams. Consequently, the scoring points were reduced to eleven apiece.
James Maciver and Stuart Campbell are a new pairing, playing their first season of winter golf. It has taken a few weeks to acclimatise but, with a handicap of eleven and both striking the ball well off the tee, their weekend performance was ominous. There were no birdies on their card and nor was there any score worse than a bogey. That level of consistency bodes well for James and Stuart.
DJ and Donnie Macleod matched the lowest gross score of the day to pick up their first scoring points. Their card was also near perfect, with ten pars and birdies on the Manor and Caber/Foresters.
Pete Middleton is one of a number of golfers who have traded in a former partner for a new model this year and Iain Moir is certainly the kind of golfer who has the ability to excel in the Winter League format. After a level par outward half, there were birdies on the Heather, Memorial and Caber/Foresters, with a solitary bogey on the Ranol. Like DJ and Donnie, Pete and Iain posted both the lowest gross score and lowest nett score of the weekend.
That feat was also achieved by Alasdair Maclean and Willie Macaulay, lying fourth in the overall table and the only one of the leading teams to secure multiple points last Saturday. Their performance was even more remarkable because it began with a double bogey on the Castle and, for a team that has already suffered a handicap reduction, the odds against a recovery at that stage must have been somewhere in the range that proves irresistible to Norrie “Tomsh” Macdonald.
By the time they had reached the halfway point, Alasdair and Willie had picked up birdies on the Redan and Manor to return to level par. A birdie on the Glen followed before they picked up the obligatory birdie on their final hole, the Caber/Foresters.
Alasdair and Willie now move up to claim second position in the league table on 35 points, one adrift of leaders David Gray and Gordon Kennedy. Cal Robertson and Richard Galloway are in third place on 30 points and Andy Macdonald and Arthur Macintosh slip to fourth spot 28 points.
In the search for positive news, it is probably worth highlighting that, at this stage of the competition last year, the Johnson twins and the pairing of Bryan Geddes and Colin Macritchie had already amassed over 40 points each. Neither team went on to win the Winter League and so there is still hope for everyone, perhaps with the exception of Eric Anderson and Charlie Maclean, who are yet to make a Winter League appearance. Some participants have suggested that Charlie and Eric be reported as missing persons, but others argue that it would be advisable to wait for a couple of years - just to be certain.
Now that the initial glitches in the software have been resolved, it is possible to view the weekend Winter League results online within an hour of the last competitors completing their rounds. That level of efficiency is maintained principally because of the work put in by Dave Gilmour, Pat Aird and John A Macdonald. Their commitment should be recognised, particularly in a week when it took the state of Florida, with its myriad counting agents and multitude of computing programmes, four days to complete the count in the US Presidential election. Pat Aird, armed only with a pencil, some scraps of paper and three pairs of spectacles could teach them a thing or two.