It may be tempting fate, but it is worth noting that we are now at the tail end of January and have yet to lose a day’s play in the Car Hire Hebrides Winter League. Last weekend, while much of the country had a dusting of snow and temperatures well below freezing, Stornoway was basking in milder air. However, it has to be admitted, there was a biting wind chill factor that made the eyes water. Mercifully, there was no rain.
Despite the bitter wind, scores were so low that, once again, scoring points were awarded only to those teams returning totals of three under par or better.
Five teams tied on nett 41 for five scoring points. The frustration for those pairings is that, had one more missed putt dropped, they would have equalled the winning total and doubled their tally of scoring points. Of course, that is the nature of the competition and what makes every stroke vital.
Angus Mackay and Graham Morrison know exactly how frustrating the dropping of strokes can be. It has happened before and happened once more last Saturday. With a handicap of eleven, they can afford to drop a shot here and there with relatively little punishment. Having completed the opening half in just three over par, there was the prospect of a ludicrous score on the horizon. Standing on the last tee, Angus and Graham were only five over par, with six strokes of handicap left. A double bogey was a disappointing way to finish their round, particularly after such a solid performance.
Nevertheless, they shared the winning score, collected eleven scoring points and somehow managed to retain a handicap in double figures. Perhaps it was tactical; at least one of them is good at arithmetic and the other teaches mathematics.
John Gillies and John R Gillies reached the turn two over par and finished their round on the same total. Birdies on the Avenue and Goosey Eyes helped them to a level par inward half and their second successive nett 40. There was still space for an assortment of shanks, lost balls and penalty drops in the round, but they were not as prevalent as usual.
Al “Greens” Macleod and Allan “Biddley” Macleod were having a steady round until Al “Greens” rolled in a long birdie putt on the Manor to lift them to one under par at the turn. Back to back birdies on the Dardanelles and Ranol and another on the Goosey Eyes gave them an impressive gross total of 42. They may have equalled the lowest nett score of the day but, unfortunately for Al and Allan, they did not come close to the lowest gross score.
Griddy Macleod and Kevin Macrae have struggled over the past six weeks in adjusting to a plus handicap. In reality they need half a dozen birdies in each round to earn serious scoring points. They did exactly that last weekend.
Griddy and Kevin had a peerless start, with successive birdies on the Avenue, Castle and Dardanelles. Another birdie on the Short Caberfeidh took them to the halfway mark four under par. The inward half may not have been as dramatic but there were a further two birdies, on the Heather and Manor, for an outstanding gross round of 39. Griddy and Kevin now have to recharge the batteries to cope with a plus three handicap.
To give some indication of how difficult that challenge is, the predicament of one team of pacesetters in the competition provides a useful guide. Ken Galloway and George Mould have been treading water since late November, unable to collect scoring points since racing to the top of the leaderboard. Last Saturday, Ken and George suffered the ultimate ignominy, defeated by Dave Rattray – playing all on his own.
With three of the four teams winning last weekend’s round of the Winter League already in contention, their efforts have had a considerable impact on the overall league table. Griddy and Kevin have overtaken the previous leaders and are now established as the team to catch on 66 points. John and John R Gillies have picked up 26 points in the past fortnight and are now in second place, one point adrift of the leaders.
Ken Galloway and George Mould have slipped to third place, which they share with Bryan Geddes and Colin Macritchie, on 62 points.
There is also a tie for fifth position, with Al “Greens” and Allan Macleod joining Liam McGeoghegan and Robert Rankin on 61 points. One point behind are David Gray and Gordon Kennedy.
Jamie Duncan and George Macaskill have joined Murdo and Peter O’Brien on 59 points to share eighth place. Richard Galloway and Cal Robertson earned a vital five scoring points last weekend to climb into tenth spot on 56 points.
Since his partner’s enforced absence from Winter League participation over the past few weeks, there has been little good news emanating from Sandy Bruce’s direction. All that changed last Friday when Sandy, playing in a Seniors event, recorded a hole in one. It was the first ace that Sandy has had since joining Stornoway Golf Club.
Some have suggested that a Seniors round does not really count and that acing the Goosey Eyes is rather akin to shooting fish in a barrel, but none of those murmurs were aired when Sandy had to pay for the drinks in the Club afterwards. Congratulations to Sandy: by the law of averages, he will probably be very old when he next holes in one.
This Friday (25 January), the Club hosts its Burns Supper. Any remaining tickets can be reserved by contacting the Golf Club. Confirmed speakers are Donald John Smith, John R Gillies and Fiona Macdonald; it promises to be an entertaining evening.