There was a welcome development in the latest round of the Car Hire Hebrides Winter League: any team scoring under par collected points. It may have been that another mild Saturday produced a little more wind to contend with than in previous rounds or, more probably, that the excesses of Friday Christmas lunches and a festive night out took their toll on a number of promising partnerships.
Spare a thought for at least one pairing that posted a level par total, missing out on two points by a single stroke. Fresh from the stage after another starring role in pantomime, Dave Rattray played exceptionally well, exemplified by a long, straight drive on his final hole, the Caberfeidh. Dave was seen examining a ball on the fairway, clearly stunned that it was indeed his. That was followed by a glorious approach shot to within two feet of the hole. A birdie looked certain as Dave crouched over his miniature putter to finish the round in style. Oh yes, he did. Oh no he didn't, unfortunately.
Like many others before him (and many others after him), Dave is left to rue a missed opportunity on the final hole. The fact that Dave probably played the lengthened Caberfeidh from tee to green better than anyone else on the day will soon be forgotten while the last few inches will long be remembered, particularly by his partner, Ken MacDonald.
Teams on four under par and better shared the serious points. Four pairings posted nett 40 and earned nine points apiece for their efforts.
Unlike the other three partnerships, George Macleod and George Mould had the distinction of playing in the morning and, oddly, being the only one of the four teams not to have a handicap allowance of six strokes. The two Georges began with a double bogey and, despite an immediate recovery, dropped shots on the final two holes of the outward half. At that stage, picking up any points must have seemed wishful thinking but the inward half was a different proposition. Only one shot was dropped, on the Heather, in an otherwise solid par display, as the two Georges picked up points for the first time in over a month.
It was also a case of the first points for some time for Ken Galloway and John R Gillies. Ken has struggled recently with a knee problem but his performance last weekend gave little indication of how little golf he has played in months. Ken hit nine greens in regulation in a round that had ten par holes and two bogeys. It has to be said that John R put in an occasional appearance, generally with a putter.
Willie Macaulay and Donald "Sweeney" Macsween made a double bogey on their second hole, the Glen, but a birdie on the Short helped their recovery to one over par at the halfway point. The inward half had only one dropped shot, on the Ranol, as Willie and Sweeney tried to pressurise the overall Winter League leaders.
Commencing their round on the Castle, Pat Aird and Arthur Macintosh soon found themselves two over par, with bogeys on the opening hole and the Miller. A third bogey, on the Foresters, left them with a mountain to climb on the inward half. That was made even more difficult when they bogeyed the Glen but back to back birdies on the Gunsite and Short pushed them up into a share of the runner-up spot.
Norrie "Tomsh" Macdonald was keen to explain that the winning score of nett 37, seven under par, was not as impressive as it looks. According to Norrie, he played six good holes and his partner, Murdo Maclennan, played six good holes. Fortunately for the pair, their good holes did not overlap. Five par holes and a birdie on the Short made for an excellent outward half. The return journey was a little more of a roller coaster, with two bogeys offset by birdies on the Manor and Miller. Their efforts brought the reward of the maximum fifteen points and a team that was languishing at the bottom of the Winter League is now in seventh spot in the overall table.
Iain Morrison and Andrew Reeves have been pushed back into joint third position on 32 points with Iain Macleod and Norman L Macdonald. Willie Macaulay and Donald "Sweeney" Macsween have moved up into second spot on 36 points, eight adrift of the league leaders, Michael and David Black.