Nowhere is the arrival of summer golf more keenly awaited than down at Scarista where the intervention of the handicapper is desperately needed before things escalate out of control.
Last week seen wearing an impromptu ‘disguise’, if David Hunt plunders any more winnings before the end of January, he may have to go the full ‘Danny la Rue’ to avoid (improbably) detection.
From all reports he should have been in Hawaii.
From this one, not a hint of sour grapes.
“So, despite a plan being hatched to end the reign of tyranny, current Scottish International Kenny ‘Kuna” Morrison being drafted in to see what he could do, a touch of snow on the hills, a startlingly dazzling low sun and a shotgun ‘just in case’: nothing changed.
It was situation normal at Harris.
‘Kuna’ did his part, picking up a respectable 28 points and seeing off the younger Hunt (Simon, 24 Points).
Even the ‘Bold’ Fulton, who threw 30 points at the scorer in an effort to impress, was left dumbfounded. Having cast aside Simon, surely he was in with a decent shout?
Unfortunately father David ‘Turpin’ proved to be a tougher nut to crack, as he racked up 37 points with a gross score of 61(44) for top spot.
In the absence of any play at Stornoway this weekend, an opportunity has arisen to recap over the year gone by and decide on the ‘star turn’, the most notable achievement, the best round, all in my own humble opinion, of 2016.
The year began with the traditional ‘Hangover Trophies’.
Down at Scarista and , in what was to develop into a regularly recurring ‘theme’, Simon Hunt took the plaudits, beating father David into second place.
Yes folks, 2017 has a feeling of deja-vu already.
Simon hung on to the Hangover Trophy a fortnight ago.
Anyway. It’s back in Uig.
The portents at Stornoway, where Cal Robertson began the year with a win, despite being breathalysed by the police in the car park in an effort to upset his equilibrium, weren’t obvious at the time.
More of this later.
With the CarHire Hebrides Winter League reaching its’ halfway point, Darren Beattie & Neil Rowlands and Gordon Kennedy & David Gray held a 6 point lead over Norrie ‘Eggs’ MacKenzie & Roddy Martin.
Three months later and Norrie and Roddy had managed to bridge the gap to climb ahead of all but Donnie & D.J. MacLeod at the top of the table.
There is no format for a ‘shootout’, so with both pairings level on points, they shared the title.
June saw the first ‘majors’ of the season.
The Askernish Club Championship was won by Ron MacKinnon when he managed to edge defending champion Alan Louis MacDonald by just a single shot.
Five down with nine holes to play, and with weather conditions at best being classified as ‘horrendous’, he kept his calm as Alan faltered.
Ron continued his domination, winning no fewer than four consecutive competitions as July approached.
The Club Championship at Stornoway saw Cal Robertson win his first ‘major’ since the Western Isles Open in 2003 by completing four rounds in 277 blows (67,70,71,69) to edge out yet another defending champion, David Black (280).
Davie was consoled by winning the ‘Barber Trophy’, a shot ahead of Norrie ‘Onions’ MacDonald.
Down at Harris, Alan Gunn won his third ‘Faldo Fiver’.
In July, Askernish hosted Royal Melbourne golf club in what is hoped will become an irregular feature (I am available for the away leg), and the Western Isles Open saw Cal Robertson outscore a top-class field by no fewer than five shots to be the top qualifier for the knock-out stages.
Unfortunately for Cal, he failed to make the final where a resurgent David Black outclassed a plucky Bryan Geddes 3&2 to claim his fourth title in five years.
Somewhat annoyed at having being temporarily dislodged from his perch as top golfer in these islands, he emphasised his class (and continued domination) by winning the one-day open to complete a hugely successful week.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Western Isles County Championship was also added to his impressive portfolio after a play-off win against surprise challenger, Alasdair Henderson.
The Harris Senior Open , and ‘Game Still’ Trophy for over-60s, was won by Martin Flett with a round of 78. Iain MacRury took the handicap trophy by virtue of his 64.
David Black continued to do what David Black does.
He won the Thompson Bruce by no fewer than six shots following his second successive 65 (130).
His handicap was reduced to scratch (0.2) in the process.
The Harris Open, the ‘Jackets’ tournament, is the biggest (and best) event of the year by far at Scarista. If you aren’t booked for this August, I urge you to get in touch with the club now.
Last year the weather ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime.
The stableford competition on the Thursday was the happiest wash-out I’ve ever played in, then things improved dramatically.
In the Life Member’s Competition, Michael Clark (Royal Aberdeen, 73) pipped brother Francis (R.A.-76) into runner-up spot.
Pam Jack (Bellingham) took the ladies title.
In the ‘Open’ itself, Francis (70) gained sweet revenge, beating all-comers (including David Black, 71), to claim one of the best prizes in U.K. golf.
Ask anyone who regularly competes.
Margaret Woods (Sliversprings, USA) took the women’s event.
Down at Benbecula G.C., Willie J. Monk won their Club Championship after a close finish, decided by countback. Ray Balfour was the unlucky runner-up, although it has to be said that in ‘coming back’ in just 33 blows, W.J. surely deserved his title.
Down at Askernish, a strong visiting contingent from Stornoway were to the fore in the men’s competitions during their ‘Open’ weekend.
David ‘Spider’ MacLeod (Stornoway)won Friday night’s MacKenzie & Ebert Trophy for stableford scoring with an excellent 35 points.
Karen Ravenscroft (Old Ranfurly GC) took the ladies trophy.
In the biggest field for any golf ‘major’ in the Western Isles, 150 golfers regularly compete for the Askernish Open.
This is the toughest test of golf anywhere on the archipeligo.
One round, the toughest course we have, regularly the toughest weather.
Neil Rowlands, already a ‘major’ winner (and now a father of twins in the New Year...congratulations), added this predigious title, shooting an excellent 76 before many of the assembled throng had teed off.
Runner-up was course designer Martin Ebert (77).
Fiona McPhee won the ladies competition for the third year in a row with a fine 86.
Before the month was over, Kenny ‘Kuna’ Morrison from Scalpay, a member at Harris G.C. was selected to play for his country against the ‘auld enemy’ for the Scottish Disabled Golfers squad.
We also lost Len Wilson of Benbecula.
Not that he died, he just upgraded from Windows ‘98 and hasn’t been heard from since.
I may have to pay a visit.
As the final month, September, of ‘proper’ golf began, Neil Rowlands emphasised his credentials as one of the top golfers in the Hebrides, winning the Harris Club Championship yet again.
A second successive 74 (148) in hugely testing conditions saw off the nearest challenger by a distance.
Ron MacKinnon continued his excellent form, winning the Brandon Dunes Cup, and the end of season stableford, to cement his position as their ‘Player of the Year’.
At Stornoway , Cal Robertson edged out Davie Black to win the Jackson Medal and prove that he has what it takes to be in the mix, yet again, as the new season approaches.
So what are my conclusions?
Davie Black is the best player in the Western Isles.
Cal Robertson winning the Stornoway Club Championship was a stunning achievement and confirms his right to be in the same breath when talking about ‘favourites’ for 2017.
Ronnie MacKinnon will need a tractor and trailer to take home all his silverware following his brilliant year on the toughest course there is.
But for his win at Askernish, his continued dominance of the club championship at Harris, his selection for the Western Isles team to play in the Natwest Island games on Gotland this summer, and for becoming a father of twins (entirely unrelated, I know), I’ve chosen Neil Rowlands as my ‘Player of the Year’ for 2016.