AUGUST - THE MONTH FOR ISLAND GOLF
Hardly had I fled the country in mid-July than the weather improved dramatically at home. My understandable disappointment was tempered by winning the award for the best nett score by a visitor in the Senior Golf Association of Northern Portugal Amateur Open Championship at Estela Golf Club. Somehow, they managed to engrave all of that onto a rather impressive little trophy, which made the daily photographs of a sun-drenched Hebrides a touch less painful.
There are photographs too of the awards ceremony but they are not reproduced here; in the pre-tournament excitement on the morning of the competition, I mistakenly put on a pair of my wife's shorts and, unfortunately, was still wearing them when the prizes were presented. Having spent much of the summer season hacking around the course in Stornoway without success, there is a temptation to try wearing my wife's shorts here. Just in case that makes the difference.
There was plenty happening in the islands during my absence. David Black held off an impressive Cal Robertson to win the Western Isles Amateur Golf Championship. David has not only reached a zero handicap but is moving into uncharted territory in the islands by closing in on a plus handicap.
Lewis Mackenzie and Jan Maclennan won the One Day Open competitions that signalled the end of another excellent Golf Week. Alastair Henderson posted an outstanding gross level par round to win the Ken MacDonald Millennium Trophy with nett 62.
This month is awash with championship golf throughout the islands. This weekend the place to be is Scarista for the Isle of Harris Open, where the winners will be presented with Harris Tweed Jackets to rival the iconic Green Jackets of Augusta, the former definitely made from better cloth. The following weekend sees the opening rounds of the Club Championship in Stornoway, while South Uist is the destination at the end of August for the Askernish Open weekend.
The final qualifying round for the Caledonian Medal was held last Wednesday. Norrie "Onions" Macdonald and Donald DJ Macleod shared both the lowest gross score of the day (71) and nett 66, to take third and fourth places respectively. DJ birdied the Manor, Redan and Short in a level par outward half, while Norrie notched birdies on the Dardanelles, Caberfeidh and Cup in a one under par inward half.
Ken Galloway had only played five competitive rounds this year, but his sixth had all the hallmarks of a career of quality play. Three over par after five holes, Ken dug in to complete the remainder of his round in level par, thanks in part to birdies on the Redan and Short. His nett 63 looked good enough to win the competition for a long time but Stuart Campbell had other ideas and Ken had to settle for the runner-up spot.
Stuart was among the last to tee off and began his round with an impressive birdie on the opening hole. He reached the halfway point two over par and a birdie on the Whins helped towards a similar total on the inward half. His nett 62 brought Stuart his second victory of the season.
Last Saturday, the early starters in the battle for the Glennie Trophy had to cope with a slow-moving downpour but, as the day progressed, the weather improved and ended in blue skies and sunshine with very little wind. Amongst those caught in the rain was Cal Robertson; if that had any effect, it was positive. Cal eagled the Manor and made par on the other eight holes of an outstanding outward half. An uncharacteristic double bogey on the Dardanelles was eased by a birdie on the Cup and a flurry of par holes that gave Cal a gross 67, one under par. In the stableford format of the competition, Cal's 40 points took him comfortably clear of the field and gave him possession of probably the most unique trophy in Stornoway Golf Club.
Allan "Biddley" Macleod will look back fondly on July as the month when he seemed to put his early season woes behind him. The improvement continued at the weekend, with successive birdies on the Caberfeidh and Miller contributing to a gross score of five over par and 38 points. That was enough for second place and Allan is now edging closer to returning to his opening handicap allowance this year.
Pat Aird was the best of half a dozen players with 36 points and eased himself into third spot.