IT'S WINTER ON THE GOLF COURSE
The curtain has come down at the end of a rather soggy summer season of golf in Lewis. As the old adage goes, it ain't over until the fat lady sings; to be a little more parochial, it is never over until David Black claims another piece of silver.
True to form, David bagged half dozen birdies in a sparkling level par round to win the Jackson Medal in the final competition of the year. And, just to ensure that the family name emphatically makes the headlines at the tail end of the season, the slightly older Black, Michael, led the field with lowest nett score of the day, a superb seven under par 61.
Lowering his handicap allowance by three strokes in his final three rounds of the season was perhaps not the best preparation for Winter League, but Michael and David still have a handicap over twelve holes that is three stokes higher than David's allowance over the full eighteen. Maths and logic in golf are confusing at the best of times and Winter League in a bleak October in Stornoway is most certainly not the best of times.
For a large proportion of golf club members, the stress of hanging onto a decent handicap has been lifted for six months but there is still plenty opportunity for public humiliation on the golf course. Fortunately, during the winter months, that prospect is tempered by having a partner on whom to rely or heap blame when the need arises. Two weeks into the campaign, some of us are already playing second fiddle to a shockingly high standard.
In a radical effort to prevent unnecessary damage to the course by hackers, each Winter League participant has been sold a small piece of carpet for use as a base when playing from the fairway. When you finish a round having used the carpet sample only twice, you have a pretty good idea of where you spend most of your time. Clearly, it isn't near a fairway.
Given that head-covers and, indeed, clubs, are regularly abandoned on the golf course, it comes as no surprise that in the opening round of Winter League, some golfers actually lost their little green carpet. Perhaps bright yellow might have been a more advisable colour but even that would not have helped those who seem destined to end every round with less equipment than at the outset. Local flooring stores can perhaps offer a new line in miniature matting; with prices starting at just £8.99 per square metre, laminate flooring with a piece of chewing gum to hold the ball in place, is also an attractive option.
The opening rounds of the winter season will be played on a course with a par of 49. Damp conditions and blustery wind on the first weekend did not prevent good scoring and a two under par total was required to earn just a solitary point. The winning total was nett 43, with two pairings picking up 14 points apiece. Pat Aird and Arthur Macintosh are perennial challengers but Scott Maciver and John Cunningham, of Winter League sponsors Car Hire Hebrides, will have to be reminded of the etiquette that sponsors should avoid winning the competitions they support. There is a feeling that it will require some effort on their part to avoid collecting points regularly.
Last weekend, the wind blew but, ahead of Hurricane Ophelia, mild and sunny conditions helped scoring. Once again, teams had to be below par to earn points and, as in the first round, the lowest score was nett 43 and was made by two pairings.
Tex Graham and Martyn Macleod reeled off five par holes and a bogey in their outward half. The inward half was a more adventurous affair; there was one more bogey but there were also birdies on the Avenue, Redan and Long Caberfeidh, as Tex and Martyn opened their account with 14 points.
Matching that total were Andy Macdonald and Neil Rowlands. Their outward half included five par holes and a birdie on the Cup. Birdies on the Heather and Long Caberfeidh helped towards the lowest gross score of the day, a three under par 45. With half a dozen points earned in the opening round, Andy and Neil have had their already meagre handicap cut in half after only two weeks of the campaign.
Third-placed Al "Greens" Macleod and Allan "Biddley" Macleod fell just short, with a nett 44 bringing them 9 points.