What is an acceptable excuse for absence from the Winter League on a Saturday? Obviously, if you are the kind of sensible and rational person who is not a golfer or not playing golf in winter, no explanation is necessary. On the other hand, if you have a playing partner depending on you being around to help occasionally, it requires good reason to be missing when the Car Hire Hebrides Winter League gets underway every weekend.
As a general rule of thumb, any injury or illness that results in a visit to an A&E Department is sufficient ground for absence; something that can be treated at a minor injuries unit (some broken bones, bites, burns and scalds, etc) is not. Down in the depths of the sliding scale of unacceptable excuses, lying somewhere between having a hangover and washing your hair is, astonishingly, dog-sitting.
Of course there is a time and a place for dog-sitting but, if your Winter League partner is John Macleod, Saturday afternoon is not the time. There will be no naming and shaming in this instance but perfect attendance for the rest of the season will be expected to avoid the public humiliation of being outed as someone who clearly prefers playing with a dog to playing golf with John Macleod.
Those who did turn up last Saturday enjoyed a rare dry day, a light breeze and even a glimpse of sunshine. Once again, Andy Macdonald and Neil Rowlands set a blistering pace, finishing five under par. On the previous weekend, Neil and Andy equalled a Winter League record with a stunning seven under par gross total and shared first place. Last weekend, their nett total of one under par did not earn even one point.
Scoring was so low that nett 40, five under par, was only the third best total. Chris “Tex” Graham and Martyn Macleod birdied the Whins to reach the halfway point one under par. On the inward half, there were successive birdies on the Dardanelles/Ranol and Caberfeidh; Tex and Martyn shared third spot with David and Michael Black, each pairing earning nine points.
David and Michael birdied both hybrid holes, the Dardanelles/Ranol and Cup/Foresters, in an outward half of two under par. An inward half of six straight par holes helped them double their points total in the overall competition.
Donald “Sweeney” Macsween and Graham Morrison took second place and earned a dozen points courtesy of a nett 39. A birdie on the Short was the highlight of a round that opened their Winter League account in some style.
Colin Gilmour and John Morrison took maximum fifteen points with an outstanding nett 38. There was just the one birdie, on the Miller, but crucially, there were no bogeys in their winning round.
Colin and John have now moved into third position on 32 points in the overall Winter League table, two points ahead of fourth placed Paul Moorby and Robbie Ross.
Norrie “Tomsh” Macdonald and Murdo Maclennan did not score last weekend but retain their runner-up placing on 35 points.
The league leaders by ten clear points are Andy Macdonald and Neil Rowlands, whose level of play is so good at the moment that even a debilitating handicap of plus 4 does not preclude more points being earned on a course that is tailor-made for their accuracy.
The recent Stornoway Golf Club prize-giving underlined, if that were needed, just how much of an impact David Black has made this year, both in terms of trophies won and his feat of reaching scratch golf in mid-June and maintaining that to the end of the season. And all this achieved while preparing for his marriage in September; we certainly hope he was involved in the preparations.
Scottish Golf, the national governing body for amateur golf in Scotland, has released its annual statistical report, The Season in Numbers. The report makes interesting reading, particularly for those obsessed with golf and handicaps. Count me in.
The average handicap for males in Scotland is 14.9 and 24.6 for women. With a handicap of exactly 15.0, I can take comfort in being decidedly average, which really reflects the sum total of my golfing ambition.
In amongst all the figures, there is a mention for Stornoway junior Andrew Mackay. During the summer, Andrew reduced his handicap allowance from 26.4 to 11.8. That drop represented the second highest handicap reduction amongst males in the 211,000 registered golfers in the country, a truly remarkable achievement.