The fallout from the snow and ice, which brought golf in Stornoway to a standstill for the past fortnight, continues to rumble on. Golfers who were trapped in their homes for two long weekends were incensed when they learned that their Greens Convener spent his free time happily ripping up the course in Harris. Instead of shovelling snow from the Stornoway fairways, he took his Head Greenkeeper to Scarista and shamelessly told anyone willing to listen of his pride in their “first-class performance”. Meanwhile, Stornoway golf course was left unattended as hundreds of winter sports enthusiasts took advantage of the lack of security and raced across the course at speeds unmatched since the last time Boozy threw in the towel on the Heather tee.
Those golfers who turned up at the course each Saturday in the hope that, unlike the rest of the country, a rapid local thaw may have cleared the Castle Grounds were doubly disappointed. The course remained under a blanket of thick snow. Even worse, where they would have naturally anticipated seeing the greenkeeping staff, possibly assisted by their families, busily clearing fairways and greens, there was hardly a footprint in the snow. The least that could have been expected was the sight of Cal Robertson bouncing around the course in a tractor frightening the children.
Whether the beleaguered Greens Convener can remain in his post is a question for another day. At the moment, he apparently has the confidence of the Club Captain, although the general feeling amongst club members was that if he and the Head Greenkeeper had the effrontery to appear last Saturday and win the competition, a lynch mob was a distinct possibility.
Fortunately, the thaw came in time to allow golf last weekend. The Ken MacDonald & Co TeXmas Scramble was eventually completed at the second attempt. Eighty competitors were not just an indication of the attraction of the Scramble: most participants would have turned out for a putting competition simply to experience the thrill of hitting a ball with a club again.
The texas scramble format of four players having to contribute three tee shots each over the course of twelve holes may allow a leisurely start to the round with plenty of options. However, the realisation that few holes are left brings on nervous tension – often manifesting itself as blind panic – as individual team members try to ensure that it is someone else who is the trembling figure standing alone on the last tee.
The competition itself was played in perfect conditions and that was reflected in the scoring, with only one team finishing over par. Two teams tied for second place on nett 35.5.
The team setting the pace in the morning was that of Dave Gilmour, Alastair Henderson, Sharath Shetty and Andrew Sim. They birdied three of their first five holes and picked up another two consecutive birdies on the return leg at the Heather/Redan and Gunsite. Their gross 38 was matched in the afternoon by Ken Galloway, Bryan Geddes, Colin Macritchie and Dave Rattray. Colin’s tee shot on the Heather/Redan set up a rare eagle and a birdie on the next hole took them to three under par after three holes. That was how they remained until two birdies in their last three holes, on the Whins and Miller, brought them within a whisker of the outright lead.
The eventual winners were David Black, Richard Galloway, Euan Morrison and Cal Robertson. They began in blistering fashion, with birdies on their opening two holes, the Heather/Redan and Gunsite. After a brief respite of two pars, the following four holes were birdied. That was enough to win the Ken MacDonald & Co trophy, as they consolidated their position with four straight pars to finish on gross 37, the lowest score of the day. Their handicap of 2.4 took them to an unassailable nett 34.6.
On a more sombre note, the Club flag was flown at half mast last week as a mark of respect for George Hampton, Professional and Greenkeeper at Stornoway Golf Club from 1968 to 1975. George died in Inverness on December 8 after a long period of ill-health. Good humour and patience are characteristics that are essential requirements for coaching in all sports and George had both traits in abundance. He was an excellent tutor and coach for golfers of all ages and will be remembered for his smooth and effortless swing, his sharp wit and a constant smile.
George came to Stornoway from Burntisland in Fife and left to become Professional and Greenkeeper at Fortrose Golf Club before moving on to a similar position at Pitlochry Golf Club. In his retirement, George made his home in Inverness, where his oldest son Neil was involved in golf management at Loch Ness Golf Club (Castle Heather). Neil has continued the family association with golf, recently taking up a new post as General Manager at Royal Dornoch Golf Club.
Many Stornoway members owe a debt to George for his influence on their golf and their sympathies, and the condolences of all club members, go out to George's widow, Mary, and his three sons: Neil, Graham, and Lewis.