Feeling under par is generally believed to be an indication of health problems. By contrast, in the bizarre world of golf, being under par is a positively good thing. Being considerably under par is an excellent position to be in. Unfortunately, being under par in the Winter League is really a good thing only when everyone else is over par. The calm conditions of last weekend contributed to some excellent scoring and, consequently, all but 8 of the 44 teams participating managed to break the par of 45.
The result of the low scoring was that those teams that battled their way round the course for nett 43 did not pick up any scoring points Two weeks ago, nett 42 was rewarded with 8 scoring points; last weekend, those who posted the same score collected a paltry, solitary point for their efforts.
The lowest score last Saturday was the nett 39 achieved by no fewer than five teams for ten scoring points apiece. Mick Butterworth and Ian McLaren have been restricted to appearance points only in their first season competing together in the Winter League and so they still had the benefit of a healthy handicap of 11. Bogeys on their opening two holes were followed by four straight pars for a promising halfway total. They held their nerve to finish with two pars, the last on the Cup/Foresters, to kick-start their campaign.
Duncan Maclean and Donnie Murray are another pairing without scoring points this season and, like Mick and Ian, had been protecting a double figure handicap – the sort of handicap that is becoming an endangered species at this stage of the competition. Duncan and Donnie made an excellent start to their round, with pars on four of their first five holes. A double bogey on the dreaded Cup/Foresters threatened to derail their challenge but, instead, it was immediately followed by a birdie on the Ard Chiolle. Pars on the Ranol and Short Caberfeidh to finish gave them a share of the lead without making a dent in their handicap.
Peter Dickie and Stewart Macdonald have been making leisurely progress through this year’s competition and Saturday gave them a useful points boost. A bogey on the Redan was the only blot on their scorecard after five holes and that was soon rectified by a birdie on the Cup/Foresters. Despite a bogey on the following hole, the rest of their round was completed in level par.
Peter and Murdo O’Brien have had to overcome the usual obstacles that face teams in their first season of Winter League. Not least amongst those for this team is that, on many Saturday afternoons, Peter has had to struggle with the worry over how many goals Aberdeen FC would have conceded by the time he finished his round. The recent improvement in fortune for Aberdeen was mirrored in the performance of the O’Briens last weekend. Solid pars on their first five holes were followed by a birdie on the Cup/Foresters for a one under par total at the halfway point. If that start spurred them to thoughts of a winning round, what followed justified their optimism. A par on the Ard Choille and consecutive birdies on the Glen, Heather and Memorial made for a remarkable scorecard, with no less that seven 3s for a gross 42. However, even a score like that was not the best gross return of the day.
Colin Macritchie and Bryan Geddes have the potential to birdie every hole on the course and, given the benign weather at the weekend, would have set off full of hope. By their own high standards, the opening six holes were uneventful. With a handicap of only one stroke, five pars and a birdie on the Memorial are unlikely to bring maximum points. A par on the Miller was followed by back to back birdies on the Ditch and Redan. The same pattern was then repeated with a par on the Gunsite and birdies to finish on both the Short Dardanelles and Cup/Foresters for a superb gross total of 40.
The glut of teams securing ten scoring points altered positions at the top of the overall league table. The leaders are now Murdo and Peter O’Brien on 54 points, two points clear of their closest challengers. Ali Maclennan and Neil Macleod picked up 6 points last Saturday and that was enough to lift them to joint second place with former leaders Sharath Shetty and Andrew Sim. David Black and Euan Morrison slip to fourth place on 51 points, with Alistair and Allan Macleod a further shot adrift.
If his experience during the week were any guide, Allan Macleod would have had the added handicap last Saturday of being unsure which of the three golfers playing alongside him was his partner. A day visit by a business associate meant an early morning trip to Stornoway Airport for Allan and he duly met the visitor, loaded his baggage and drove him into Stornoway. As he lifted his colleague’s luggage from the boot of his car, Allan remarked, “That’s a lot of gear for a day trip, John”. His passenger looked at him quizzically: “My name’s not John, it’s Willie. And I’m not here for a day, I’m here for a month. And who are you?”
Whether or not Allan charged a fare remains unknown, but possibly the shortest ever career as a taxi operator ended with Allan racing back to the airport to pick up the abandoned “John”.
This weekend, the Winter League passes the halfway point and, in the aftermath of Friday’s Burns Supper, there will be more than the usual mayhem on the course. To avoid any confusion for Allan Macleod, his partner this weekend is named Alistair and bears a striking resemblance to the Head Greenkeeper.