There are golfers who take shelter when they see Dennis Hall lining up a golf shot. Experience has taught them that if the ball travels in the wrong direction, it is quite possible that the club will follow the same trajectory immediately afterwards. And being hit by a flying piece of steel is painful. How these golfers must have winced watching the Superbowl as Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back Rashard Meldenhall – perhaps even a distant relative of Dennis – ran at full speed into a camera man on the sidelines. The thought of being hit by a barrel weighing 16 stones and able to travel 40 metres in less than five seconds is enough to make the eyes water. On the other hand, the sight of a camera about the size of a small car rushing towards him probably had the same effect on the running back. In the event, the camera man appeared to suffer less injury than Meldenhall, who had to receive treatment and be consoled by his colleagues before he could continue. More or less the same as happens with Dennis.
The calm conditions of late January were abruptly interrupted last week and, as far as Winter League golf was concerned, the result was that scoring was made much more difficult. Two weeks ago, nett 41 would have been just enough for two points, but last Saturday the same total was the winning score.
Six teams posted nett 43 for a share of fourth place. The most notable of these returns was that of Kevin Macrae. Playing on his own, Kevin equalled the lowest score of the day with gross 44. His outward half included a birdie on the Memorial for one under par after six holes. The problems of playing solo were underlined by two bogeys on the inward half before birdies on his final holes, the Short Dardanelles and Cup/Foresters, brought him back into contention and, as a bonus, put some pressure on his partner to improve on that score this weekend.
Murdo and Magnus Johnson also returned nett 43. As previous winners and determined competitors, they can never be discounted in the Winter League. Their points haul helped them move up the overall table into seventh position and there will now be a little well-founded apprehension amongst those teams above them.
Stephen Moar and David ‘Kiwi’ Macleod took second place on the previous weekend two points short of the winning total. Last Saturday, they continued in the same good form, coming within a point of the top score but having to be content this time with third place. One bogey and five pars in their first six holes gave them a solid foundation and they completed the return leg in identical fashion for a nett 42 and 9 points. That result gave them a share of seventh spot in the overall competition with the Johnson twins.
Two teams achieved the winning total of nett 41 and collected 14 points apiece. For Donnie Murray and Duncan Maclean, their round was the proverbial game of two halves. With a handicap of ten to squander, the pair managed to leak five of those strokes between the Miller and Short Dardanelles. A par on the Cup/Foresters put them back on track. Their other half included birdies on the Ard Choille and Memorial and was completed in just one over par.
Last year’s winners discovered at least some of the form that had them tearing up the course and the opposition a year ago. Murdo Maclennan and Norrie ‘Tomsh’ Macdonald played alongside Kevin Macrae and matched his impressive gross score, although that seemed a tall order after a birdie on the Memorial was followed by a double bogey on the Ranol. However, two birdies in their last three holes, on the Short Gunsite and Cup/Foresters, took them under par for the round. It was a reminder that this year’s competition will not be completed without a surge from previous winners like Norrie and Murdo, the Johnson twins and Al and Allan Macleod, the latter pairing already sitting menacingly in third position in the league table.
The positions of the teams leading the overall competition remain largely unchanged this week. David Black and Euan Morrison continue to set the pace with 70 points, twelve points ahead of Murdo and Peter O’Brien. Sharing third spot on 56 points with Al and Allan Macleod are Alistair Maclennan and Neil Macleod and Sharath Shetty and Andrew Sim.
The course setup changes this week for the penultimate time this winter. With only eight weeks remaining until summer golf returns, rumour has it that some of the more challenging holes are being brought into play, with the principal aim of removing any lingering delusions amongst golfers that “this may be my year”. One piece of good news is that, following a course rating assessment last autumn by the sport’s governing body, the R & A, the standard scratch score remains at 67. There were fears that the length of the course might bring a reduction to 66 but, as everyone who plays at Stornoway will verify, what the course lacks in distance is more than compensated for by its difficulty.