This week’s AGM brings the club captaincy of Norrie ‘Tomsh’ Macdonald to an end. If the measure of Norrie’s success as Captain is the comparison between the condition of the Club at the start and close of his tenure, then he has been a remarkable figurehead. These are difficult times for all organisations dependent on volunteers, but Norrie has recruited, encouraged, cajoled and prompted a team with his boundless enthusiasm and commitment. Norrie, the epitome of modesty (off the course, certainly) would be reluctant to take any credit and would no doubt highlight the contribution of his team. That is true to an extent and two people in particular should be mentioned, even though their more familiar names, Boozy and Biddley, do little to inspire confidence.
Iain Macdonald has transformed the clubhouse setup and the marketing and organisation of social events to ensure that the club facilities are improved and adaptable. His management of the golf shop means that the club can now source almost any leisure and golf equipment at competitive prices. The result is that the financial foundation of the Club is now much more secure and the substantial costs of maintenance and enhancement of the course can be met without compromise.
As a devoted golfing enthusiast, Allan Macleod has made a huge contribution as Greens Convenor. His ability to source equipment and materials, added to his natural interest in the course, has been of great benefit to the greenkeeping staff and, consequently, to all those who play golf in Stornoway. The improved condition of the course in the face of two difficult winters is his legacy.
Norrie will be sorely missed as Captain but if the team he put in place can work together with fresh faces, the Club will continue to reap the benefits.
One of the perennial arguments surrounding the Winter League is whether or not there is any advantage to be gained by playing in the morning rather than the afternoon. Morning golfers regularly complain that they have to cope with the problems of frost and the fact that the weather seems to calm around midday.
However, those who golf in the afternoon are equally adamant that they have to adapt to the more arduous conditions. Very often, a clear calm morning will have lulled them into a false sense of security and they find themselves, mid-afternoon, battling through arctic conditions clad in summer shoes, flimsy top and trousers that have the wind resistance of a sieve.
To settle the argument, there is now conclusive proof that morning golfers have a distinct advantage when it comes to scoring points. In the overall league table, morning golfers occupy four of the top ten positions. While that statistic might possibly be used as evidence that morning golfers are disadvantaged, it has to be borne in mind that only around ten teams compete in the morning, while the other forty pairings play in the afternoon. The stark truth is that 40% of morning golfers are in the top ten, while only 15% of the afternoon competitors can match that figure. Any suggestion that morning golfers are simply better golfers can be discounted without the need for any evidence at all.
Allowance has to made for the fact that, judging by their recent performances, some of the afternoon partnerships appear to be trying to score badly. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that rising while it is still dark and, if appearances are any guide, dressing while it is still completely dark, and teeing off before daylight has properly arrived is a distinct advantage in winter.
Last Saturday provided a little more proof. Three of the five leading teams on the day had played in the morning.
The new course layout was challenging but to secure scoring points, teams had to post nett 43 or better. Of the seven teams that returned nett 43 for 3 points, it is probably worth mentioning Sandy Bruce and Eddie Mackenzie or, at the very least, just mentioning Eddie Mackenzie. Eddie has only recently returned from injury and his feelings have been hurt by the lack of recognition of the difference to his team that his appearances have made. Thirteen points from the past two weekends have sent the pair soaring to 32nd in the overall table. Steady, Eddie.
Two teams tied for fourth place on nett 42 for 8 scoring points each. Sharath Shetty and Andrew Sim led the competition for a number of weeks before absence and a handicap reduction of three strokes made life difficult. A birdie on their first hole, the Ard Choille, was followed by five straight pars for a useful opening half. On the return leg, bogeys on the Ranol and Foresters sandwiched a birdie on the Cup for a level par gross total. The only cloud on the horizon is a further handicap cut of two strokes.
Kevin Macrae had scored points playing on his own on the previous weekend but, with Griddy Macleod back in harness and the prospect of a family feud with opponents Murdo and Peter O’Brien, an even better performance was always likely last Saturday. A birdie on their opening hole was a good start and improved on by birdies on the Heather, Gunsite and Long Caberfeidh for a four under par outward half. The inward half was a more leisurely affair, with four pars and two bogeys for a gross total of 43, the lowest of the day and enough to guarantee a zero handicap on their next outing.
Three teams managed nett 40 to share first place and earned 12 points apiece. George Macleod and George Mould have clung to a handicap of 10 until now and so a level par first six holes - a superb performance by any standard – is even more impressive. The inward half was much more tense but the result was their best of the campaign so far.
Iain Mackenzie and Zebo Macleod more than doubled their scoring points tally with last weekend’s round. Zebo Macleod has had to transform his hands from the rough demands of offshore work to the more sensitive and intricate needs of the handloom. That has had a beneficial impact on his golf and his delicate game contributed to an excellent round that commenced with a birdie on the Ard Choille. The pair reached the turn two over par and held their game together for the remainder of the round.
Alistair Henderson and Dave Gilmour have threatened a good score on a number of occasions this winter and eventually managed to complete the job in some style. An opening birdie seems to have been a staple on a number of scorecards last weekend and Alistair and Dave obliged on the Ard Choille. They followed that with further birdies on the Heather and Short for a three under par halfway total. As is often the case, matching early exploits in the second half is a very demanding challenge but Alistair and Dave held on for a creditable one under par gross total.
The positions in the overall competition may not have changed much this week but at the top of the leaderboard things are becoming closer. David Black and Euan Morrison continue to set the pace with 72 points, but Sharath Shetty and Andrew Sim have taken over second spot, closing the gap to a mere six points. Three precious weekend points moved Al and Allan Macleod into third place on 61 points, a single point ahead of Murdo and Peter O’Brien. Alistair Maclennan and Neil Macleod are in fifth position on 58 points.