When the rugby team you follow trails by 40 points as the game reaches its last quarter, you may be excused for leaving the scene early. If your football team is 40 points adrift with only weeks remaining in the campaign, you would be forgiven for looking ahead to next year. Things are quite different in the world of golf.
The lower reaches of the Winter League are populated by teams that make few appearances during the winter, by pairings where only one partner plays regularly and by partnerships that gel like Jekyll and Hyde. Yet what they all have in common is the awareness that there is a mathematical possibility that they may still win the Winter League. For some, that will mean having to win on four of the five weekends left of the competition. They have been unable to muster much more than appearance points all winter. That is of no consequence.
These teams are filled with that same optimism that allows us to stand on the fifteenth tee in the midst of an atrocious round secure in the knowledge that it is nothing that cannot be resolved by a finish of an eagle and three birdies. By the time we reach the sixteenth tee, what is required has narrowed somewhat to an albatross and two eagles, otherwise known in Stornoway as three consecutive holes in one. From the millions upon millions, and possibly billions, of rounds of golf played since the invention of the game, we know of one recorded case of two consecutive aces. Even this will not dissuade us, with our double figure handicaps and vice like grip, from believing that we are on the verge of making history. Fourteen strokes later, with our playing partners looking in the opposite direction, we sheepishly tap in on the eighteenth green.
For some teams, the possibility of a Winter League miracle is already taking shape. Until six weeks ago, Sandy Bruce and Eddie Mackenzie were languishing somewhere close to the tail end of the field. By two weeks ago they had climbed to 23rd place. Last weekend, another excellent round catapulted them into the top ten. It may be stretching the truth to claim that other golfers want to be like Eddie and Sandy but there is certainly a host of teams that would like to emulate them.
Eddie and Sandy played their opening half in level par, with a bogey on the Dardanelles cancelling out a birdie on the Whins. The inward half saw a bogey on the Glen followed by a birdie on the Heather. Only a bogey on their last hole prevented a superb level par gross round. Instead, they settled for nett 40 and a share of second place.
Matching their score and collecting 11 points were Ken Galloway and John Macleod. Their campaign was derailed by months spent as a one man team but Ken and John have now resurrected their challenge. An early birdie on the Ranol helped them reach the turn in one under par. Three pars followed before birdies on two of their last three holes, the Gunsite and Long Caberfeidh, gave them a superb gross 42 total. If they found a handicap of two daunting, they may find having no handicap at all even more intimidating this weekend.
The winners by one stroke were Huw Lloyd and Marten James. The pair had a flying start and were two under par after three holes, courtesy of back to back birdies on the Ranol and Whins. They reached the turn in one under par and added a solid inward half with five pars and a bogey for a level par total. Like Ken and John, their weekend allowance will be a distant memory this Saturday as they try to compete with two fewer strokes of a handicap.
Five teams with nett rounds of 42 picked up six points apiece. Two performances in particular stand out. With nine pars and birdies on the Dardanelles, Foresters and Gunsite, Griddy Macleod and Kevin Macrae equalled the lowest gross score of the day. They could conceivably have shaved even more strokes off that total had several birdie putts not slid agonisingly past the cup on almost every other hole.
Sharath Shetty and Andrew Sim opened with a birdie on the Ard Choille and reached the turn in level par. An impressive return leg of four pars and two birdies, on the Ranol and Whins, gave them an excellent gross 43 total and points that proved priceless in the overall competition.
Sharath and Andrew have now reached 76 points and share the lead with David Black and Euan Morrison. Their weekend points have lifted Ken Galloway and John Macleod into third spot on 71 points. A further six points adrift, Al and Allan Macleod have now been caught by Murdo and Peter O’Brien, who picked up a precious scoring point to claim a share of fourth place. Stephen Moar and David ‘Kiwi’ Macleod also earned a scoring point last weekend but slip a place on 63 points, one point clear of Alistair Maclennan and Neil Macleod. Huw Lloyd and Marten James are in joint eighth position on 60 points alongside Arthur and Dougie Macintosh.