Even the most hardened of Winter League competitors would have felt a touch of sympathy for those teams turning up at dawn last Saturday to play golf. The temperature was -3° Celsius and the golf course lay covered in a blanket of hard white frost. Instead of golf, the game played was more akin to pinball. It was no surprise that only one of the morning pairings managed to break par. Neil Maciver and Chris Macleod deserve bonus points for somehow posting a nett 48 in the playing conditions they experienced. Their scorecard reflects the kind of rollercoaster round determined by the elements, with everything from a birdie to a triple bogey on their first six holes. The inward half was less erratic as they became more accustomed to putting on concrete.
By the time that the afternoon golfers had ambled over to the clubhouse, the course was a swathe of green and the temperature was around 10° milder. In fact, conditions were just about perfect for tackling the latest course layout. At this stage of the season, most teams will gratefully accept any advantage that comes their way. The news that almost all of the ten pairings competing in the morning had struggled to cope with the elements would have been an added incentive to those hoping to stroll round the course in the afternoon sunshine. In the event, it was no stroll.
Any course setup that has the Castle followed immediately by two par 5 holes is a testing challenge in even the most benign circumstances. Only ten of more than thirty teams playing in the afternoon were under par. The winning total was nett 46, with three teams collecting 12 scoring points apiece.
Jamie Duncan may have set off with the simple purpose of a relaxing warm up for his charity trek on the West Highland Way. His partner, George Macaskill, was even less ambitious, merely seeking welcome confirmation that he had regained the ability to walk following his recent trip to Glasgow. After a modest start on the three most difficult holes on the course, the pair settled and finished their round with five consecutive pars. The result more than doubled their scoring tally to date and set them the daunting target of repeating their performance on each of the next three weekends to win the Winter League. Simple.
Donald Macsween and Neil Morrison play under the additional offshore handicap, which means that they compete together on average, weather permitting, only twice a month. They completed their outward half in level par, courtesy of a birdie on the Manor. A double bogey on the Castle undermined their efforts, but making par on the following two holes restored a degree of confidence and they matched the winning total of nett 46.
Cal Roberston and Richard Galloway are the perfect example of the impact that scoring points regularly can have at this stage in the season. They collected 9 points on the previous weekend, which moved them to fifteenth in the overall table. Last Saturday, a birdie on the Ranol was the highlight of a round that saw each of the remaining eleven holes completed in par. That consistency brought them another 12 scoring points and catapulted them into sixth place in the league.
Five teams tied for fourth place on nett 47, each pairing picking up 6 points. Three of those teams were continuing good performances from the previous weekend. Norrie Mackenzie and Roddy Martin had another steady round to take their total points won in the past fortnight to 22. Ken MacDonald and Dave Rattray are close on their heels, having collected 19 points in the same period. Chris Kelso and Kenny Maclean built on last week’s solid round with an excellent first six holes, including birdies on the Ard Choille and Manor.
Arthur Macintosh put in another impressive solo performance, while Al ‘Greens’ Macleod and Allan Macleod recorded the lowest gross score of the day with an excellent level par round. It could have been better. Allan had a six foot putt for an eagle on the Manor but he should have been aware that the Curse of the Captain would ensure that the ball hit a spike mark and took a sharp left turn just as it seemed certain to drop. If the curse means that he will have to settle for birdies rather than eagles, Allan will be quite content.
The jockeying for position as the season draws to a close means that there are a number of changes on the leaderboard.
Sharath Shetty and Andrew Sim survived the Arctic wastes of morning golf to remain tied for the lead on 80 points with David Black and Euan Morrison. Ken Galloway and John Macleod maintained their challenge in third position, two points behind the leaders. Their weekend points have moved Al and Allan Macleod from sixth to fourth place and they are now on 75 points. Sandy Bruce and Eddie Mackenzie may have slipped a position to fifth place but the two scoring points they collected last Saturday have moved them closer to the current leaders on 72 points. One point behind, Richard Galloway and Cal Robertson have jumped into sixth spot, while Stephen Moar and David “Kiwi” Macleod complete the number of teams that have reached 70 points or more.