Golf is a game of contrasts. It is played over thousands of yards and yet its outcome is decided by inches. At first appearance, it is a physical challenge but it very quickly becomes a test of mental endurance. The sight of a ball launched 250 to 300 yards straight down a fairway brings a huge sense of satisfaction – or so we have been told – but it is what happens over the last few inches around the hole that makes the difference between winning and losing and ultimately what handicap we play under.
The last weekend of the CarHire Hebrides Winter League amply demonstrated the contrasts in the game and provided a nail-biting finish with the result in doubt until the last putt of the competition was sunk. That was because the last putt was holed by the team that won on the day. Eric Anderson and Charlie Maclean, playing together for only the second time this year, had no hope of winning the competition but they would have an influence on the final destination of the trophy, courtesy of an impressive nett 42. A steady round was punctuated by consecutive birdies on the Short and Manor and they finished on a high note, with 19 of their overall total of 21 points coming in the final fortnight of competition.
More than 60 points higher in the league table, the closest finish for years left the top five teams separated by only five points. Fifth place, on 82 points, went to Murdie Macdonald and Iain Macritchie. This was their best ever winter season together but they were unable to take full advantage of their late burst of 24 points picked up in the month of March.
Ken Galloway and John Macleod took fourth place on 85 points, an agonising two points short of the winning total. The two points were particularly agonising because both players missed the previous week of competition and consequently lost out on the two points regularly handed out for simply turning up to play. Nevertheless, they made every effort to bridge the gap with a superb final round. After a level par first half, including a birdie on the Gunsite, they came back in two under par, with birdies on the Cup/Foresters and Long Caberfeidh, posting a nett 48 and picking up 3 scoring points.
Sharath Shetty and Andrew Sim took top spot on the leaderboard from Ken and John in mid-November and ever since they have remained top of the pile, initially alone and latterly in company with David Black and Euan Morrison. Unfortunately, Andrew’s absence last weekend left Sharath with the hopeless task of trying to pick up points alone. That did indeed prove to be impossible and the pair slipped to third place on 86 points.
One point ahead, two teams tied for the title. David Black and Euan Morrison had to summon every ounce of determination to pick up the priceless scoring point that would take them clear of Sharath and Andrew. However, another outstanding round from Richard Galloway and Cal Robertson brought its reward of 3 scoring points, just enough to match the overall total posted by David and Euan.
The fine line separating the two teams from outright victory could be the short birdie putt that Euan and David contrived to miss on their penultimate hole. It could be that, after a blistering start that brought them three birdies in their first four holes, Cal and Richard simply could not sink the putt that would have given them another winning birdie. Any one of dozens of instances of putts hanging over the hole but staying above ground could be cited by those in contention throughout the course of the year.
Both teams deserve tremendous credit for maintaining their challenge and continuing to score points when playing under plus handicaps. As we move into summer, all four team members are demonstrating a level of performance that will undoubtedly bring cuts in handicap.
On that subject, it is worth reflecting on displays by some of those who will be representing the Western Isles at the World Island Games in a few short weeks. David Black already has a trophy under his belt, while Kevin Macrae, playing with Griddy Macleod, made five birdies in posting the lowest gross score of the day of 45. Even team captain Norrie Macdonald, with Murdo Maclennan, added his contribution in a scintillating round of three under par.
It is hoped that the successful CarHire Hebrides association with the Winter League will be continued later in the year but, between now and then, the 18-hole format is in operation. Summer competitions have already commenced and, this weekend, the men compete for one of the largest cups in the club, the Healthworkers Charity Trophy.
By this time next week, a great many hopes will already have been dashed, a few ambitions will be under reassessment, some swings will be undergoing radical surgery and some normally outgoing club members will have become quiet and withdrawn. On the other hand, someone somewhere will have played the round of his life and will waste no time in telling it in every detail. That’s another of the contrasts of golf. And it will also provide an example of the fine line between listening avidly to the story of someone’s incredible round and having a nervous breakdown.