The 2011 US Masters tournament will live long in the memory of those who watched the dramatic finale unfold as half a dozen players jostled for the lead over the last nine holes. The abiding memories will be the contrasting fortunes of Charl Schwarzel and Rory McIlroy. Schwarzel displayed the steely nerve of the champion as he birdied each of the final four holes on his way to victory. McIlroy, who had led the competition for 63 of the 72 holes, tumbled out of contention, having discovered that he was unable to replicate the form of the previous three days of competition.
Club golfers throughout the world can empathise in some measure with McIlroy’s demoralising final round. The inability to play to the same level on each occasion we visit the course has long been one of the frustrations of the game; but it is also part of its appeal.
James Hood is the latest Stornoway golfer to experience that frustration. His soggy scorecard from the first summer competition shows that he was already eight over par after five holes when he decided that continuing in the atrocious weather conditions was senseless. Three days later, the contrast could hardly have been more glaring. The day was calm and relatively warm and, as the early morning fog rose from the course, James completed a solid round to take the Healthworkers Charity Trophy with an impressive nett 61. With a handicap of 23, James will look on four consecutive pars on the back nine, starting at the Ranol, as the highlight of his round.
Norman L Macdonald, newly returned from displaying his golfing banditry on the Algarve, had the nerve to continue in the same vein at home where his nett 63 was enough to earn second place. In fact, that was not quite the whole story. Norman began his round in erratic style and reached the turn in 50 blows. Instead of throwing in the towel at this stage and retiring to watch the Grand National in the comfort of the clubhouse, Norman experienced an inexplicable change in fortune that saw him complete the back nine in 38 strokes, finishing with four pars on the last six holes. The argument over whether or not he is worthy of a 25 handicap is now academic, as Norman will be playing off 23 this week.
Two other competitors also returned nett 63, edged out of runner up spot by Norman’s inspired inward half. Coincidentally, both golfers were continuing their excellent form from the Winter League. Gordon Kennedy took third place with a round where – like many other rounds on the day – the disappointment of the opening nine holes was redeemed by an inward half that made nonsense of handicaps.
As had been the case in the latter stages of the Winter League, Richard Galloway had another steady round of eleven pars and seven bogeys. Most of us would gladly play every round like Richard and return a card without birdies if it meant that the dispiriting double and triple bogeys were also absent.
Thirteen of the weekend field of around seventy broke par, a statistic that was in stark contrast to the midweek competition that opened the summer season. Incessant rain restricted the numbers completing the Caledonian Medal competition intact to single figures. Of those, one display stood out from all others. Neil Morrison somehow splashed his way around a sodden course to post a score of nett 67, the only return below par. He reached the halfway stage in only two over par, having played in the worst of the monsoon conditions. Once the weather eased slightly, Neil found it more difficult to adapt but his eventual score was astonishing in the circumstances. Incidentally, Neil was unable to repeat his performance in the calm conditions of the weekend. Neil is clearly more comfortable playing in wild and wet weather and so can look forward to a continuing reduction in handicap this summer.
Runner up in the midweek competition was Martyn Macleod, who followed up his nett 70 with an even more impressive nett 65 last Saturday.
The Ladies competitions commenced last weekend with the Cancer Relief stableford event. Mary Joyce won the competition by one point from Liz Carmichael. The Juniors also began their summer season with Adam Longdon winning their first medal competition.
There have been excellent numbers entering the matchplay competitions that will be contested throughout the summer. Draws for these competitions have now been made and the dates set for the completion of each round. To ensure that the competition runs smoothly, it is important that ties are played within the specified timescale. Pat Aird, one of the match and handicap officials with the unenviable responsibility for enforcing competition rules, has been spotted recently wandering around the clubhouse with a hammer. Fortunately, that has more to do with renovation work than the enthusiastic use of his powers, but it would be advisable not to try his patience.