It could have been the week of his life for one Stornoway golfer. Pete Middleton was only two small letters away from marrying an heir to the throne; but in life, as in golf, it is often the small things that make all the difference. That explains why, instead of attending the Royal Wedding rehearsal at Westminster Abbey last Wednesday, this Middleton was trudging round Stornoway golf course in misty rain with Marten James and John R Gillies: pleasant enough company but not exactly royalty. There was to be no fairy-tale ending for Pete. Perhaps he was distracted by thoughts of what might have been had his parents named him after his grandmother rather than his grandfather.
The pattern of recent weeks continued in the midweek stableford competition, with Kevin “Lava” Macleod producing yet another outstanding performance. On this occasion, he improved on his impressive form by making three birdies in his first five holes, on the Manor, Ard Choille and Heather. He reached the halfway stage only one over par but had the good sense to run up a 7 on his final hole to prevent a nett score of under 60. His 42 stableford points was easily the best score of the night and his on course antics of late attracted an additional handicap cut. Kevin will now be playing off 15.
Anyone who browses the internet looking at golf clubs will have seen the review sections, where supposed purchasers extol the virtues of the clubs and generally finish with the ludicrous claim that their new purchase has helped reduce their handicap by 5 strokes in a fortnight. Now the ridiculous has become reality, with Kevin taking only eight days to achieve a similar feat.
Second place in the midweek event went to Cal Robertson with 39 points. His round burst into life with a birdie on the Memorial, which heralded a purple patch of four birdies in seven holes. Having taken four rounds this year to secure a total of four birdies, adding another four in his next round is probably a sign that Cal is right back to his best form of last season.
The glorious weather of late has attracted large fields in all competitions and the Lewis Cup was no exception, with seventy golfers participating last weekend. In amongst all those finding it difficult to cope with conditions more reminiscent of midsummer than the end of April, there were some excellent returns. Three competitors carded nett 65 for a share of fourth place.
Iain Macritchie apparently took on the guise of son Colin for at least part of his round as he found himself in uncharted territory at one under par after six holes; and still only one over at the halfway point. His mask slipped a little on the back nine but this was the second excellent performance of the season for Iain.
Donald John Smith put his disappointing early season form behind him, although there was little sign of that prospect until he picked up a birdie on the Short. A solid inward half gave him his best score for some time.
Richard Galloway is now replicating the form that propelled him and partner Cal Robertson to a share of the Winter League title. Birdies on the Glen and Ditch were the highlights of his round of nett 65.
Cal Robertson was one stroke better on nett 64, taking fourth spot with a superb round that nevertheless left him contemplating what might have been. Cal was two under par after fifteen holes, courtesy of birdies on the Heather, Ranol and Caberfeidh, but three dropped shots on the final three holes cost him victory.
Runner up was Kevin Macrae, with his best performance of the season. There were only two bogeys on a card that also had birdies on the Manor, Heather, Short and Whins for a gross total of 66 (nett 63). With a level par inward half, it would take something special to beat this total.
The Lewis Cup winner was indeed special, having been selected as the chosen one in the Stornoway Gazette a few days earlier. Norman L Macdonald confirmed his status with a round that included consecutive birdies on the Caberfeidh and Miller for the winning score of nett 63.
The startling accuracy of predictions in these golf notes has led to a number of the more desperate golfers in Stornoway offering money to be named in the crystal ball section. That is utterly contemptible because these predictions can never be influenced by such grubby dealings and, in any case, a tenner is not nearly enough to guarantee a mention. However, it is clear that some golfers have already explored every possible avenue for improvement and are still playing at least five shots above their handicap. In the spirit of charity, therefore, the golfer predicted to have success in the very near future is John R Gillies. To ease the crushing disappointment of last week, a mention must also be made of Pete Middleton. Had the world been a less cruel place, Pete would now be both Duchess of Cambridge and Countess of Strathearn.
Donna Young has no need of help from crystal balls. Her two wins last week, in the Medal and Health Board Trophy competitions, have had the combined effect of reducing her handicap by two strokes. Two consecutive cuts in handicap are almost unheard of in the Ladies Section and it is of great credit to Donna that she held her nerve to make par on her final hole last Saturday, securing a nett 64 to follow her midweek nett 65.
Two more upcoming events are now open for entry. The County Championship venue this year is Harris, where not only will the cream of Western Isles golfers compete for the scratch trophy but there are very generous rewards in the handicap section. Towards the end of this month is the annual visit to Ullapool Golf Club for a tie that is almost always as thrilling as the journey.
The first Monday in May is traditionally the date for a match between Stornoway and Harris Golf Clubs and is often blessed with beautiful weather. This year continued that tradition and, with the result always a secondary consideration, it was yet another thoroughly enjoyable occasion.