Golfers in the Western Isles learn early how to adapt their game to cope with the wind. Apparently, island golfers have developed a distinctive stance: feet planted firmly apart and body hunched over to lower the centre of gravity.
Coping with rain is something else entirely. The incessant rain of last Saturday and the squally showers in midweek tested the resolve of even the most ardent golfers. For those with low handicaps, the prospect of dropping shots simply because the club is too wet to hold properly was reason enough to stay indoors. For the rest, knowing that within a few minutes of commencing the round, hands, feet and clothing would be sodden was a thought too depressing for most. As a result, the weekend competition attracted a field of only forty.
The usual suspects were out, of course. Kevin "Lava" Macleod, James Hood and Cal Robertson all had respectable rounds given the conditions. However, there were some surprises in the leading positions. No one would have been more surprised than Duncan Maclean had he been told at the halfway point that he would finish up in third place. Out in 49 blows, Duncan recovered with a solid back nine that included a birdie on the Ranol. His nett 67 was enough to secure third spot on a day when only three competitors broke par.
Pat Aird suffers from the usual ailments associated with those who spend too much of their working lives operating pneumatic drills. Unfortunately, weak backs, dodgy wrists and arthritic hands are a massive disadvantage when playing golf. The fact that Pat chose a day like Saturday for his first competition in a month suggests that pneumatic drilling also affects the brain.
Like most competitors, Pat struggled in the early part of the round before recovering to equal his best score of the season and his nett 66 led the field for most of the day. He was to be nudged into second spot by the final round of the day.
The winner was David Black, who completed his round in near darkness with rain once again teeming down. A birdie on the Manor was sandwiched between bogeys on his first and third holes. The omens for a good score were absent at that point, as David's handicap of 3 means that each bogey is one too many. Instead of buckling, David went on a run of seven consecutive pars before achieving an unlikely feat in the tough conditions with a birdie on the Dardanelles. That was followed immediately by a birdie on the Ranol and, by the time he sank his last putt, David had played the final fifteen holes in one under par. His nett 65 won the Jackson Medal qualifying competition and, of more importance to David, took his handicap below 3 once again.
Mary Joyce was the bedraggled winner of the Ladies Quaich, ahead of Liz Carmichael on a day when the rest of the ladies section decided to stay indoors which, in the good old days, was where they spent most of their time.
The atrocious conditions were not confined to the weekend. In the midweek stableford competition, similar weather again reduced the field and saw only one competitor break par.
John Sommerville and Ken Galloway took third and fourth places respectively with 34 points. Two points ahead was Pete Middleton, resplendent in shorts on a day when thermals were required. Pete amassed twenty points in his outward half before his legs began to dissolve. He stuck at the task and his 36 point total was just enough for a cut in handicap, with the competition scratch score rising to 69.
The winner of the Centenary Medal qualifying competition was James Hood, whose performance this season is beginning to rival that of Kevin "Lava". James has reduced his handicap by four strokes in the first two months of this season, and has won both the Healthworkers Charity Trophy and the Trades Cup in that period.
The entry form for the Island Games Texas Scramble is now available and the generous handicap allowance should make it an entertaining competition. The Island Games Golf Team is comprised entirely of Stornoway golfers and every effort should be made to support them. If past experience is any guide, the Scramble will be followed by a superb evening with excellent prizes on offer.