Last weekend, the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart suffered torrential rain, electrical storms and landslides while, a relatively short distance away in Stornoway, Lewis Gold Week opened in calm conditions with not a drop of rain in sight. Between the smooth backswing of Al “Greens” Macleod at 6.30am and the mighty follow through of Dave Rattray at the tail end, almost 100 golfers participated in the two qualifying rounds of the Western Isles Open.
Generally, the tension of the event precludes low scoring but, with barely a breath of wind and on a course once again in superb condition, a quarter of the field managed to better par in the opening round. Cal Robertson produced the round of his life with a gross 64, four under par, to lead the scratch competition. Four birdies in his opening nine holes gave him a halfway total of three under par and a further two on the inward half put Cal four strokes ahead of his nearest challengers.
Griddy Macleod, on level par, gave another master class in his own exclusive brand of giddy golf. In his own inimitable fashion, he left his first par of the round until the eleventh hole, having picked up by six birdies and four bogeys on the preceding holes. There was still time for two more pars, with two birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey thrown in for good measure.
Kevin Macrae was also well-placed on level par after another steady round, with a bogey and double bogey compensated for by three birdies, including that rarest of the breed – a birdie on the opening hole.
In the handicap section, Neil Maciver played the last seven holes in one under par for a nett 62, taking a one stroke lead over Richard Galloway into the second round.
Despite all the nervous energy that the competition engenders, history tells us that any competitor playing close to his handicap in the Western Isles Open will qualify for the knock out stages of the scratch, handicap or senior sections of the event. This year was no different and by the time the field had completed 36 holes, most of the leading positions in the scratch competition were as expected.
As was the case last year, the leading qualifier in the scratch section was Kevin Macrae who matched his morning 68 with another in the afternoon. Kevin wins the Isles Construction Trophy for the best scratch score over the two rounds. Norrie “Onions” Macdonald bettered his morning round by four shots for a 67 and an aggregate total of 138, while David Black also posted a second round 67 for 139.
Cal Robertson won the Drambuie Salver for the best single round of the day under handicap – nett 59 – and qualified in fourth place in the scratch competition. Griddy Macleod, Colin Macritchie and Murdo O’Brien all consolidated in the afternoon to qualify.
Meanwhile, Neil Rowlands chipped in on the last for a birdie to force a four hole play-off with Andy Macdonald. But for a triple bogey on the Dardanelles, Andy would have been a comfortable qualifier but, on the other hand, Neil could point to a costly slip at the Whins as the reason that he was standing once again on the first tee long after sunset. Andy just edged the play-off to set up a match with Kevin Macrae in the quarter-final stage of the competition.
In the handicap section, David “Kiwi” Macleod set the pace with a nett 66 to follow his first round 64 for an aggregate total of 130 and, in doing so, won the Seaforth Trophy. Neil Maciver matched that total, but his second round 68 left him in second place, the Stutt Shield for the best two rounds under handicap by a competitor over the age of 45. Jamie Duncan fired an impressive second round 64 for third spot and he was joined in the draw by qualifiers Kenny John Macleod, Richard Galloway, Kenny Maclean and Garry Murray.
The remaining qualifying place was filled by Martyn Macleod. Successive birdies on the Heather, Memorial and Redan helped him to nett 64 and an aggregate total of 134. Two other golfers, David Gray and Neil Rowlands, shared that total but neither could match Martyn’s second round score.
Neil will count himself unlucky to have lost out in both scratch and handicap competitions by the narrowest of margins. It is of little consolation to David or Neil that, in last year’s competition, a nett score of 140 was enough for qualification.
Pat Aird is now apparently officially an old person and his nett 64 made him leading qualifier in the senior section. Another youthful old crock is Marten James and his nett 65 was matched by both Ken Galloway and Norrie Munro as the remaining qualifiers for the senior competition. The leading qualifying score in last year’s senior Open was 68 and that confirmed the excellent standard set this year.
No visitors reached the knock out stage of the competition this year but there were, nevertheless, some impressive rounds. For the second year in succession, Dermot Campbell won the Whyte Trophy for the best aggregate scratch score by a visiting golfer. Unwilling to be pushed out of the spotlight, Dermot’s father Iain, who missed out on qualification this year by a single stroke in the handicap event, won the Hebridean Cup for the best two rounds under handicap by a visitor.
The final competition of the day was the Ladies Greensomes event. The winners, with a superb nett 65, were Jan Maclennan and Christine Macleod. Jane Nicolson and Donna Young were runners up.
The Ladies Open qualifying on Monday saw Donna Young take first place with an excellent nett 68. Three strokes back were Christine Macleod and Ann Galbraith, who are joined in the knock out stages by Jan Maclennan.
The Mens Fourball Better Ball event traditionally brings a touch of chaos to Golf Week. For those not familiar with the format (and that includes many of the golfers who participate in the competition), foursomes is the golfing equivalent of the eightsome reel: a large number of people following each other round in circles, having little idea of what they are supposed to be doing but generally finding the experience very enjoyable.
This year was less confusing than in the past and scoring was of a very high standard. Two teams vied for runner up position on nett 61, with Griddy Macleod and Donald Smith nudging ahead of Murdo O’Brien and Kenny John Macleod. The winners on nett 60 were Iain Campbell and Jim Watson.