The most important relationship in the life of a golfer is that with the Competition Scratch Score (CSS). Bonds with parents, partners, children and friends may bring happiness and heartache, but the fraught relationship with the CSS is on another level of elation and despair. The purpose of the CSS is to gauge the standard of play in a competition and adjust the par for the course to suit the circumstances. In other words, when golfers struggle to cope with a howling gale, the CSS steps in to help and, similarly, when the course is at its most forgiving, the CSS will ensure that handicaps are not decimated.
How often a Stornoway golfer has completed a round of two under par and entered the clubhouse with chest so puffed out that it is difficult to squeeze through the door, only to discover hours later that the CSS has been reduced to 66 and there is no reward of a cut in handicap. Golfers who have battled to complete a round and scrape into buffer zone suddenly discover that an adjustment to the CSS shifts the safety zone beyond their reach.
Very occasionally, the CSS softens its approach and surprises competitors. The midweek Caledonian Medal Qualifying competition is a case in point. In wind and rain more akin to Winter League than summer golf, Murdo O’Brien posted a level par 68 to maintain his handicap of 4. Birdies on the Redan and Miller were undone by bogeys on two of his last three holes but, given the conditions, it was an excellent performance on a day when only ten of the field managed to complete the course. And then, taking pity on all those sodden golfers, the CSS rose to 70. Murdo O’Brien’s handicap dropped below 4 and even Chris Graham, whose nett 75 must have seemed like wasted effort at the time, discovered that his perseverance had taken him into the buffer zone.
For a time during the second round of the Club Championship last Saturday, the CSS appeared to be continuing its generous approach with the computer scoring record displaying the notice: “CSS estimated at 70 – handicap reductions only”. Scores had been as mediocre as the weather and, for a few magical moments, the message remained, until Al “Greens” Macleod entered his impressive nett 64 and normal service was resumed.
The midweek weather made a return on Saturday, making the daunting opening rounds of the Club Championship even more challenging. David Black and Andy Macdonald shared the lead with rounds of 70. David had a purple patch in the middle of his round, with birdies on the ninth, tenth and twelfth holes, while Andy’s excellent round, including birdies on the Dardanelles and Caberfeidh, had a disappointing end with a double bogey, bogey finish.
The usual suspects – Kevin Macrae, Norrie O Macdonald and Colin Macritchie – were all in contention but, splitting the low handicap players, was Allan Macleod. He defied the weather and his handicap of 10 to record a superb gross 72. Allan played the back nine in only one over par, picking up birdies on the Whins and Avenue. His nett 62 was the leading handicap score, two ahead of Andrew Sim. Andrew recovered from a crippling quadruple bogey on the first to complete an otherwise impeccable round.
The rain abated for the second round but the strengthening wind now became the problem. Only two competitors managed to break par. Norman L Macdonald had a steady round of nett 66 to confirm his improvement over the summer and take his handicap to 21, four less than four months ago.
The best score of the second round was the nett 64 posted by Al “Greens” Macleod, a score that catapulted him into contention in the scratch competition. Al lies third on 146 after the first two rounds, one stroke ahead of Norrie O Macdonald and two strokes better than Murdo O’Brien. Kevin Macrae and David Black both recorded 73 in the second round to top the leaderboard on 144 and 143 respectively.
The handicap competition also has the names of some of the leading contenders in the scrratch competition. David Black shares fourth place with Richard Galloway on nett 139, two strokes adrift of Andrew Sim. In second place is Al “Greens” Macleod on nett 136 but the clear leader by three strokes is Allan Macleod. With no disrespect to the handicap section, Allan probably holds his fifth position in the scratch competition in higher esteem.
Next weekend sees the culmination of the Club Championship, with another two round marathon in store. The midweek event is a Centenary Medal stableford competition.
One event that has burst into life again this year is the mixed foursomes competition for the Olsen Tankard. The winners were John and Christine Macleod, whose nett 62 was equalled by Pat Aird and Ann Galbraith. A better inward half gave John and Christine the trophy.
The Ladies Medal competition at the weekend was won by Jane Nicolson, one stroke ahead of Mary Joyce. The Juniors played for the Edwin Aldred Trophy over two rounds this week. Runner up was Michael Jefferson and the clear winner was Adam Longdon. Adam’s nett 60 was his best ever score and gave him a nett aggregate of 137, together with a handicap reduction of four strokes.
Regular visitors to Stornoway during the annual golf week are Linda and Bill Brannigan from Dunaverty Golf Club. They participate fully in all events and have assisted by refereeing finals on a number of occasions. One can only imagine their dismay when a Stornoway golfer displays breath-taking banditry by visiting Dunaverty and winning the summer open competition with a score of nett 56. Pete Middleton was the culprit, assisted by Marten James who could only manage nett 63.