The extended summer season comes to an end this weekend. The benefits of an extension to eighteen hole golf include the possibility of a last gasp reduction in handicap, more often than not to salvage something from an indifferent year. Unfortunately, that benefit is generally outwith the reach of most competitors. Last weekend was a case in point. Only three players managed a cut in handicap and a few hung onto buffer zone, while the vast majority saw another small increase. There is now only one more opportunity to finish the year on a high before shortening daylight and sodden ground restrict golf to twelve holes for the next five months.
All three of the participants who managed to lower their handicaps in the October Medal have been in scintillating form over recent weeks. Andy Macdonald finished out of the running for the main prize, but he will nevertheless be content with his round, with the exception of one disastrous hole. Birdies on the Manor and Gunsite ensured that Andy reached the halfway point in level par. However, a triple bogey on the Whins undid all of that early promise. Birdies on the Caberfeidh and Cup helped to redress the balance and his nett 68 matched the Competition Scratch Score on the day. Andy has now cut his handicap in eight of his last ten outings and is tantalisingly close to a handicap of 1.
Andy’s nett score was only good enough for sixth place, but the three players immediately ahead of him failed to register a handicap cut despite matching his nett 68. Cal Robertson will rue a missed opportunity, with two bogeys in the final three holes denying him a handicap of below 4.
John R Gillies came as close as he has in his last fifteen competitions to breaking par – yes, fifteen competitions. He is suffering from the condition that afflicts anyone involved in match and handicap matters, confirming the belief that the closest anyone organising competitions comes to success is scribbling the names of the winners in the record book. In recent years, Dave Gilmour and Norrie Munro have sorry memories of a similar fate, while Pat Aird is currently suffering an even worse strain of the virus. Pat has to go back twenty competitions to find a round to be proud of.
Huw Lloyd had no less than four double bogeys on a card that was otherwise very impressive. In fact, his inward half of six over par included two of those double bogeys and that gives an indication of what might have been.
The runner up was Ken Galloway, who is reaching the end of a very successful season. Success in match play events – Ken reached the final of three of those and won two – has been replicated in stroke play. Having recently moved into a double figure handicap, his weekend performance ensures that he will finish the year with a single figure handicap, regardless of this weekend’s finale. As usual, Ken’s round was a steady affair, with the highlight being a birdie on the Cup, which helped him to a strong finish of one over par on the last four holes and nett 67.
The winner of the October Medal was the one golfer in irrepressible form of late. Alastair Henderson defied the rain on the previous Saturday and last weekend he took on the strong wind with similar aplomb. His majestic front nine in particular underlined the standard he is now setting with birdies on the Manor, Memorial and Redan taking him to two under par at the turn. A birdie on his next hole probably took him close to that golfing state where the brain somehow becomes starved of oxygen. The realisation that the round of one’s life and course record are within sight usually causes a buckling of the knees and blurred vision. However, Alastair has been there already in recent weeks and with the exception of his obligatory double bogey on the inward half – this week on the Cup – he put in a sterling display for a nett 64.
This weekend, the curtain comes down on the season with the Mod Medal competition. This is a stableford event and the winner will be expected to give a rendition of Ho Ro Mo Handicap on receipt of his prize whilst the audience intones a suitably emotional groaning of the lament Tha Mo Spiorad Cianail as the flags are removed from the eighteen holes for the final time this year.
With only a week left before it gets underway, there is still time for teams to enter the CarHire Hebrides Winter League. For those who do not yet have a partner, there is a sort of dating site available on the noticeboard in the locker room. Entrants can advertise themselves and vet potential partners before deciding with whom they will spend the dark winter months. Over forty teams are already registered. Some interesting new relationships have been forged and the competition over the next twenty three weeks promises to be as closely fought as ever.