The final competition of the summer season was abandoned because, basically, winter had arrived slightly earlier than expected. Fast forward a few weeks to early November and the Winter League is bathed in sunshine with the condition of the course more akin to Spring. Perhaps one solution would be to play Winter League and summer competitions throughout the year on alternate weeks. In any case, although the seasons seem to be in flux, there is a familiar ring about the names of those leading the Winter League, even at this early stage.
With ideal conditions last weekend, scoring was once again very low. At first glance, the course presents a very challenging half and a more straightforward half. Strangely, those teams scoring well are picking up birdies on what would appear to be the more difficult six holes. That was again the case at the weekend.
Magnus and Murdo Johnson have a Winter League pedigree second to none. Having eased themselves into the competition with a share of second place in the first week, they took top spot last weekend. Five solid pars were followed by a birdie on the Manor for a halfway total of one under par, with the more testing half to come. Birdies on three of their last four holes – Redan, Memorial and Long Caber/Foresters – ensured that they passed that test with flying colours. Their four under par gross total was transformed into an unbeatable nett 41 and they collected 15 scoring points for first place. For the rest of the field trailing in their wake, there is the consolation that the Johnsons have lost two strokes from their handicap with the competition a mere two weeks old.
Two teams came close to the winning total. Murdo and Peter O’Brien make up another pairing picking up scoring points in both weeks of the competition. Birdies on the Memorial and Long Caber/Foresters helped them to a two under par halfway total. A further birdie proved elusive until their final hole, the Manor. Their nett total of 42 was enough for 10 scoring points and a share of second spot. Added to last week’s haul, that gives Murdo and Peter third place in the overall competition.
Norrie “Tomsh” Macdonald and Murdo Maclennan are amongst the favourites to win the Winter League. They played a relaxed first six holes in one over par before their campaign burst into life.
After a par on the Castle and a birdie on the Dardanelles, Murdo discovered that his putting prowess is greater from off the green. From the edge of the green on the Redan, Murdo holed out for a birdie. He then repeated the feat from off the green on the following hole. On the next hole, the Ranol, Murdo was the only player not on the green after three shots. Having elected to “come onto the green” prior to others putting, Murdo drilled his putt into the hole for an unlikely par. To add insult to injury, none of his playing partners managed to sink their putts.
It should have come as no surprise that, two useful shots later, Murdo rolled in a putt from off the green on the Long Caber/Foresters for an excellent eagle. His partner may have felt surplus to requirements, but the truth is that Norrie’s solid play allowed Murdo the option of opening his shoulders on the tee and taking chances around the green. The team’s gross 46 became nett 42 and immediately pushed them into contention in the overall competition.
Bryan Geddes and Colin Macritchie made their mark in the first round of the competition with the lowest gross score of the day at six under par. They repeated that achievement in the second round but their gross 44 – good enough for a win the week before – gave them fourth place this time around.
Like the other low scoring teams, Bryan and Colin made light of one half of the card, with eagles on the Memorial and Long Caber/Foresters taking them four under par at the turn. Birdies on the Heather and Manor completed another impressive round. With nett 43, Bryan and Colin collected 8 scoring points and that gave them second place in the overall competition on 27 points, 2 points adrift of the Johnsons.
Bryan and Colin already have an eclectic score of 40, ten under par. Equally daunting for the rest of the field is the fact that the four leading teams last weekend registered only one bogey between them.
Three pairings carded nett 45 for 6 scoring points each. Ken MacDonald and Dave Rattray survived a difficult start to pick up their first scoring points of the winter.
David Black and Iain Macdonald missed the opening weekend, but there was plenty of evidence in their gross 49 to suggest that regular outings will have them challenging at the top of the league table.
Roddy Martin and Norrie Mackenzie built on a solid level par opening half to pick up their first scoring points of the campaign.
In the absence of Garry Murray, Eddie Rogers played alone and his nett 46 for 4 scoring points gave an indication that this partnership will be a powerful combination in the next few weeks.
Alastair and Allan Macleod matched nett 46 to maintain the impetus of their challenge, with a birdie on the Manor and an eagle on the Long Caber/Foresters. They have moved into fourth place in the overall competition.
As on the previous weekend, the cut off point for scoring points was nett 47. Two teams posted that total for 2 scoring points each and both had also picked up points in the first round. Richard Galloway and Cal Robertson and Ken Galloway and Sharath Shetty kept up their respective challenges.
Of the teams yet to register scoring points, there are some who will surely be mentioned in dispatches over the coming weeks. Arthur Macintosh and Andy Macdonald have the type of game that should flourish on this comparatively long course, while the return of Neil Morrison and John A Macdonald should give a boost to their long-suffering partners, Donald Macsween and Kenny John Macleod. You read it here first.