The cancellation of the Boxing Day match between Town golfers and their Country cousins was particularly disappointing because the 60mph winds and heavy rain appeared to provide the kind of conditions in which country golfers thrive. In such weather, of course, it is difficult to persuade the townies from their homes; some of them now have the benefit of electricity and running hot water.
We should not complain. This is the first time for three years that the golf course has been open for Winter League competition around Christmas. During the last few weeks, we seem to have been trapped inside a wind tunnel with a severe leak in the roof. Nevertheless, it is possible to play golf and even the Stornoway coves are being prised, sometimes unwillingly, from their cosy homes, drawn by the guarantee of two points simply for turning up.
Last Saturday was probably the closest that the course has come to being unplayable, while remaining open for Winter League competition. Iain Macritchie was so convinced that there would be no golf that he left the comfort of his own home for only a few minutes at lunchtime to collect a prescription from the local chemist. Feeling the cold, he thought it wise to call in to the golf club to collect a hat from his locker. To his surprise – and immense disappointment it has to be said – he was pressganged into spending his afternoon on the golf course, with a sodden prescription tucked into his back pocket. Not even one of his partner Murdie’s molotov cocktails made it seem a good idea to be squelching around greens, trying to find a dry channel to the hole.
As is often the case, even in such trying circumstances, a few teams will probably play their best golf of the season. In fact, the weekend winners had to overcome even greater problems.
A very early start meant that Liam McGeoghegan and Robert Rankin played their first three holes in an eerie half-light favoured by the horror film genre. The necessary element of horror may have been supplied by playing partners Pat Aird and Peter Grant but, fortunately for them, their scorecard was so wet that it was only possible to decipher the gruesome total and their individual scores remain shrouded in mystery.
Darkness never helps in playing golf and Liam and Bob found that out to their cost with a triple bogey on the second hole. They recovered with solid pars and a birdie on the Gunsite to reach the turn three over par. The highlight of the second half was a birdie on the Short Manor and their nett 38 was never matched throughout the day. For a pair that has struggled to pick up scoring points this winter, it was an unlikely day on which to play their best golf of the year. The 15 scoring points also catapults them into the top ten in the overall league.
The team in second place last weekend was the father and son pairing of Malcolm and Scott Maciver. Their surveying skills were put to good use in manoeuvring their way around a waterlogged course. They also reached the halfway stage three over par and a birdie on the Heather helped towards a level par return for nett 39 and 12 scoring points.
The pairing of Norrie “Tomsh” Macdonald and Murdo Maclennan, competition winners two years ago, has failed to sparkle this year. Last weekend, however, they provided a timely reminder of the form that has them amongst the perennial favourites in the Winter League. The six par 3 holes in the current course are often the downfall for teams mounting a challenge. Norrie and Murdo managed to par all six and a birdie on the Cup took them to nett 40 and 9 scoring points for a share of third place.
Alastair Maclennan and Neil Macleod matched nett 40 and also picked up their first scoring points of the campaign with a solid round. Like Norrie and Murdo, it was their performance on the par 3 holes that helped Ali and Neil to their best score of the year.
Three teams tied for fifth position and it is interesting to note that five of the top seven spots last Saturday were filled by teams that played in the morning. Although the rain and wind appeared to ease slightly as the day developed, there is no doubt that the course became progressively more difficult to play as surface water accumulated.
The overall table for the CarHire Hebrides Winter League takes on a slightly different complexion this week. Their recent form has moved Malcolm and Scott Maciver into sixth position on 35 points, two adrift of Ken Galloway and Sharath Shetty. Murdo and Peter O’Brien have leapfrogged Ken and Sharath to fourth spot on 38 points, courtesy of the 3 scoring points collected for nett 42 last weekend.
Richard Galloway and Cal Roberston remain in third place on 39 points. Bryan Geddes and Colin Macritchie have slipped to second position on 47 points. The current leaders are Magnus and Murdo Johnson. Their level par 42 last Saturday was enough to the secure 3 scoring points that take Murdo and Magnus Johnson one point clear on 48.
We have only played six rounds of the Winter League, so there is plenty of time left for others to mount a challenge; but there is always an ominous look to the overall table when the Johnsons sit proudly at the top.