It is difficult to avoid any news on golf in Stornoway becoming a weather report. This time last year, we were emerging from the ice age into wild and wet weather. The contrast a year on is stark. Last weekend saw some of the best golfing weather of the winter and it was expected that scoring would be low. With one or two notable exceptions, that was not the case, despite the fact that the mild conditions attracted forty eight teams, the highest total of any round of the Winter League for a number of years.
There has been the slightest hint over recent weekends that the morning brings out the best in golfers. Those pairings with an early start seems to be disproportionately represented on the winners’ podium. Once again, the results from last Saturday suggest that waking while it is still dark and, occasionally, playing the game while it is still dark, carries greater promise of a good score than a long lie in and hours of careful preparation.
Three scoring points were awarded for teams with nett 44, two under par. Two teams went one stroke better and picked up 6 points. Dave Gilmour and Alastair Henderson make up a promising partnership and would probably be in better competitive shape if they were able to play as a pair more often. A rare birdie on the Ditch was countered by bogeys on the Ranol and Short Caberfeidh, but being only one over par put them in a healthy position at the halfway point. That position was strengthened by a birdie on the Dardanelles but their sole bogey of the inward half came on the final hole, the Cup/Foresters. Their performance suggests that Alastair and Dave will come good again and the 6 scoring points was just enough to allow them to maintain a handicap of 4.
The second team on nett 43 was another promising pairing. Norrie “Tomsh” Macdonald and Murdo Maclennan have struggled, by their own high standards, in this campaign but they have now manoeuvred themselves into a threatening position in the overall competition. Birdies on the Ard Choille and Dardanelles helped them to a level par outward total. After bogeying the Ditch, a birdie on the Redan ensured a level par inward half and the points collected took them to sixth place overall.
Three teams recorded nett 42 for 8 scoring points. The surprise appearance of Iain “Boozy” Macdonald on the course clearly affected his partner, David Black, who struggled over the opening holes. By the time he settled down, the pair had reached halfway only one over par. A strong inward half, with four pars and birdies on the Ard Choille and Dardanelles, gave an impressive one under par gross total, the best of the day.
Neil Maciver and Chris Macleod began with three bogeys before a similar number of pars put them in the recovery position by the turn. A birdie on the Heather was the highlight of a solid back six and a nett 42 total.
The final team to post nett 42 was Chris Kelso and Kenny Maclean. Four pars on the outward leg, followed by birdies on the Heather and Dardanelles in a one under par return leg should have been close to a winning total for a team sporting a handicap of 7. However, 7 also happened to be the number of strokes taken on the Ranol. Chris and Kenny had to settle for a share of third spot and yet another award-winning hard luck story, prompting some to question whether Chris has any stories at all that are not of the hard luck variety.
Jamie Duncan and George Macaskill have had a relatively mediocre start to the Winter League but their challenge has now sparked into life. They have carefully nurtured their opening handicap of 8 to the extent that it was still intact last weekend. A birdie on the Dardanelles clawed back the deficit of two bogeys in a useful first half and a steady second half gave them a total of nett 41, which proved to be enough for second position and gained them 12 scoring points.
The runners up in the previous round went one better last weekend. Gordon Kennedy and David Gray had a superb outward half, with a birdie on the Memorial offsetting a bogey on the Short Caberfeidh. A birdie on the Ard Choille, followed by four pars set up an excellent back six, the only slip being a bogey on their final hole. Their nett total of 39 was comfortably the best of the day and 15 scoring points went a long way to catapulting them into contention in the overall competition. Gordon and David have picked up 43 of their aggregate total of 51 points in the past four weeks.
The Winter League table has a changed look with Gordon and David taking third place, only two behind Bryan Geddes and Colin Macritchie, who are on 53 points. The leaders by three points are Murdo and Magnus Johnson.
Behind Gordon and David, Andy Macdonald and Arthur Macintosh drop one place to fourth on 50 points, two ahead of Cal Robertson and Richard Galloway, who picked up 3 scoring points last Saturday.
Norrie “Tomsh” Macdonald and Murdo Maclennan have eased themselves into sixth position on 45 points, one better than Murdo and Peter O’Brien.
The difference between the top dozen teams is now so slight that any one of them could take top spot this weekend with a win.