It was so wild last Saturday that the more lightweight golfers were advised to stay indoors. After some discussion, Norrie Mackenzie and his weekend carer, Roddy Martin, decided that not even hanging onto a golf cart would be enough to prevent Norrie being blown away. While Norrie headed off to Argos, Roddy shouldered the responsibility of taking two appearance points to keep their Winter League campaign alive.
It was so wild that there was a stranded fish on the Redan fairway, some distance away from the Glen River. The fish looked almost as surprised as the golfers who saw it. Perhaps the startled look was something to do with astonishment at some of the golfers who managed to remain on the fairway when their more usual route to the green is through the heather; or it could have been disbelief at the quality of chips being played to the Redan green into the teeth of a gale.
Those competitors who ventured out on Saturday morning suffered from the worst of the elements, with sharp showers added to strengthening winds. Of the thirteen teams collecting scoring points, only two had completed their rounds in the morning. Andrew Reeves and Iain Morrison probably deserve a bonus as one of four pairings to pick up a solitary scoring point for nett 47, one over par. It is evidence of how tough conditions were that a score over par could qualify for scoring points; it is certainly the first occasion in this Winter League on which that has happened.
Five teams carded level par for five scoring points apiece. Four of those were within striking distance of the top of the league prior to last weekend and so their performances have impacted on the appearance of the table this week. Peter and Murdo O’Brien scored points for the first time in four weeks, a birdie on their final hole, the Cup/Foresters, ensuring that they maintain their challenge.
In contrast, Cal Robertson and Richard Galloway continue to accumulate points regularly. They picked up three scoring points on the previous weekend with a nett 44, and improved on that points total last Saturday despite taking two strokes more. Their usual tidy card had one birdie, on the Cup/Foresters, and ten pars, with the only blemish being an uncharacteristic double bogey on the Ditch. Having picked up scoring points on three occasions in the past month, Donald John Smith and David Macleod recovered from a double bogey on the Redan to post another useful total.
John A Macdonald and Kenny John Macleod recorded their obligatory birdie on the Cup/Foresters for nett 46. The Cup/Foresters had ended any hopes of Sandy Bruce and Eddie Mackenzie posting a decent score on the previous two weekends but a par last Saturday was sufficient to secure a level par round.
Stewart Macdonald and Peter Dickie took third spot with nett 45 and earned eight scoring points. Like many other teams, Peter and Stewart found the Ditch to be almost unplayable in the wind and had to settle for double bogey. The Cup/Foresters provided a wind assisted birdie in compensation.
Second place was shared by two teams, picking up eleven scoring points each. Remarkably, one pairing played in atrocious conditions in the morning. Neil Maciver and Chris Macleod opened their account with bogeys on the first three holes. However, a birdie on the Short Caberfeidh and a solid inward half gave them a nett 43 total and maintained the impetus of their campaign. All of their twenty scoring points have been earned since the turn of the year and, still retaining a handicap of ten, Chris and Neil will be a serious threat to the top of the table if they can maintain their form over the next few weeks.
If there was a prize for perfect Winter League attendance, John “Shillegan” Gillies would be a leading contender every year. Three weeks ago, he put in an appearance while suffering from shingles and on the following week took to the course wearing spectacles purchased at short notice to tackle a sudden deterioration in his eyesight. Last Saturday, his return to good health was reflected in an improved showing on the course with his partner, John R Gillies. Despite being three over par after two holes, a run of five successive pars and a birdie on the Short Dardanelles helped them recover to post a better score than they manage when the weather is fine and conditions perfect.
The weekend winners were so far ahead of the pack that it was no surprise to see Norman L Macdonald sipping brandy beside the Glen green as his partner, Iain Macleod, holed another difficult putt to keep the pair under par after eight holes. A birdie on the Ard Choille had followed an even par outward half and, with only two bogeys on their card and a handicap of ten, their win was almost embarrassing. In fact, their gross score of one over par equalled the best of the day, a feat that is not really supposed to be achieved by a team with a double figure handicap.
The weather caused havoc on the course throughout the day, with the wind seldom under 40mph and gusting over 60mph. That helped to produce wholesale positional changes on the overall Winter League table. The leaders by three points remain Murdo and Magnus Johnson on 58 points. Cal Robertson and Richard Galloway have now joined Bryan Geddes and Colin Macritchie in second place.
Gordon Kennedy and David Gray have slipped to fourth position on 53 points. Andy Macdonald and Arthur Macintosh also drop one place to fifth on 52 points. One point behind are Peter and Murdo O’Brien, who move up one place courtesy of the five scoring points from last Saturday. They share sixth place on 51 points with John and John R Gillies, who have jumped half a dozen places this week.
Three points back and also moving up the table are Donald John Smith and David Macleod, while Norrie “Tomsh” Macdonald and Murdo Maclennan are now in ninth position on 47 points, one ahead of Peter Dickie and Stewart Macdonald. The gap at the top of the CarHire Hebrides Winter League remains so narrow that any one of those top ten teams could lead the competition with a win this weekend.
This Friday (27th January), the Golf Club hosts its annual Burns Supper with Chris Kelso, Donald John Smith and Nicolson Institute Rector Frances Murray as guest speakers. Any remaining tickets at £15 can be purchased from the Golf Club.