It is now the stage of the CarHire Hebrides Winter League when the most precious commodity in Stornoway Golf Club is a half decent handicap. Some teams have reached the point where it seems almost impossible that they will score points again. However, there are other teams that – at least until last weekend – could boast a generous handicap allowance and made the most of the opportunities that came their way.
Rod McKinlay and Seumas MacTaggart have retained a healthy handicap through a combination of not playing very often and suffering a collapse at some point during the rounds that they do play. They attempted the latter strategy on their final hole last Saturday but by then had done just enough to take the honours with six rounds of the campaign left.
Rod and Seumas picked up ten scoring points on their previous outing and began their latest round where they had left off two weeks previously. The three par 5 holes were completed without dropping a shot and they reached the turn only one over par. Birdies on the Ditch and Redan pegged back a bogey on the Gunsite and meant that they stood level par on the final tee. There is no need to explore the gory detail of what happened next but it was eight strokes later before the ball dropped into the hole on the Manor green. Nevertheless, their nett 41 was unbeaten on the day and Rod and Seumas collected fifteen scoring points. The last two outings have brought the pair 29 of their aggregate of 43 points but, on the other hand, their handicap has slipped by two strokes.
The team in second place last weekend is another that has suffered from absence. Peter Middleton and Graeme Tait began in solid fashion but they too had a difficult Manor, escaping with a double bogey. That proved to be the catalyst for a superb inward half, with a birdie on the Castle and five pars contributing to a nett 42. The twelve scoring points earned were the first of the season for Peter and Graeme but, with their handicap unaffected, there is every likelihood that this pair will score again in the next few weeks.
Three teams were locked together in third spot. Once again, the father and son combination of Clive and Neil Rowlands is a pairing that has only played in the competition intermittently. A birdie on their opening hole, the Ard Choille, and another on the Cup/Foresters helped to offset the disappointment of a double bogey on the Miller. Their final total of nett 44 brought them eight scoring points, their first of the campaign.
Stephen Moar and David “Kiwi” Macleod birdied the Cup/Foresters on their way to a one over par halfway total. A birdie on the Redan helped towards a run of five 3s on the inward half before a bogey on the Manor pulled them back to nett 44. Nevertheless, that performance was enough to catapult them from eighteenth to eleventh spot in the overall competition.
Another father and son partnership made up the final pairing on nett 44. Peter and Murdo O’Brien are one of a number of teams treading water lately as they struggle to adapt to a severe handicap allowance and wait for others to be punished in similar fashion. It is over a month since they managed scoring points but last weekend helped them climb to a challenging position in the overall competition. Five successive 3s, including a birdie on the Redan, and a par on the Manor put them in a strong position at the turn. A birdie on the Dardanelles and a bogey on the Long Caberfeidh took them to a gross total of 46, one under par, one of the best rounds of the day.
Four teams posted nett 45 for five scoring points apiece. The most notable of those was the pairing of Steven Bryden and Donald John Mackenzie, who picked up their first ever scoring points in the Winter League. The performance of Alistair Henderson and Dave Gilmour is also worthy of mention. They were the best placed of the morning teams, who endured heavy rain and squally winds before the afternoon golfers sauntered out in comparatively Mediterranean conditions. In fact, only three of the eighteen teams picking up scoring points played their rounds in the morning.
Once again, with little to separate teams in the overall competition, the weekend results changed the complexion of the leaderboard. One single scoring point for nett 46 was all that was needed to take Sandy Bruce and Eddie Mackenzie into first position on 69 points. One point adrift are Donald John Smith and David Macleod. Peter and Murdo O’Brien move up into third spot on 65 points, while Murdo and Magnus Johnson slip another place to fourth one point behind.
Allan and Alastair Macleod also picked up a scoring point last weekend and they are now in fifth place on 63 points. Three teams share sixth place on 61 points: Cal Robertson and Richard Galloway; Bryan Geddes and Colin Macritchie; and John and John R Gillies.
Gordon Kennedy and David Gray share ninth position on 59 points with Andy Macdonald and Arthur Macintosh, who secured a scoring point to help the cause last weekend. The competition is so close that any one of those teams could be at the top of the league by close of play this Saturday.
There were no reports of casualties at the recent Golf Club AGM. Allan Macleod and Murdo O’Brien were re-elected for another year as Captain and Vice-Captain respectively. Their heavy responsibility should perhaps be recognised by a few extra Winter League points, but both appear to be doing well enough without that bonus.