This time next week, it will be summer on the golf course. Eighteen holes will be in play and the first competition of the season will have been completed. One or two golfers will have surpassed their expectations but, for the vast majority, the first bitter taste of defeat will have dashed long held hopes of glory.
Over the coming days, clubs will be cleaned, shoes polished and new cleats screwed into place. That new golf top, lying untouched since Christmas, will be taken out of a drawer where it has lain since it became clear that ClimaCool clothing, as the name suggests, is designed to cool the body down rather than keep the golfer warm. Such clothing is therefore suited for Hebridean wear during a short window of around six hours in mid-June. Nevertheless, it will be worn next week, because it is summertime.
The latest in ball technology will be put to the test. A new box of golf balls will have been opened and our unique identifying mark applied to each ball. This will mean that when we find our first drive of the summer season, somewhere a good deal closer to the second tee than the first green, we will instantly recognise that it is indeed our ball nestling in the roots of a tree. Despite the solemn promise that the ball will add distance without sacrificing accuracy, we will find it in the vicinity of where our tee shot generally lands. The only part of the guarantee that has been fulfilled is that the soft feel has ensured that the ball settled where it landed.
A slight change in stance may be adopted, or perhaps the position of the hands tweaked. Each excruciating adjustment will have been the result of far too much winter reading. Some time in February, while reading a golfing manual, it will have dawned on the golfer that the only difference between him and those privileged to be playing on the professional circuit is the position of his knees during the backswing. That will be duly corrected and he will stand, or more than likely crouch, on the Castle tee, and will probably still be in that hunched position when his driver gouges a long divot and sends the ball trundling forward a few yards.
Before all of that excitement, there is a Winter League title to be won. The winner of the CarHire Hebrides Trophy will be decided this Saturday, with thirteen teams still having a mathematical chance of victory. Last weekend went a long way to deciding who the eventual winners will be.
The winning team last Saturday will not be able to win the overall competition but they have secured a place in Stornoway golfing history. Michael Jefferson and Adam Longdon are the first juniors to win a Winter League round and they did it in some style. A superb nett 41, nine strokes under par, won on the day by five clear shots and the fifteen scoring points earned lifted them into the top half of the league table. That is a tremendous achievement for two young golfers, who had to make the best of a starting handicap of twelve when their true handicap would have been around three strokes higher. The benefit of regular competition throughout the winter will have a positive impact on both Michael and Adam as they commence their summer season in the junior section.
Murdie Macdonald and Iain Macritchie were slow to get off the mark in this Winter League but they are finishing strongly. A very steady round resulted in a nett 46 and second place, with twelve scoring points taking them into the top twenty in the overall league table.
Two teams posted nett 48 for nine scoring points apiece and both have now manoeuvred themselves into a challenging position. Huw Lloyd and Marten James have picked up twenty six points in the past three weeks; that has catapulted them to a share of tenth spot overall and given them an outside chance of winning the title.
David Black and Iain Macdonald have had an even stronger surge in the last three weeks, and the thirty points picked up in the period has pushed them up to sixth position.
Five teams shared fifth place on nett 49 and, for at least three of the pairings, the five scoring points earned were priceless. Liam McGeoghegan and Bob Rankin have an added handicap of playing as a one man band more often than not, but they are still within reach of the top of the league.
Andy Macdonald and Arthur Macintosh continue to ease themselves into a threatening position but, for Richard Galloway and Cal Roberston, there is a touch of déjà vu about the closing weeks of this Winter League. Cal and Richard spent the latter part of the Winter League a year ago picking up the points that would give them a share of the title. The last eight weeks have seen a similar performance from Cal and Richard and they have now established a precious lead at the top of the table on 87 points.
Five points adrift, Peter and Murdo O’Brien have been joined by Andy Macdonald and Arthur Macintosh in second place. Magnus and Murdo Johnson lie fourth on 81 points, sharing that position with Colin Macritchie and Bryan Geddes.
David Black and Iain Macdonald have moved up to sixth position on 80 points, a position they share with another in-form pairing in Liam McGeoghegan and Bob Rankin.
There are also two teams sharing eighth spot. Sandy Bruce and Eddie Mackenzie remain locked together with Stephen Moar and David “Kiwi” Macleod on 79 points. Five points back are four teams still with a chance of winning the title. Allan and Alasdair Macleod, Peter Dickie and Stewart Macdonald and Donald John Smith and David Macleod have now been joined by Huw Lloyd and Marten James, whose weekend efforts have boosted their challenge.
Come rain, hail, snow or sunshine, winter will be banished from the Castle Grounds within days.