Another week of glorious golf has ended in Stornoway. The excellent standard set in almost every competition is testament to conditions that made the course both challenging and a pleasure to play. Even those struggling with their game could appreciate the superb course layout and the camaraderie amongst local and visiting competitors. Over 700 rounds of golf have been played on the course in the past week and the fact that there is still grass left on the fairways suggests that perhaps there are fewer hackers amongst club members than is often thought. On the other hand, since most hackers are rarely on the fairways, there may well have been some rearrangement of long grass and shrubbery around the Castle Grounds during the week.
Maintaining a handicap of one or two strokes necessitates scoring around level par on every competitive visit to the golf course. Most golfers can put together a string of pars, some birdies and even the occasional eagle, but to play at such a consistently high standard regularly demands levels of concentration and skill that most club golfers can only aspire to. To win the Western Isles Open Championship requires five rounds of first class golf and nerves of steel.
The quarter-final stage of the scratch competition saw the current Stornoway Golf Club champion, David Black, beat last year’s Open winner, Norrie "Onions" MacDonald in a high quality contest. Another previous Open winner, Colin MacRitchie, lost out on the second extra hole to Stewart Davidson. The current Western Isles County champion, Andy Macdonald, needed a late surge to see off Al “Greens” Macleod on the final hole, while Kevin MacRae, five under par with five holes left to play, showed little mercy to his uncle, Murdo O'Brien.
The final was a tight contest between David Black, who beat Kevin Macrae in the semi-final, and Stewart Davidson, who had eased past Andy Macdonald. The match was not decided until the first extra hole, where David sealed his win, confirming that he is the in form golfer in Stornoway and is playing at a level required to reach the heady heights of scratch golf. For Stewart there is the consolation that the improvement in his all round game since the start of his inaugural season at Stornoway has been immense.
The Western Isles Open handicap winner was Norrie Mackenzie, rolling back the years with a win over Kenny Maciver, one of the most accomplished match play exponents in the islands. Norris reached the final by defeating another fine match play competitor, Ken Galloway. Not only is it a huge personal achievement for Norrie but it ensures that the MacDonald Trophy stays in the family for another year. Son-in-law Martyn Macleod was the winner a year ago.
The Seniors trophy went to Chris Kelso, who probably surprised himself by not only winning but also by the manner of his victory. Chris overcame a determined opponent in John A Macleod at the fourth extra hole, having been comfortably ahead at one stage and displaying excellent scrambling skills to seal his victory.
Ann Galbraith became the Western Isles Ladies Open champion for the second successive year by defeating Jane Nicolson in a final that was nip and tuck from start to finish and was only settled on the final hole.
The One Day Open traditionally brings the curtain down on Golf Week. The handicap winner was Neil Maciver, whose nett 65 was two strokes clear of Iain “Boozy” Macdonald. The winner of the scratch competition was Andy Macdonald on 71, two strokes ahead of Kenneth Mackenzie.
The Ladies’ One Day Open was won by Mairi Maciver, with Rita MacDonald as runner up.
Two of those vying for the Open Championship were amongst the winners in the Men’s Greensomes competition. David Black was partnered by the solid John Somerville in a scintillating round of gross 67. Once John had contributed his handicap allowance of 10 strokes, the pair were out of sight of the rest of the field. David and John were three strokes better than the nearest challengers, Kevin Macrae and Marten James, who also posted gross 67. Unfortunately for Kevin, his partner could only help towards a 7 stroke handicap allowance. Their nett 60 was matched by the third placed team of Kenny John Macleod and Iain Macritchie.
The Mixed Greensomes competition was won by Rita MacDonald and Ian Campbell, whose nett 62 was four strokes ahead of runners up Jan Maclennan and John Moyes. Ann Galbraith and Kenneth Macleod were third on nett 67.
Ian Campbell is a regular visitor to Stornoway for Golf Week and added to his Mixed Greensomes win with victory in the Mens Stableford competition. Iain took the trophy by playing his best round ever at Stornoway, storming to 43 points with a gross 73. Martyn Macleod matched that total but lost out to Ian’s stronger finish. Kenny John Macleod continued his good run of form to take third place with 40 points.
The Mixed Texas Scramble produced a glut of low scoring, with all but one of the 21 teams participating recording gross totals under par. Sheena Moyes chipped in for an eagle on the Redan to help her team to a one shot victory on nett 52.1. The other member s of the winning team were from three generations of the O’Brien family – Peter, son Murdo and grand nephew Scott Macdonald.
Amidst the test of individual competition, the enjoyment of team events and meeting friends old and new, the real winner was once again the golf course, challenging as ever and, despite the many thousands of shots played, in immaculate condition throughout the week.
It may appear to be now all downhill towards the Winter League, but the truth is there are plenty of opportunities to break handicap in the run up to the forthcoming Club Championships. There is still the Askernish Open to whet the appetite, Harris Tweed jackets to be won at Scarista and trips to Harris and Golspie for those of a strong constitution. And next year’s Golf Week is only twelve months away.