Last weekend saw the spectacle of golfers splashing around a rain-soaked course in a competition in aid of, appropriately, the RNLI. This worthy charity always attracts strong support and a large field contested the event. The first prize of a silver Lifeboat Spoon and the unlikely prospect of a good round were additional temptations for those who drew back the curtains on Saturday morning and groaned at the familiar sight of mist and rain.
It turned out to be a rewarding weekend for at least some of those who have struggled on the course all summer.
Peter O’Brien is one of the most dedicated of golfers, playing two, three and four times a week in all weathers. The game makes no allowance for effort and nor are there any rewards for appearance. Peter has seen his handicap increase in all but six of the twenty-six competitions he has entered this year. It had reached the stage where making buffer zone was regarded as a minor miracle. The Lifeboat Spoon brought some welcome respite despite a demoralising triple bogey on his first hole. Peter carded a nett 65 to take fifth place and had his handicap cut by a stroke. It may not be much but, after a frustrating summer, it is a timely reminder that he can play golf and that he will not be the senior partner in name only when he teams up with son Murdo for the Winter League.
Another struggling golfer is Cal Robertson, whose handicap has crept up from 4 to 6 during the season. For a perfectionist like Cal, that is a harsh punishment and when the midges joined in the attack in recent weeks, his hopes of reversing the increase in handicap seemed faint. As with Peter, Saturday brought renewed hope for Cal. His superb level par back nine for a nett 64 put him in fourth position and, more importantly, took his handicap back to 5.
In third place, Angus Macarthur reduced his handicap by a stroke with a nett 64. For the first time this season, he managed to avoid an increase in handicap and did so in some style with his best gross score to date.
Pete Middleton posted a nett 62, which would have been enough to win most competitions this year, but had to settle instead for second spot. Although he scored well earlier in the summer, Pete has also experienced the woe of a relentless rise in handicap over the past two months. All that was forgotten at the weekend in an outward half completed in one over par. His finish was also impressive, with par on each of the final three holes – difficult to achieve when one of the best scores of your golfing life is tantalisingly within reach.
For a tale of golfing endurance, of suffering above and beyond all expectations, of sheer dogged determination when giving up would be the most sensible decision to make, it is difficult to beat the record of Donald John Smith. He had played this year in twenty-two arduous rounds. Some were better than others or, to be precise, two were better than the others. In the highlight of his summer, he somehow managed to make buffer zone at the end of June. A month ago, he repeated that feat, although being six over par after three holes must have seemed like familiar territory for him.
Last Saturday, everything came right. All at once. The litany of double and triple bogeys was forgotten in a round with ten solid pars. To put that into some perspective, it took Donald John most of the month of June to make ten pars. Last weekend, the Lifeboat Spoon found a deserving cause and, in one fell swoop, with a nett 60, Donald John took his handicap back to the level he started at five months ago.
There are now only two remaining competitions for similar stories of redemption. If the experience of last week’s winner does not inspire, then it must have been a truly terrible season.
More evidence that the season is coming to a close was provided by the ladies. Two of their summer long competitions reached a conclusion last week.
The Tuesday Medal final was won by Mary Joyce, with Liz Carmichael in second place.
The Saturday Medal Final was a closely fought affair. Liz Carmichael and Mairi Maciver put up a strong challenge and completed their rounds with a birdie and par respectively at the last hole. That was not quite enough to catch Donna Macleod, who won the event by one stroke.