Televised sport has long been a source of inspiration for armchair fans of all ages as well as for those actively participating. Even those involved in junior football, for example, can use the insight assimilated from TV pundits to ensure that the small children they coach remember to keep their shape, stay in the zone and realise that if they are coming back into play from an offside position, they remain offside until the ball is played beyond them and is touched by a player from either side who is onside unless, of course, they are not interfering with play or have become so dizzy trying to retain all the information that they are unsure of which sport they are playing.
The PGA Tour Championship, completed in the aftermath of an Atlanta thunderstorm last weekend, taught some valuable lessons for any watching golfers. The first, already well known to anyone who has competed in Stornoway, is that it is difficult to play in heavy rain. A second, which seemed to come as somewhat of a surprise to commentators and the professional golfers on the course, is that designer clothing advertised as waterproof is in fact only impervious to a light rain shower: the rain that fell in Atlanta is similar to that experienced regularly in Stornoway and requires the kind of protection worn by the Coastguard.
However, by far the most valuable lesson gleaned from Atlanta for any aspiring golfer is the importance of having someone carry an umbrella. Whilst dragging the clubs around a golf course may be a bit of a chore and can be eased by employing a caddie, the average caddie cannot be expected to be skilled in umbrella use. Having someone whose sole remit is to hold an umbrella above your head for as long as possible is of untold benefit in any walk of life. Apparently, celebrities have long employed umbrella carriers, confirming that the expertise is available for the training of a new generation.
By minor adjustment of his swing to ensure that the club never extends above head height – a technique that some of us have already perfected – a golfer could be more or less certain that the umbrella carrier never has to leave his side. The effect of wind in the islands, which may necessitate the umbrella being held almost horizontally, presents a small problem that any properly trained umbrella carrier should be able to overcome. The golfer could assist in these circumstances by restricting his swing to knee height or purchasing clubs of a length similar to that of Dave Rattray’s putter.
Purchasing clubs online is in itself a minefield. Every club or set of clubs advertised now carries customer reviews proclaiming them to be the best ever. Generally, these reviews follow the same pattern. The reviewer is a struggling golfer who has found that his new clubs add some 30 to 50 yards to each shot; each shot without exception, and no matter with which part of the clubface it is struck, sends the ball in an unwavering straight line. More remarkably, the reviewer will have managed to reduce his handicap by around 10 strokes in a matter of weeks. It makes no difference whether the clubs are top of the range or of the outsize plastic variety. The results are identical. It is easy to conclude that the reviewers are fictional. Even playing in two competitions every week, no one should be able to achieve such a reduction of handicap over a couple of months. And then someone mentions Pat Aird.
His nett 64 in the weekend Jackson Medal Qualifier was enough to bring Pat down to a handicap of 19. Bearing in mind that he played off 25 at the start of July, a reduction of that magnitude qualifies Pat for a role as online golf club reviewer. If he can find someone gullible enough to follow him around the course with an umbrella, who knows what his handicap will be by this time next year.
No umbrella was required for last Saturday’s competition, held on a day with hardly a breath of wind and on a golf course with receptive greens waiting to be exploited. As is often the case, the perfect conditions were not reflected in low scoring, with the exception of a handful of returns.
Pat Aird’s nett 64 was matched by two other golfers. Norrie ‘Tomsh’ Macdonald began his round with two bogeys before going on to record eleven consecutive pars followed for good measure by a birdie on the Miller, underlining his solid form of late.
Neil Maciver followed up his victory in the final of the Bain Cup with a fine round. His excellent inward half of 5 over par – playing off a handicap of 20 – was enough to take Neil into third place.
Second place went to Willie Macaulay, who continued a late season surge. His round of nett 63 had two birdies, on the Manor and Heather. A four over par back nine reinforced that promising start and the resultant cut in handicap takes Willie back to playing off 12.
Ken Galloway took his competition wins tally to three in the past month, in the course of which he has sliced two strokes from his handicap. His latest impressive round brought victory courtesy of an inward half of one over par, the highlight being a birdie on the Ditch. Both Ken and Willie qualify for the last club competition of the season, the Jackson Medal final, to be held this weekend.
The ladies contested the LGU Pendant competition last weekend. Liz Carmichael took third spot, five strokes behind the leaders. Rita MacDonald and Mairi Maciver were tied on the same score and Rita edged first place with a better inward half.