The RBS Dalglish Bethesda Challenge this weekend will bring the curtain down on another summer season of golf in Stornoway. Once again the stage is set for an excellent tournament, with the course looking surprisingly lush for this time of year. The final club competition of the season, for the oldest piece of silverware in the club, the Jackson Medal, took place last Saturday.
The Jackson Medal was presented to the club in its inaugural year of 1890 by Major Randle Jackson of Swordale. Given the unlikely name, it is probably unnecessary to point out that the Swordale in question is near Evanton in Easter Ross, and not its namesake in Point. It is even less necessary to note that the Jackson Medal silverware was donated by Randle Jackson and not by Randy Jackson, although that goes some way to explain why the medal is of intricate and artistic design rather than being a massive chunky piece of bling. Perhaps it would be wise to move on to the competition itself.
Arthur Macintosh has birdied the Caberfeidh on six of his last ten outings. This time, Arthur birdied the Memorial instead on his way to a nett 67 and second place in the competition. The winner was Murdo O’Brien, who confirmed his excellent form this season with a level par round (nett 64) to win by four shots. His round had six birdies, including three on successive holes at the Dardanelles, Ranol and Caberfeidh. That run and another birdie on the Foresters gave Murdo a back nine of two under par and underlined the form that has taken his handicap from 6 to 4 in a little over two months.
Amongst the scores returned by those who had not qualified for the final, there was much that was familiar mixed with the odd surprise. The familiar included another clutch of birdies from David Black, but his usual double bogey was replaced by a triple bogey. To balance that, David recorded an eagle on the Caberfeidh on his way to a nett 67. His eagle was enough to give him the highest total of eagles for the season, adding that title to his runaway win in the number of birdies recorded during the summer.
Another familiar sight was a cut in handicap for Pat Aird (nett 66) and John R Gillies (nett 65). Like most of those who scored well, the back nine was where both Pat and John made their mark. Pat was back in 39 strokes, the first time he has broken the 40 barrier, while John, helped by back to back birdies on the Ranol and Caberfeidh, came back in 36.
The unfamiliar came courtesy of Neil Morrison. In most other sports, it is a useful skill to send the ball in the direction that you are facing. In golf, it is disastrous and the shank, as it is known, is as demoralising as it is inexplicable. Unfortunately for Neil, blessed with a relaxed swing and an approach that should make him a low handicap golfer, the shank has become an unwelcome part of his golf game. More often than he wishes, the ball takes off at a right angle to the intended direction. It may have been the last outing of the season for Neil but last Saturday was more of a new dawn.
There was a time when surviving the first nine holes was an achievement for Neil. News that he had been spotted on the fifteenth fairway last weekend should have been a warning that Neil was in relatively uncharted scoring territory. By the time he reached the final green, a few eyebrows were raised even amongst spectators at Stornoway Rugby’s game on the adjacent pitch.
On a number of occasions this year, Neil has threatened to post a good score and that threat became a reality with a nett 63 and the lowest score of last weekend. There were eleven pars and one birdie, on the Ditch, on his card but, most important of all, every one of his 73 blows was a proper golf shot.