The Western Isles County Championship is now firmly on the golfing fixture calendar for the Highlands and Islands. The inaugural event in Stornoway last weekend attracted a healthy entry with the added bonus of fine weather conditions. A challenging course suggested that low scoring would be unlikely and that proved to be the case, at least until the competitors had the benefit of a completed first round. Unfortunately for some, the lessons learned in the morning round made no noticeable difference to their scoring in the afternoon.
The importance of adding the Western Isles to the County Championship events in the Highlands was underlined by the visit of Ian Ross, who officiated at the presentation of awards last Saturday. Ian is the past president of the Scottish Golf Union and the current President of the North District SGU.
In the scratch competition, the first round leader was Kevin Macrae. Apart from for a double bogey on the Heather, Kevin was one under par for the other 17 holes. His 69 took him two strokes clear of three players sharing second place. Colin Macritchie recovered from a patchy start to complete the back nine in two under par. Norrie O Macdonald ran up a triple bogey on the Dardanelles to spoil an otherwise impressive card, while Andy Macdonald could not quite maintain the impetus of a level par first half.
John Fraser played the last twelve holes in three over par which, given his handicap of 12, was enough to give him nett 64, the best handicap score of the first round. Ken Galloway was one shot behind, while Ken MacDonald lay in third place with nett 67.
The blustery breeze of the morning gradually weakened throughout the afternoon and the result was demonstrated by the scores posted. The best nett round of the day was the 61 carded by Allan Macleod, who bettered his first round score by 16 strokes. Birdies on the Manor, Caberfeidh and Avenue have taken Allan to within a whisker of a single figure handicap.
Kevin Macleod added a nett 66 to his first round 70 to take overall fourth place in the handicap competition. Ken MacDonald will rue the dropping of six shots over the closing three holes but his nett 68 for a total of 135 still put him in third place.
Also with a total of 135 and runner up in the handicap section was Bryan Geddes, whose afternoon round of nett 66 was enough to nudge him ahead of Ken.
The handicap winner was Richard Galloway on nett 133, the result of two solid rounds of 67 and 66 respectively. This was a fitting reward for Richard, whose consistent level of performance is emphasised by similar impressive scoring in competition over the past month.
The scratch competition was not decided until the arrival of the last grouping of the second round. Andy Macdonald posted a 72 in the afternoon for a total of 143 and fourth place. Norrie O Macdonald had five birdies in an excellent round marred once again by the Dardanelles – a double bogey this time around. His 70 for a total of 141 put him in third position.
David Black catapulted himself into contention with a second round of 69, which included six birdies. That round and his overall total of 141 ensured him the runner up position and Bronze Medal. David has almost reached a half century of birdies already this season, in the process reducing his handicap by a full stroke. Unfortunately, double bogeys also have a habit of appearing his scorecard and Saturday was no exception, with the Glen in the morning and Heather in the afternoon spoiling his card. Nevertheless, neither of those glitches alone cost him the title.
The final grouping of the day included Colin Macritchie and his immaculate 65 was more than enough for first place. Bogeys on the third and fourth holes looked to have stunted his challenge but Colin went on to complete the rest of his round in four strokes below par. His winning total was 136 and secured the first Silver Medal cast for a Western Isles County Championship. Next year, the event is scheduled to move on to Harris and, hopefully, will include a stronger competition entry from the other golf clubs in the islands.
The ladies deserve credit for managing to find tee times to allow them to complete their Saturday Stableford competition in aid of Cancer Relief. Jane Nicolson and Gill Chadwick achieved 33 points but the winner was Mairi Maciver on 35 points. That was a reversal of the Tuesday Medal competition result, where Jane Nicolson took first place ahead of Mairi Maciver.
The midweek Caledonian Medal qualifying competition was bedevilled by high winds and, while that was reflected in some scores, others appeared oblivious to the conditions. The Macritchie family was again to the fore, with Iain taking third spot, courtesy of nett 63, which included a birdie on the Caberfeidh. Gordon Kennedy returned his lowest ever gross score – a feat he repeated on Saturday – to record nett 61.
The winner, one stroke better on nett 60, was Marten James. Despite a triple bogey start, Marten clawed his way back with birdies on the Ard Choille, Ditch and Cup.
This weekend sees all sections competing in benefit events for the Greenkeepers. Their sterling efforts to redress the effects of a dreadful winter are now reaping rewards. As anyone who ventures off the fairways will testify, growth on the course is phenomenal at the moment and the smaller members of the club, and perhaps even some of the greenkeeping staff, may have to carry distress flares as part of their equipment in the weeks to come.