GOTLAND AND STORNOWAY BLOWING IN THE WIND
There will be blanket coverage of the NatWest Island Games elsewhere in the Stornoway Gazette but, nonetheless, contributing a little duvet cover here is irresistible. The golf team put in an excellent performance on extremely tough courses. David Black led the team in 25th place and all team members finished within the top 50 in the overall competition. Spare some sympathy for a traumatised golfer from Hitra, propping up the scoreboard almost 250 over par.
The gold medal winner, Alex McAuley, is on a golfing scholarship at Seton Hall University, New Jersey, but even he was unable to come close to breaking par in blustery conditions. Alex and his colleagues from the Isle of Man retained the golfing team gold won in Jersey two years ago, winning both gold and silver in the individual event in Gotland. Tom Harris, who won individual gold in Jersey, took the silver medal this time around.
On more mundane matters, it is now pretty conclusive that the most useless golfing accessory I possess - from an admittedly large collection of tat - is an umbrella. It's not that it never rains in the Hebrides, it's that the rain does not fall from the sky. Instead, rain approaches at pace horizontally, from a variety of directions at the same time. Even when it is possible to open an umbrella, the wind quickly adjusts to blow it inside out. Trying to restore an umbrella to its proper shape, whipped by a swirling wind in torrential rain is well nigh impossible. A bit like attempting golf in those conditions, actually.
Last weekend had it all. Occasionally the sun came out, for long enough to give optimists some hope, before the skies darkened again and the wind began to howl. As a result, the charity competition for the Leukaemia Research Trophy was an ordeal for most of the field. Perversely, there is always the exception and this time his name was George Macleod.
George played the first nine holes in much the same fashion as most golfers in the event, with a couple of double bogeys thrown in. What came next was certainly different. A birdie on the Ranol helped George to a one over par total on the inward half and a nett score of 63, comfortably winning his first piece of silverware this year.
Three strokes behind, Neil Morrison made the most of downwind opportunities, picking up birdies on the Manor and Caberfeidh.
Angus Innes also made two birdies, on the Memorial and Avenue, in a solid nett 67. The only other golfer to break par was Stewart Macqueen, with another useful round of nett 67.
The hard luck award goes to Cal Robertson, who had played immaculate golf and stood on the fourteenth tee at level par. An imperceptible change in his game somehow resulted in four shots slipping away over the closing holes. Cal had the consolation of posting the lowest gross score of the day, a fine 72 in the challenging conditions.
In the Ladies' section, Gillian Wingate secured her maiden victory as a Stornoway member in the latest qualifying round for the Saturday Medal. Gillian edged out Liz Carmichael, thanks to a marginally more consistent inward half.
Liz was also runner-up in the midweek Bogey/Par competition, which was won by Donna Young.
The midweek event for men was the fourth qualifying round for the Caledonian Medal. Once again, the weather made life difficult and only three players broke par. Kenny "Wang" Macleod has proved on a number of occasions that he is impervious to wind and rain; a double bogey on the Memorial was the last blip on an impressive scorecard, as he posted nett 67.
Had it not been for six shots dropped in the space of two holes after the turn, John Morrison would have won by some distance. Instead, his nett 66 left him in second place, squeezed out by a better inward half carded by Paul Moorby.
Paul now appears to have acclimatised to both the Hebridean weather and the golf course in Stornoway. He has bettered his handicap or made buffer zone in seven of his last eight outings and a solid nett 66 was enough to take the top qualifying spot.
Pete Middleton had an especially memorable round, bagging his first ever ace. A superb tee shot on the Whins landed on the green, took a short hop and rolled sweetly into the hole. It will become even sweeter in time.