HARRIS WINS AGAIN
There is something irresistible about Harris. Even on dark days, with threatening skies, the landscape is overwhelming. From the mass of black rock to the golden sands and the ever-changing seascape, the light and colours are stunning. On a day like last Saturday, when the summer sun blazed overhead, the place is breathtaking. What better way to spend the day than playing a round of golf in the morning, having a seafood lunch and spending a lazy afternoon wandering around the bustling seaport of Tarbert.
The golf was at Scarista, the occasion the Harris Open. The lunch was in Scalpay, where the fare was the freshest of fresh seafood. And who would have thought that the words bustling and Tarbert would ever occur in the same sentence? Bustling is probably an understatement, because finding a vacant parking spot in the village is now a cause for celebration; the twin attractions of gin and Harris Tweed appear to have drawn in visitors from around the globe. For those of us living north of the Clisham, it's like travelling abroad for the day.
For those participating in the Life Members' competition last Friday, driving rain and a buffeting wind made it almost impossible to see, far less appreciate, the scenery draped around them. But there is always someone who excels in these conditions. John Morrison posted a remarkable nett 60 to win the trophy. Hailing from North Uist, John is of course naturally waterproof, while his current experimentation with a vegan diet means that he is no stranger to the onset of troublesome wind.
The idyllic conditions for the Open competition itself suggested that there would be very low scoring. There has been a huge effort made to improve a course overrun by a plague of rabbits and scarred by the ravages of the Atlantic. Greenkeeper James Gunn deserves huge credit for the effort and commitment he has made to present the course in astonishing condition, given that a few moths ago the ninth fairway and green, for example, were buried under a layer of sand.
As the weather conditions became more benign, the scoring also improved. In the first tranche of competitors, the lowest score was nett 64 but, by midday on Saturday, the target had been set at nett 60. Murdo Montgomery (Northumberland), who had said at the start of his round that he could not understand how anyone could shoot nett 60 on the course, went on to do exactly that. Were it not for a penalty bizarrely incurred when his ball rebounded from the face of a bunker and struck his club, Murdo would have been in that rare group of golfers who have recorded nett scores under 60.
Donald F Morrison (Cardross), who was runner-up in the Life Members' competition, went one better in the main handicap event. An outstanding afternoon round resulted in a nett 57 and a made-to-measure Harris Tweed jacket was his reward.
In the scratch event, two competitors with previous history in the competition took the top two places. Francis Clark (Royal Aberdeen) posted gross 71 but had to be content with second spot. Andrew Macdonald (Stornoway) weathered a difficult start and, after completing the inward half in an impressive two under par, recorded a one under par 67 to win another Harris Tweed jacket.
Congratulations are due to Harris Golf Club for the excellent hospitality and organisation that made the weekend such a pleasure for visiting golfers from far and wide. After his recent ill health, it was especially pleasing to see a rejuvenated Willie Fulton back at the course he played such a part in restoring to its current condition.
The Stornoway Club Championship begins with the opening two rounds this weekend but, prior to that, the final qualifying round for the Centenary Medal was held. Marten James set the early pace, his birdie on the Manor helping him to a haul of 40 stableford points. In the end, no one could match that target and Marten progressed to next week's final.
Calum Moody will join Marten, as his 39 points, including a birdie on the Caberfeidh, proved enough for second place. He just edged out Chris Kelso, who also finished on the same points total.
Looking further ahead, a team sheet is now available for the inter-club match at Golspie Golf Club in mid-September. Just as with Harris and the Askernish Open next weekend, Golspie is similar to a foreign holiday and is equally unmissable.