The towering figure of former Celtic player John Hartson may not have played the first golf shot of the summer in Stornoway but his charity event preceded the opening competition last Wednesday. John has lost none of his competitive edge and he and his team won the inaugural Hartson Challenge. The real winners were actually the John Hartson Foundation, set up to increase awareness of testicular cancer and support for those affected, and the Hebridean Men’s Cancer Support Group. Thanks go to all those who participated in and contributed to a very successful event.
The first Centenary Medal qualifying competition, as is to be expected, was played in sunshine and showers and competitors experienced their own moments in the sun, with the usual deluge of catastrophe thrown in. The number 9 figured so often in Stevie Bryden’s round that it looked as though he was trying to summon the emergency services through his scorecard. A number of golfers who played alongside Stevie during the Winter League commented on his ability far exceeding his handicap. Despite the occasional disaster, there were enough pars to give Stevie 39 stableford points and a deserved victory in the competition.
Stevie’s strong finish kept him ahead of two other golfers who also posted 39 points. Donald John Smith might have expected that his finish of one over par for the last six holes would be a match for anyone but he fell just short. John R Gillies, with the advice of his Winter League partner still ringing in his ears, completed the outward half in just three over par, thanks in part to a birdie on the Heather. The inward half saw an end to the ringing in his ears and an unfortunate return to normal service.
Cal Robertson made a promising start to the season with 38 points, while Allan Macleod survived another stomach-churning wait before confirmation that his handicap would remain untouched after his 36 point haul.
Saturday morning saw the first Jackson Medal qualifying competition of the season, with over forty golfers participating. Stevie Bryden removed all trace of the number 9 from his card on this occasion but retained the excellent finish from midweek and once again emerged victorious with an impressive nett 62. Stevie has now managed to reduce his handicap by three strokes within the first few days of the season and there is no doubt that further cuts will follow.
Ken Galloway also posted nett 62; his level par outward half included birdies on the Heather, Memorial and Short. He was unable to match the inward half posted by Stevie but Ken will have no complaints: his game is certainly maturing with age. In fact, had he not missed some makeable putts, Ken would have been somewhere in the fifties.
There were other notable performances amongst the nine competitors who completed their rounds under par. Huw Lloyd reversed the inexorable rise in his handicap from last year with an excellent round of nett 64 for third place. In one fell swoop, Huw took his handicap back to where it began a year ago. Of course, golfers are never satisfied and, despite securing a birdie on the Ranol, Huw will bemoan the triple bogey on the last that thwarted an even better score.
Cal Roberston continued his fine form with nett 65: after only two competitions, Cal already has an eclectic score of gross 66. Willie Macaulay and Iain “Todd” Mackenzie matched that total in their first outing of the year and both will be delighted to register a handicap cut for the first time in umpteen attempts.
The weekend visit from Golspie Golf Club was an unqualified success. The home team ran out winners by 8 games to 5, which helped towards erasing the memory of a resounding defeat in Golspie last autumn. As is customary, the match was of secondary importance and the improving weather on Saturday afternoon made the golf all the more enjoyable.
As is also usual in inter-club events, there were a number of contenders for Most Embarrassing Moment but in the end the judging panel was unable to choose between the Stornoway Captain and Vice-captain, who could only halve their match with two Golpsie ladies (admittedly two very accomplished Golspie ladies), and Stornoway members Mick Butterworth and Iain Mackenzie, who competed for Golspie and had the temerity to win their match.