The Western Isles County Championship is now firmly established in the golfing calendar. The two previous events were held at Stornoway and the Isle of Harris and both were blessed with beautiful weather. This year was no exception, with the course at Askernish in wonderful condition and the weather sublime. Colin Macritchie from Stornoway has been the champion for the past two years and he came close to recording a third victory in succession last weekend. His gross 78 was good enough to take second place, four strokes behind another Stornoway golfer and the latest winner, Andy Macdonald. Andy has performed well at Askernish in previous competitions and he was a deserving winner.
As an Old Tom Morris course, Askernish is a supreme test of golfing ability, which makes Andy’s two over par gross total all the more impressive. The strong contingent of golfers from Stornoway made it a clean sweep in the scratch competition, with Bryan Geddes and Willie Macaulay taking third and fourth places respectively.
In the handicap competition, Askernish Captain Paddy Forbes had his putter to thank for a superb nett 69, which secured first place. Askernish golfers took all of the handicap awards: Ron MacKinnon continued his excellent form to come second with a nett 71, followed in third position by Askernish Development Manager Scott Hamilton and Allan Louis MacDonald in fourth spot.
In Stornoway, spare a thought for Gill Chadwick. Posting a midweek score of nett 66 would generally ensure a comfortable victory in any competition. However, Gill chose the wrong event to have her best round of the year: it was only good enough for third place. Both Donna Young and Ann Galbraith recorded nett 65, with Ann winning the Tuesday Medal qualifying event courtesy of a better inward half.
Gill and Donna were amongst the contenders in the Saturday Medal qualifying competition, taking second and third spots respectively. Neither could catch Mary Joyce, whose nett 68 was her best effort of the season so far.
The men’s midweek event was the first round of the Neil Morrison Trophy. This is one of the most anticipated competitions of the year and the large field was testimony to that. Cal Robertson rediscovered his early season form with a gross 68 to lead the scratch section. Two birdies in the outward half helped him reach the turn only one over par. The inward half saw Cal pick up further birdies on the Caberfeidh and Foresters and he posted a level par round to lead the competition.
Colin Macritchie was also round in level par and matched Cal’s haul of four birdies. In fact, were it not for an uncharacteristic slip at the Short, where he dropped three shots, Colin would have taken a healthy lead into the second round.
Kevin Macrae, on gross 70, and last year’s winner Norrie “Onions” Macdonald, on gross 71, are close challengers in the scratch competition.
In recent years, Murdo O’Brien has made a habit of producing his best form in this event – scratch runner-up last year, handicap runner-up in 2010 and scratch winner in 2009. This year, his gross 72 (nett 67) has put him in contention in both scratch and handicap sections. David Gray, Mike Smith and Griddy Macleod are all well-placed going into the final round next week.
Despite the attraction of the County Championship at the weekend, there was a healthy turnout for the Stornoway handicap competition. Stephen Moar took first place with an excellent nett 66, the highlight of which was an eagle on the Caberfeidh. David Black was one stroke adrift: back to back birdies on the Whins and Dardanelles were not quite enough to nudge Stephen off the winner’s podium.
John A Macleod, Huw Lloyd and Graham Morrison all posted nett 68, with the rest of the field over par.
This weekend sees Greenkeepers’ Benefit competitions in all sections. Who would have thought that Stornoway greenkeepers would be contending with drought conditions? With no rain to speak of for over a month, some parts of the course could double for the arid plains of the Masai Mara, complete with wildlife ranger Cal Robertson forlornly searching for a watering hole.