New members are always welcome at Stornoway Golf Club. The membership promotion this year has resulted in a large number of new golfers at the Club; so many that it is often difficult to identify fellow golfers on the course. Last weekend, there appeared to be a mystery golfer, wearing a blue and white polo shirt, competing for the Ken MacDonald Millennium Trophy. Upon closer inspection, however, it emerged that the golfer was in fact none other than Stewart Macdonald, minus his obligatory pullover.
Even senior members could not recall when Stewart was last seen without his jumper; there was a recollection that one particular favourite had simply fallen off after some twenty years continuous wear, but no one could cite an occasion for certain within living memory. In any event, the reason for Stewart’s rash decision to lose a layer of clothing was the glorious weather last Saturday and, even if the decision may have seemed rash, Stewart continued his run of good form with a level par 68.
The calm conditions hinted at low scoring and that was indeed the case, with almost half of the field returning scores of level par or better. Newly crowned Club Champion David Black posted the lowest gross round of the day. Having reached the halfway stage in one over par, David birdied three of the next four holes and held on for a gross 68 (nett 65). That was only good enough for seventh position.
With a nett 65, Cal Robertson saw a welcome reduction in his handicap, which had been rising at an alarming rate of around 0.2 each week since the end of April. Thanks to birdies on the Ditch and Foresters, Cal played the last twelve holes in one under par and will be greatly relieved that his touch is now restored, with the added bonus of a one stroke cut in handicap.
Three players tied for third spot on nett 64. Martin Flett opened his account with birdies on the Manor and Glen and, courtesy of another birdie on the Caberfeidh, went on to complete a solid round.
Donald Macsween survived a dispiriting start to his round, picked up a birdie on the Memorial and added a second in the Caberfeidh, to return his best score of this, and possibly any other, season.
Andrew Reeves was also in the best form of his season, a birdie on the Caberfeidh being the highlight of a superb inward half of only three over par – achieved with a handicap of 16.
John “Shillegan” Gillies matched the winning score of nett 63 but, by all accounts, his round could have been embarrassingly low had his putter been as effective as the other clubs in his bag. John took three putts to hole out on no less than six greens. While the frustration of that performance is understandable, John at least avoided posting a score so low that he would have been ashamed to show his face in town for the rest of the month.
Occasionally, absence from the golf course can be the best remedy for mediocre form. Donald John Smith last played early in July before departing to coach youngsters on a FIFA football programme – and no doubt check his various bank accounts – in Switzerland. A birdie on the Manor kept him in the hunt on the front nine, while another birdie on the Caberfeidh helped him complete the inward half only three over par. Not only was it his best round of the year, but his finish ensured he takes possession of the Ken MacDonald Millennium Trophy.
The Ladies section also competed for the Ken MacDonald Millennium Trophy and it was Jane Nicolson who emerged victorious with yet another solid round. Her nett 69, with birdies on the Gunsite and Caberfeidh, was four strokes better than runner up Gill Chadwick.
Allan Macleod has suffered the ignominy of seventeen consecutive rises in handicap; it is testament to his character, fragile mental state, determination, devotion, obsession, tenacity or sheer lunacy (any or all may apply) that he returns to competition faithfully despite all adversity. Last week, redemption arrived in the unlikely form of a sub-par round. His nett 65 must have taken Allan back to the heady days of May, when his handicap stood at 7 and falling. Three months on and with a handicap heading into double figures, Allan found himself in what has become his more customary position, on the Memorial tee, already six over par.
What happened next is not entirely clear, but Allan played the rest of his round in level par. Birdies on the Caberfeidh and Cup provided the icing on the cake and put a spring in his step as he prepares to take on the Old Course and Turnberry in the coming weeks.
Allan’s round was enough to win the midweek Caledonian Medal qualifying competition. His playing partner, Murdo O’Brien, took second spot with a rollercoaster round of nett 67 that included a triple bogey, double bogey, four bogeys, seven pars and five birdies. It was little wonder that the pair were slightly out of breath by the time they reached the clubhouse.
The moral from last week’s competitions is now clear. Those struggling with their golf game should either take a break for a month in Switzerland or continue striving against all odds. The choice is yours. And remember to take off your pullover.