Jolly Roger’s flying high

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The howling wind and heavy rain that swept through the Hebrides last Friday and much of Saturday closed the golf course in Stornoway. The closure of the course sparked a panic-stricken rummaging around for some news to replace what would otherwise have been a report of Eddie Rogers, Cal Robertson or some other in form golfer posting another silly score.

A couple of recent competitions have not been mentioned in previous golf notes. The Flag competition allows those participants finishing under par to carry their strokes into a second round and place a flag on the spot where they run out of shots. It is also an annual reminder a low point in my time as Match and Handicap Convener.

I was standing on the first tee when, from the eighteenth green, an ashen-faced Pat Aird appeared. I asked him how many shots he had but he was unable to speak. His playing partner said, “Eleven”. My heart sank. I had visions of trying to locate the flag in the gathering gloom somewhere around the fourth fairway. Perhaps Pat noticed my despondency, as he managed to squander all eleven strokes before he reached the second green and was kind enough to play his last shot – and leave the flag – about as close to the clubhouse as he could.

This year, in difficult conditions, Eddie Rogers was the only player to finish under par and a tee shot on the first would have been enough for him to win the competition. Eddie opened his round with a double bogey but birdies on the Memorial and Caberfeidh redressed the balance. A bogey on the Gunsite was the only slip Eddie had and he finished one over par, the lowest gross total of the day. His nett 64 was four shots clear of the field.

Darren Beattie, John M Morrison and John A Macdonald all posted nett 68 to finish second, third and fourth respectively.

The competition for the Lifeboat Spoon was an entirely different affair. Benign conditions resulted in almost a quarter of the field equalling or bettering par. Stuart Campbell found himself four over par after four holes before a string of pars steadied the round. Despite a late stumble, Stuart posted nett 65 and took third place.

Mike Smith birdied the Manor on his way to a halfway score of only two over par. The inward half was even better, with a birdie on the Caberfeidh contributing to a one over par total and a nett 65, his better inward half lifting Mike into second place.

George Macleod has had a decidedly average season but he kept his best until mid-September. With the exception of a double bogey on the Whins, George had a remarkably steady round and his nett 63 means that there will be at least one silver spoon in the Macleod household after this year’s prize-giving.

The reason for the recent absence of golf notes was an over-indulgent birthday celebration. The highlight was undoubtedly a round on the Ailsa Course at Turnberry. The iconic hotel and clubhouse facilities have been restored to their former glory, thanks to an eye-watering investment of £200 million by an American presidential candidate (Clue: it’s not Hillary). The attention to detail is incredible, but it is the course itself that has been transformed into one of the best in the world.

The natural contours of the Ayrshire coast have been sensitively adapted to improve the course immeasurably. It is well worth a visit and will undoubtedly host the British Open within the next decade

Ken MacDonald was also rummaging around last weekend - in his wardrobe, looking for something different to wear. He came across a Suilven Golf Club tie, a reminder of a past age. After trips to Reay Golf Club in Caithness, some Stornoway golfers made a habit of playing golf on board the Suilven during the journey home. Actually, “playing” golf is a bit of a misnomer, as the game appeared to involve little more than blasting balls from the deck of the ship into the Minch.

Out of that nonsense, the exclusive Suilven Golf Club was formed. Its demise probably preceded the replacement of the ferry and the Club is more likely to have become a victim of health and safety considerations. Given that Ken tends to launch the ball to a maximum height of around six feet, it is surprising that there were no other victims struck down in the Club’s heyday.