Winter League ends in a dead heat

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It’s all over now: the fat lady sang last Saturday afternoon, bringing the curtain down on the Car Hire Hebrides Winter League for another season. It was undoubtedly one of the wettest Winter Leagues on record: Ken Galloway, playing in his fifty-first winter league, would attest to that. Six rounds were cancelled because of bad weather and, as Club Captain Marten James mentioned in his prize-giving speech, there were a number of other rounds that would also have been casualties of frost and flooding, were it not for the pressure of allowing some golf to be played in January and February.

The final round of competition was played in relatively balmy conditions. An odd rain shower interrupted what was otherwise a day of sunshine and spring warmth. Unfortunately for the teams with a real opportunity to snatch the league trophy at the last minute, handicaps and other problems proved to be too much of a hurdle.

Fourth placed Bryan Geddes had to compete on the final day without partner Ali Gillies, but his concentration was assured by playing alongside Neil Rowlands and Darren Beattie, lying in eighth position and looking for seven points to overtake the leaders. Both teams were still in contention when they came across a dog-walker, who had fallen heavily and was badly injured. Problems in moving the injured man meant that an ambulance had to be driven onto the course to recover the casualty. Needless to say, thoughts of golf for the threesome disappeared.

Roddy Martin, on the other hand, had to soldier on alone after partner Norrie Mackenzie suffered a late onset of self-harming, cutting his good hand so badly that he was unable to play at all. The pair, sharing the lead at the start of the final round, had to wait nervously as their nearest rivals made one last push for victory.

The closest challengers to the leading pairs, Gordon Kennedy and David Gray, were also a man short. Given the choice of playing in the final round with Gordon or visiting taking a trip to South Carolina, David understandably plumped for Trump, as they say.

The leading partnerships need not have been anxious as, one by one, challengers failed to make the necessary impact. Peter and Murdo O’Brien, in fifth position, and seventh placed Mark Morrison and Donald “Sweeney” Macsween fell just short, picking up only one point apiece for nett 47.

Instead, points were grabbed by teams that have spent much of the winter as one man bands. Neil Morrison and Iain “Boozy” Macdonald continued the previous weekend’s winning form with a share of second spot and collected eleven points for a nett 44. All of their Winter League points came in the last two rounds.

Liam McGeoghan and Bob Rankin were also on a late run, earning points for the third successive week. Their eleven points means that they climbed sixteen places in the league table in the final month of competition, the kind of progress that Aston Villa and Dundee United would die for.

The winning pairing last weekend was that of Chris Kelso and John Macleod, the late developers winning by a margin of two strokes and virtually doubling their overall points tally in one fell swoop.

Derek Murray, of sponsors Car Hire Hebrides, was on hand to present the Winter League trophy to the joint winners. Norrie Mackenzie and Roddy Martin have been around the top of the league table for most of the winter, while Donald Macleod and son DJ Macleod have gradually climbed to 53 points and a share of first spot over the past two months.

Gordon Kennedy and David Gray took third place one point adrift, two points ahead of Bryan Geddes and Ali Gillies. Peter and Murdo O’Brien were a further two points behind, sharing fifth position with Norman L Macdonald and Iain Macleod.

Summer golf has already begun, with the first round of qualifying for the Centenary Medal in midweek.

Finally, a mention for Hugh Maclean, Past Captain of Harris Golf Club, who came close to securing a place in the Golfing Hall of Fame with an extraordinary performance on his home course at Scarista. Playing in a stableford competition, Hugh bagged an ace on the par 4 first hole. That rare albatross earned him an even more rare six points but, sadly, seems to have been the only golf shot of any consequence played by Hugh in his round. He finished last in the competition.