One of the most surprising statistics from the junior coaching sessions currently running at Stornoway Golf Club is that rain has not affected any of the sessions. Over thirty young golfers have enrolled in a series of lessons that have already transformed absolute beginners into promising stars of the future. And the sun has shone on every session.
It is a rare occurrence for a thunderstorm to be welcomed anywhere but, for a hour last Thursday evening, Stornoway threw its arms open to a downpour that brought some relief to gardeners and greenkeepers. The rain may not have softened the parched greens on the golf course but they did breathe some life into the ground.
Competitors in the latest qualifying round for the Jackson Medal reaped the benefit. With another day of the stunning weather that is now so commonplace that it hardly merits a mention, the only fly in the ointment was that persistent north-easterly breeze. The wind itself is not really the problem; island golfers are well used to that.
The difficulty arises because the prevailing wind in the islands is from the south-west and yet it is a couple of months since we had wind from that direction. Consequently, golfers are having to adapt their game to deal with holes that are currently playing completely differently to what we generally experience. The seventh hole, the Redan, is a good example. Normally, the second shot played to the green is into the teeth of the wind and the ball lands softly on the small green. This season, a lofted wedge shot, played with a following wind onto a rock hard surface is an entirely different proposition.
More than fifty participants vied for the two qualifying places in the Jackson Medal final up for grabs last weekend. Only five golfers posted nett scores under par.
Peter Dickie and Mike Smith both produced their best golf in the inward half and took fourth and fifth places respectively for identical totals of nett 67.
One place higher, Norrie “Onions” Macdonald had four birdies - on the Manor, Redan, Gunsite and Ranol - in an excellent nett 66. The runner-up spot was taken by Cal Robertson, with yet another sparkling performance. Birdies on the Manor and Short ensured a level par outward half; the inward half was almost identical. A birdie on the Cup took Cal under par before a frustrating bogey on the final hole brought the curtain down on the lowest gross round of the day (68) and the second lowest nett round (64). Cal now drops to a handicap allowance of three, which must be lower that even his pre-season aspirations.
The winning total, nett 64, was posted by Norrie “Tomsh” Macdonald. It was another excellent round in what is turning out to be an excellent season for Norrie. A respectable first half was followed by an exceptional second half of only two over par.
The appropriately named Summer Cup was the prize on offer in midweek. Those who played in the afternoon had what has now become the staple diet of wall to wall blue skies and sunshine. However, cloud cover and a distinct chill affected those with later tee times. It was hard not to feel a little sympathy for Gordon Kennedy, who began his round wearing shorts and a thin top to ensure comfort in the warm sunshine; two hours later, under low cloud and haar, a shivering Gordon still had half of his round to complete and very little clothing to complete it in.
Nonetheless, Gordon held on to post an excellent nett 66 and take fourth place. Ken Galloway, also on nett 66, edged third spot thanks to a useful inward half that included a birdie on the Caberfeidh.
Dave Sandison had an eventful round that began in stunning fashion, when he holed his third shot from 130 yards on the opening hole for a birdie. As is usual in golf, good fortune has a habit of deserting and Dave suffered the consequences in style, when his second shot on the Dardanelles lodged in a tree and he ended up with a quadruple bogey. Under the circumstances, a nett 65, including back-to-back birdies on the Caberfeidh and Miller, was astonishing.
The winning score was also nett 65, posted by Darren Beattie, overcoming the misfortune of playing his round watching partner Gordon Kennedy’s legs gradually turn blue. A birdie on the Caberfeidh was the highlight of Darren’s cup winning round.