Playing alongside Kevin Macrae in the latest qualifying round for the Caledonian Medal was an education on the pressure that low handicap golfers are under. Hackers like ourselves can simply shrug off wasted shots trying to escape from a bunker, or thinned chips or the occasional lost ball, safe in the knowledge that we have plenty strokes in reserve, courtesy of a generous handicap allowance.
In our heads, being a dozen shots over par at the halfway stage can easily be addressed by the sort of scintillating inward half we know we are capable of and, in fact, once achieved in 2007. The more logical reasoning is that, given our general standard of play, we are likely to be more than twenty shots over par by the end of the round. That possibility does not register until our tee shot on the fifteenth hole plops weakly into the ditch and we realise that the challenging four birdie finish we envisaged is now the more testing requirement of a birdie and two eagles, one of which will have to be an ace.
On a day when the north-easterly wind wreaked havoc and the lowest score was nett 69, Kevin had to wait until the seventh hole for his first par. Fortunately, despite dropping shots on four of his first six holes, Kevin picked up birdies on the Manor and Heather. With only one stroke of his handicap remaining, the rest of the round was a battle against both the wind and spiked greens that favoured the “hit and hope” putting method.
Kevin posted gross 73, the lowest score of on the day, joining around a dozen participants praying for a Competition Scratch Score (CSS) of 69 to avoid a handicap increase. The CSS duly rose to 69. Kevin is unlikely to face a more challenging round this season.
The competition winner was Norrie “Tomsh” Macdonald, one of a handful of competitors on nett 69. The highlight of the round – and perhaps the year – for Norrie was a birdie on the Dardanelles, a hole playing much longer than its already prodigious 550 yards and, for good measure, throwing in the added test of a fast-paced, pock-marked green. Norrie’s achievement is put into some perspective by the fact that, on the day, the average score on the Dardanelles was a double bogey.
Calum Tom Moody took the runner-up spot with his nett 69, a round that had almost everything, including birdies on the Heather and Caberfeidh.
Another glorious Saturday, with little wind, enticed more than sixty participants to the charity competition for the Arthritis Care Shield. Three golfers vied for first place, all of them locked on 40 stableford points.
Ken Galloway had another very steady round, with a birdie on the Redan helping towards his total.
David Black was again in superb form, without a bogey on his card, as he posted the lowest gross total, a three under par 65, thanks to birdies on the Short, Ranol and Caberfeidh.
The third competitor recording 40 points was Dave Sandison, whose sparkling start to the season continued with a round that shaved another stroke off his handicap allowance. His two over par inward half was enough to edge him ahead of the others and give him his first piece of silverware this year.
The Ladies played the third round of the Cancer Relief stableford competition, with Liz Carmichael winning by a single stableford point from Rita MacDonald. Jan Maclennan was in third place.
In the Junior Section, there was a tight finish as Kyle Munro came from three shots behind to win the Castle Trophy with a second round nett 69. The first round leader, John Morrison, posted nett 72 for a nett 140 aggregate total.
Kyle matched that aggregate total and took the Trophy by virtue of his better final round. John Macleod was third.
Finally, the name may be considered archaic but, under the circumstances, that is quite appropriate. The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield, East Lothian, is happy to have female golfers pay for the privilege of playing the course and, no doubt, happy to have female staff cook for the members, serve them and clean up after them. But allowing them to become members of the “honourable company” was a step too far for a sizeable minority.
How astonishing and embarrassing - and not just for golf - that this view still holds sway in supposedly respectable and educated circles in Scotland.