Age is just a number in golf

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Peter O’Brien had a spring in his step last weekend for at least two understandable reasons. The first was that last Saturday marked the first anniversary of his hole in one on the tenth hole at Stornoway.

An ace is a remarkable achievement for any golfer but, in Peter’s case, it was made even more remarkable by the fact that he was 79 years old. The second reason was that last weekend Peter turned 80.

There is, as they say, a lot of life in the old dog; a birdie on his opening hole demonstrated that there is also plenty of golf left to play.

Peter and son Murdo picked up a useful half dozen points to move into contention in the overall Winter League table.

There was another youngster celebrating a birthday last week. Chris Kelso marked his 70th birthday by deciding not to participate in the latest round of the Car Hire Hebrides Winter League. Instead, he relaxed in the clubhouse and left his partner, John Macleod, to brave the elements alone.

That is a risky strategy for Chris. His partner is coming perilously close to earning more points playing on his own than when Chris puts in an appearance.

We can learn a lot from Chris and Peter. They are perfect examples for those of us who are too often frustrated on the course.

Despite all our angst, it is just a game and, if we can have a fraction of the enjoyment that Peter derives from a sport in which he is still competitive after around seven decades of playing, we will be much the better of it. As for Chris, a fortnight ago, bent into the wind and drenched, he muttered, “It’s just as well we don’t play this game for fun.“ But that is exactly what he and Peter have always done.

There was a milestone of a different sort for two other senior golfers. Mick Butterworth and John Collins collected their first points in a campaign where they have only been able to put in an occasional appearance.

The real significance of the six points won is that every one of the 42 pairings contesting the Winter League has now picked up points. In recent years, there have been partnerships (nameless, of course) that have, as Ken Macdonald and Dave Rattray will verify, failed to earn any points during the winter competition. This year’s contest is fiercely competitive and, with two rounds remaining, thirty teams are still in with a chance of winning the Winter League title.

In calm and soggy conditions last weekend, scores of nett par and better were rewarded with points. Robert Rankin, playing solo in the absence of Liam Mcgeoghegan, birdied his first and last holes, the Avenue and Cup/Caberfeidh, in an excellent round. His nett 45 gave Robert a share of third place and nine points.

Bryan Geddes and Ali Gillies are making a late charge in the competition and added to the dozen points picked up a fortnight earlier with another nine to double their overall tally in three weeks. After five straight par holes, Ali and Bryan birdied the Cup/Caberfeidh to complete an impressive outward half. It was a similar pattern in the inward half, with a birdie on the Gunsite and another five pars.

There were also two teams sharing the winning score, collecting fourteen points apiece. Stuart Beaufoy and Donald A Stewart put in their best performance of the winter, by some distance. A solid opening six holes was followed by an even better return, with a birdie on the Glen helping towards a nett 44.

John Cunningham and Scott Maciver played par golf for their first four holes before making birdie on the Short and reaching the halfway mark one under par.

Another four par holes followed but John and Scott finished in style with successive birdies on the Memorial and Cup/Caberfeidh. Their gross three under par 45 matched the best of the day.

In the overall league table, Magnus and Murdo Johnson remain in first place on 55 points. Pete Middleton and Iain Moir have moved up into second spot, one point behind. Neil Maciver and Angus Macarthur drop a place to third on 53 points, one ahead of John Cunningham and Scott Maciver.

Donnie and DJ Macleod sit in fifth position on 49 points, one ahead of Ken Galloway and John R Gillies, who have edged in front of a handful of pairings on 47 points.