Askernish still has the wow factor

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“The first six holes con you and the next twelve: Wow!”

Some years ago, those words were written in the Askernish Visitors’ Book by Mike Easton, an accomplished amateur golfer, following his first round on the stunning Old Tom Morris course. Now a regular visitor at the Askernish Open weekend, Mike confirms that his view of the course has not changed since that unforgettable experience. In fact, Mike would like his words inscribed on the tee of the hole he now sponsors on the magnificent links skirting the Atlantic in South Uist.

This year’s Open, as usual, attracted a field from across the UK and beyond, and was again blessed with good weather. A southerly breeze tested the participants in the stableford competition for the Mackenzie & Ebert Trophy but, nevertheless, scoring was excellent. In the ladies’ event, Jane Mackinnon took the prize, four points clear of runner-up Morag Nicolson. Mention has to be made of Morag’s daughter, Molly who, at thirteen years old, unleashed a prodigious tee shot to win the long drive competition on the sixth hole. Such was the length of her drive that some of us were hitting our third shots into the wind before we reached the mark set by Molly.

The men’s competition was a much tighter affair, with both Elliot Ebert and James MacDonald posting an impressive 40 points. James MacDonald won courtesy of a better inward half, which included an eagle on the 546 yard final hole. James recorded a gross score of 70, which equals the course record set by Andy Macdonald.

James was to feature strongly in the main Open competition on the following day. On a beautiful morning, with barely a breath of wind, the early starters provided a feeding frenzy for millions of midges. Despite the idyllic conditions, scoring was much more challenging that on the previous day. Fast running greens baking in sunshine shredded the nerves of many a competitor but James MacDonald once again emerged on top. His gross 75 was one ahead of David Revie and Andy Macdonald.

In the handicap section, local golfer Allan L Macdonald took the honours with nett 69. Two Stornoway golfers, Neil Rowlands and Alasdair Gillies, won Nearest the Pin and Long Drive awards respectively.

Last year’s winner Fiona Macphee, Suzanne Smith and Karen Ravenscroft all posted identical scores in the ladies’ competition, with Karen just edging out the others to become champion. Jane Mackinnon added to her stableford silverware with victory in the handicap section of the Open competition.

Earlier this month, a group of nine junior golfers and two adults made the journey across the Minch to Ullapool on the CalMac ferry “Loch Seaforth” to experience a day’s golf at Ullapool Golf Course. On a day of challenging golfing conditions, punctuated by a few heavy rain showers, the clear winner was Lewis Cunningham with 29 Stableford points. All the junior golfers thoroughly enjoyed the visit, which provided an opportunity to develop their course management skills in a new golfing environment away from their home course in Stornoway.

The junior golfers wish to acknowledge with thanks the financial support for the trip provided by the Transocean Travel Scheme and Stornoway Golf Club. A debt of gratitude is also owed to Ken Galloway and George Macleod for accompanying the junior golfers and supervising the trip. The local Golf Club arranged transport between the Ullapool ferry terminal and the Club and gave free use of trolleys on the golf course. As those who have represented Stornoway Golf Club in inter-club matches in the past will attest, the warm hospitality and excellent catering provided by the Ullapool Club is second to none. That was very much appreciated by the juniors on this occasion.

The first medal final of the season in Stornoway saw Neil Rowlands win the Centenary Medal. A birdie on the Glen helped Neil to a two over par halfway total. The inward half was even more impressive, with a birdie on the Caberfeidh ensuring a level par return. His gross 69 translated into 39 stableford points, which gave Neil a winning margin of three points over David Campbell.

Another David took third place, courtesy of a sensational five under par outward half. Unfortunately, soggy ground swallowed up his second shot on the Dardanelles and the resulting lost ball heralded a change in fortune for David Black. It was only temporary, as David once again secured the Club Championship. More on that achievement next week.