At long last there was a significantly better than average turnout for a competition at the Sconser home of the Isle of Skye Golf Club this season. Once again a healthy contingent of ladies and gentlemen made the journey from Traigh GC to take part in the celebration and their attendance at the event was much appreciated and welcomed by all at the IOSGC.
A few visitors joined in the fun too on a day that started off fine but conditions steadily deteriorated as the day progressed and those at the tail end of the field were facing a very different challenge with little if indeed any chance of success.
The strong winds and occasional blustery showers were to last right through the weekend and beyond making conditions very taxing for the golfers.
The winner of the gents section was Paul Harris, a visitor from Petersfield GC in Hampshire. He was on holiday and a very, very long way from home as Petersfield is only 18 miles north of Portsmouth on the south coast of England.
Off his 28 handicap Paul went to the turn in a very respectable 42 shots resulting in a bonanza of 23 pts. Perhaps slightly disconcerted by this abundance, although as a visiting player he would not have been fully conversant with what constituted a robust halfway points total he rather stumbled off the blocks second time round starting as he did 7,7,5,6 before composure regained he finished very steadily indeed for a ‘higher handicapper’.
Five points from the first four holes of the final lap but 13 from the remainder deposited another 18pts in the bank and although he didn’t find out till much later in the day victory was his by five clear points.
Runner-up was our own Geoff Williams whose excellent and consistent play so far this season has seen him feature regularly in these pages.
Consistency even in the scoring symmetry of his round this time where 18pts were harvested from each of his two nines.
Stewart ‘Shuggy’ Johnston’s two laps were constructed in a rather more volatile way. Perhaps still half-asleep after making his trek over the bridge the Kyle man could only muster 13pts from his first nine holes.
However it was bombs-away second time round with a fantastic accumulation of 22pts and third position.
That particularly strong second half was good enough to ease Broadford’s Jim Cumming out of the bronze medal position.
Jim, like Geoff Williams is on a run of very good form just now and he roared off to great start to his round in pocketing 20pts from his first lap of the track only to fall away a bit on the second nine with only another 15 pts to add for his effort.
There was a very close finish in the ladies section when Traigh’s Marion Carr got the better of our own Donalda Johnston by one single point. Another Traigh lady Linda MacLean took third place with 20pts.
Marion had 15pts for her first nine holes but as conditions worsened she could only add another 10 second time round.
Donalda too had trouble in dealing with the increasingly hostile weather as she secured 12pts from each or her two laps of the track
Linda also had a nice balance to her two laps scoring 10pts from each circuit.
Still short of stewards to fully staff the clubhouse seven days per week lady member Isabelle Taylor kindly volunteered to provide the catering required for a competition of this size.
Apparently she did an excellent job and her fare was gratefully and ravenously received by both visitors and members alike.
Good food, good company and good craic in the clubhouse-great stuff and very well done to all who helped on the day.
Once again the Senior Open was very kindly and generously sponsored by Craig Campbell, Opticians, Kyle of Lochalsh and the IOSGC wishes to place on record its thanks to Craig for his continuing and very welcome support of the event.
In a harbinger of doom scenario our greenkeeper was privileged to witness a sight few if indeed any will ever have seen at Sconser.
John Cunningham starts work very early and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings his first task of the day is to cut all the greens before the golfers make their appearance-and get in his way!
It was still blowing a hoolie as he noticed something very unusual up by the roadside 7th green. Closer, but not too close inspection revealed that a siege of our resident herons, ten to twelve in number were grounded and seemed to be enjoying a bit of a craic in the long grass just behind the green.
The conclusion was that their nests high in the trees of our ‘plantation’ were rather too precarious for their comfort and wellbeing so they decided to continue their chat at ground level.
The birds were wise but would the golfers heed nature’s warning?
CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP SATURDAY
Twenty four hours later in what must have been the worse golfing conditions of the year two players actually ventured forth to Sconser to challenge the 40mph winds and associated rain to a duel.
The weather won-but the boys put up a good fight.
Greens Convener John Maclean could only play on the first day of the weekend’s first qualifying round so club captain Ally Young, in a splendid gesture of courtesy and compassion rearranged his tee time from Sunday morning. Had he not done so his committee colleague would not have been able to submit a scorecard for consideration in the competition as John’s was the only name on the starting sheet because of the weather forecast.
In doing so Ally effectively sacrificed his own chance of possible participation in the final stages of the competition.
The Sunday forecast was always going to be more amenable to good scoring and throughout Saturday players were constantly changing their tee times online in an attempt to select the best possible weather window to allow them the best conditions in which to golf their competitive balls.
Sitting at home on an exceptionally blustery Saturday afternoon listening to the rain battering off the windows one could hardly believe it when scores from the course started to filter through on the Scottish Golf app.
Needless to say the numbers were high and consequently neither player is likely to feature in the playoffs following next week’s second and final qualifying round.
CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY
The morning started where the previous day had left off as cold, wet and windy weather greeted the early morning golfers.
Indeed the heavy showers continued intermittently for the duration of the first nine holes but thankfully things eased off a little second time round.
Following on the attendance improvement at the Senior Open two days earlier this prime event also attracted a good field.
In the Scratch Section defending champion, Ryan MacAskill who has triumphed three-times-in-a-row did in fact manage to get time off from his duties at Royal Dornoch GC as he attempted to join the club record holders for four-in-a-row triumphs in the Club Championship.
Jim Rodger did it from 1978 and Michael Whatley from 1987 so if the young fella does it he will be in distinguished company.
For the record both of these men won the championship eight times before moving away from Skye but the overall record holder is still Ally Grant with ten victories-before he too departed these shores for pastures new.
Ryan commenced the defence of his title with a birdie three on the opening hole before adding another birdie at 8 as he signed for a 35 stroke total for the first circuit.
Another three birdies at 10, 13 and 17 were added second time round for a 34 and an excellent opening round of 69 off his four handicap-but that could be two, three, five or even six by now thanks to the World Handicap System!
Commenting on the round which gives him a six shot lead over the field going into next week’s second and final qualifying round Ryan said that he was not hitting the ball particularly well in the blustery conditions but the five birdies saved him!
Five birdies is quite the haul from a round of golf but this lad seems to do it time after time.
To put his standard of play in perspective the other three players in the current qualifying positions managed two birdies among them and both were registered by Alex Munro.
Form-horse Jim Cumming submitted the second best score of the day when he took 37 shots to clip his ball round lap one before requiring 38 more to complete a nice round of golf.
Nothing spectacular from the club steward-just steady and consistent play.
Alex Munro and Geoff Williams both signed for scores of 76.
The former had a shocking start to his round with 5, 6, 6, 6 against the par of 4, 4, 3, 4 before limping to the turn in 42 shots. However an absolutely splendid transfiguration took place at the turn and this time the start was 4, 5, 2, 4 which is an eight shot improvement in just four holes and he then roared to the finish line in a masterful 34 shots
Bragging rights and a wee bit of pride between Alex and his playing partner Ryan might just have kick started that marvellous second nine score where he matched his companion stroke for stroke?
Mr ‘Steady Eddie’, Geoff Williams didn’t quite equal the symmetry of his Seniors round three days previously but loops of 39 and 37 saw him right in the middle of the frame. Like Jim Cumming’s round nothing too spectacular here just good, honest golf.
Two shots back and the most likely challengers to these four are Ally Sutherland and Chris Hanley who are both on 78.
However such is the volatility where the weather conditions are concerned that Robbie Macaskill(79) and Andrew Long, John Finlayson and Ross Cumming all on 80 cannot be discounted from posting a challenge in the final qualifying round and seeking a coveted semi-final spot.
In the handicap section there will necessarily be some duplication with the scratch division quite properly taking precedence in the attempt to determine the best golfer in the club.
Geoff Williams, Ryan MacAskill and Jim Cumming all shot nett scores of 65.Ross Cumming and John Finlayson both signed for 68.Alex Munro and Robert MacAskill recorded 69.Chris Hanley and Ally Sutherland were 71 with Neil MacFarlane and Andrew Long on 72.
Lots of names in contention there and they will fill the bulk of if not the whole list of four scratch and four handicap qualifiers who will play off in matchplay semi’s and final to determine the respective sectional club champions.
As luck would have it the final competitors had no sooner vacated the premises on Sunday afternoon when the wind died down and the sun made a belated and rather shameful appearance.
You couldn’t make it up?
Eight men will be competing in the semi-finals and finals of the Club Championship in both the Scratch and Handicap divisions while the ladies will be playing the second of their four-round Club Championship.
They are taking a very different approach to deciding their champion golfer.
A reminder too of the debt of gratitude the IOSGC owes to ‘Gaelic Whiskies and Gaelic Gins of Eilean Iarmain’ who are once again very kindly and generously sponsoring both Club Championships.
Thursday 9th June, Seniors Open
1) P Harris 41pts; 2) G Williams 36pts; 3) S Johnston Snr 35pts bih; 4) J Cumming 35pts.
Club Championship Qualifying, Round One.
1) R MacAskill 69; 2).J Cumming 75; 3) A Munro 76; 4) G Williams 76.
1) R Cumming 80(12) nett 68; 2) J Finlayson 80(12) 68; 3) C Hanley 78(7) 71; 4)A Long 80(8) 72; 5) N Macfarlane 83(11) 72.
Thursday 9th June, Seniors Open
1) M Carr 25pts; 2) D Johnston 24pts; 3) L Maclean 20pts.