The Isle of Skye Open germinated from a seed planted in the early 1980’s thanks to an initiative from the Isle of Skye Round Table.
Skye Week was a series of summer-time entertainment and sporting events organised by the Round Table to encourage visitors to come to the island and to help raise money for local charities.
Two prominent ‘tablers’ from Portree, Drew Millar and Robin Weir were also very active members of what was then known as Sconser Golf Club later to become the Isle of Skye Golf Club.
The club members already competed for a Tourist Trophy and a suggestion was made to move the competition from it’s Autumn slot on the fixture list into Skye Week to encourage visitors to join the fun in an Open-type competition.
In 1984 a trophy was played for during the festival week and quite appropriately Drew Millar was the winner.
In 1987 things started to ‘firm up’ with the first reference to an Open in the golf club minutes. Robin Weir was credited as being the driving force behind the growing identity of the event and 30 players including 11 visitors played in the competition that year.
The genesis of the Skye Open as we now know it really began when Ian Stephen joined the golf club committee in 1988-later to be joined by colleague and good friend Calum Macaskill.
Both men were employed by British Telecom and their powers of persuasion managed to get the company to pump an extremely generous amount of funding into what was to become the BT Isle of Skye Open through their ‘local sponsorship of sport’ initiative.
The amount of money made available was so generous that not only did it fund the men’s Open but also a women’s Open and an event for juniors-the latter with prizes worth over £100 which was a considerable amount for junior golfers in the late 80’s and early 90’s!
The original BT trophy records the winner in 1989 as being Edinbane’s Michael Whatley.
Michael won it a couple of times in the early years before Muir of Ord golfer Stevie Macintosh began a period of domination that saw him win on five occasions with his fellow club member Ian Cameron also chipping in with a hat-trick of victories.
When the BT package expired David Morton, manager of the Royal Hotel, Portree was approached as a possible sponsor of the Open and he did so very generously for many years.
The Royal Hotel became the major player in supporting the event although several others including Scottish Water rallied to support the cause.
Following the end of the BT sponsorship a new trophy was acquired and it was first competed for in 1996. ‘S Macintosh, Muir of Ord’ was the first name to be engraved on the new look Aros Trophy, a handsome silver quaich.
The first ‘home’ winner of the new era was Sandy Ross in 2004 and he went on to win it another four times in seven years in great battles with amongst others James Macdonald and Scott Ewing from Elderslie GC who had five wins between them.
In amongst a variety of mainland champions over the last twenty years other local men helped to keep the prize on the island among them Alan MacLaine, Ally Grant, Murdo Gordon and Ryan Macaskill, many of whom were also club champions around the time of their victories
Thomas Marr is the defending champion having won the trophy for the second time last year. He returns home to Skye from his long time base in Fife for this year’s event which is now magnanimously sponsored by the Isle of Raasay Distillery.
This years event takes place on Saturday 2nd July and online entries are currently being accepted via https://isleofskyegolfclub.co.uk/registration/
JOHN MARSHALL IOSGC