ISLE OF SKYE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
The Isle of Skye Open, kindly and generously sponsored by the Isle of Raasay Distillery was played on yet another day of miserable wet weather.
From 8am when the first ball was struck till 5pm when the last in a day-long succession of drowned rats squelched their weary way back to the sanctuary of the clubhouse the rain never quite stopped-it just varied in it’s intensity.
By and large the course stood up to the conditions very well and a wee bit of speed was apparently detectable on the putting surfaces despite the deluge.
Greenkeeper John Cunningham started cutting the greens at 4:15am and a few hours later he hit the opening shot of the day at 8am prompt.
In the company of his wee brother Mark who is a member at Royal Musselburgh GC where John worked before coming to Skye he hit a big biff off the first tee, as did the young fella but double-bogey and bogey respectively were not the starts the boys had imagined.
The greenkeeper’s three-putt on the dance floor he himself had prepared was an early indicator of things to come and Mark duly took note.
Mark plays off four and John had just submitted the three cards required to regain his handicap on the week of the Open and was awarded a mark of seven.
Brothers being brothers they decided to tackle the day as a head-to-head matchplay event and it certainly spurred them on to success.
The visitor took an early lead, going to the turn in 33 shots while the homester required two shots more at the halfway stage.
Despite the constant, smirry drizzle John had managed to get the greens running quite fast, cutting them to 3.2mm(1/8 inch!)which was their lowest ever cut and they were certainly noticeably quicker than normal. That combined with some dastardly pin positions made good scoring rather difficult.
By way of illustration more than one person putted off the 7th/16th green and into the gaping jaws of the adjoining bunker!
On the fourth hole Mark hit two nice shots onto the green but so pure was the quality of his wedge strike that his ball spun back 25 feet off the green, much to John’s amusement no doubt and he did well to ‘get down in two’ for his par!
So difficult were some of the pin positions that when a police car sped past on the road above the 7th green, lights flashing and siren blaring one wag opined that they were probably coming to arrest the greenkeeper for his crime against the game of golf!
Both players roared off the blocks second time round birdieing the opening two holes and thereafter it was after you Claude, no, after you till they arrived on 18 tee.
Both hit their drives pin-high left and would have been well aware of the status of the match. After the wee flicks onto the green John was about 10 feet from the hole with Mark just inside him.
When John drained his putt for birdie the hole must have looked very small to Mark but he got a wee ‘teach’ from John’s effort and followed his brother in to halve the hole.
When the pencils came out Mark had taken 36 shots for lap two and John 35 so wee brother signed for a 69 and the big fella 70.
Great fun then for both with the return match already pencilled in for next year!
Incidentally but quite significantly both these guys are what I call ‘mainland’ golfers-used to the power game. We have always produced a chef’s selection of decent if not big biffers here but in my opinion there is no real advantage to be gained at Sconser from added length off the tee.
Our wee course is quite tight with small greens and plenty ‘out of bounds’ so the premium here is on accuracy.
Even a fading, golfing bodach like myself could probably give these guys a game, with handicap of course round my home track but on bigger, longer courses I would have no chance.
Sconser measures 4,800yds, Royal Musselburgh stretches to 6,200 yds but the daddy of them all in our current coverage is Royal Dornoch tipping off at 6,700yds!
The longest golf course in Scotland is the Duke’s golf course in St Andrews which can stretch to 7,500yds while it’s world famous neighbour, the Old Course-venue for this week’s 150th Open Championship will play to a length of 6,700yds.
Many huffed and puffed throughout the day but the early scores lasted the distance so the Cunningham brothers duly finished in first and second position in the scratch section and Mark was crowned the Isle of Skye Open Champion.
Four birdies for each player too was a decent return on a dirty morning for golf.
On retiring to the family home in Breakish a ‘wee session’ commenced later in the day when the top came off a bottle of the finest Isle of Raasay whisky, that being part of the prize from the generous sponsors of the competition-and apparently the boys did it justice.
Towards the conclusion of a very long and tiring day for Clan Cunningham John’s wife and daughter Phoebe returned home late evening only to find four-year-old Alfie in full party celebration mode with his dad and his uncle Mark!
Third place went to Archie Macaskill who was playing in the group behind with defending champion Thomas Marr and Greens Convener John Maclean.
Archie took 38 shots for his first circuit of the Sconser track but found a higher gear next time round with an excellent return of 34.
The defending champ shot 73 to narrowly miss out on the prize list and the Greens Convener kept his head well down to avoid interrogation as to whether or not some of the pin positions had been selected under cover of darkness!
A few days later I spoke to Mark Cunningham and he was effusive in his praise for the course but particularly for how ‘true’ the greens were!
Not of course wishing to blow smoke anywhere near the nether regions of his big brother he thought the greens to be the best he had putted on in a couple of years.
He confirmed that he will be back to defend next year.
In the ladies competition the winner was Louise Stevenson-from Australia!
Playing to a handicap of seven she returned a gross score of 81 to win the ladies trophy. She played a very steady opening nine holes with a selection of fours and fives to total 39 shots.
As the weather worsened she settled to the task in hand and yet again apart from a six on the par five eleventh hole all the other numbers were fours and fives this time adding up to 42 shots and an unbeatable total of 81.
Apparently she was a very pleasant lass who was enjoying a wee tour round the airts and pairts of Scotland.
The runner-up was Jill Mackinnon who hit one or two bumps on the road as she recorded two laps of 46 shots for her days work in this continuing dreich weather. However, that was a fine effort in the conditions.
In the handicap section players were divided into two categories and in cat.one for players 0-12 Chris Mackinnon(11) was declared to be the winner.
Two laps of 37 did the business for the Kyleakin man who finished the first lap birdie, birdie. One more bird was added second time round contributing to the winning total.
In second place was Ally Sutherland(7) who’s two nines were 38 and 35.On the second lap the son of Broadford started and finished with birdies.
The final podium position went to my old friend Alasdair ‘Starsky’ Campbell(12)who did it once again.
I met him at the Club Championship final the previous Saturday as he was just heading out for his first hit of the season-seven days later he’s in the frame.
Rusty of course but 38 shots going out and 40 coming home got the job done once more.
In category two, for players with handicaps of 13+ the runaway winner was Portree man Donald Corrigall(28).
Known to one and all as Dan I cannot use that as he been Donald to me since we played football together for Portree FC back in the 1970’s! He clipped the free kicks and corners to me and my head did the rest.
An occasional golfer these days he did very well indeed to get such a generous handicap allowance but when you see a first nine of 52 shots you think perhaps the handicapper was right after all.
However only 40 shots were required for the second half of the game as his true ability shone through following the erratic start!
Second place went to Plockton’s Peter Mackenzie(15) with a very decent 39 shots required for safe passage to the halfway house.
Apparently the food prepared by the Green’s Convener’s ‘good lady’ was substantially more edifying than the grub proferred by last weekend’s charlatan!
Second lap wasn’t as good as 45 more blows were required to complete Peter’s card.
Good to see the Plockton boys back in town though.
Third place went to Club Treasurer Bob Beatson(21).
Freshly flown in from sunny Portugal the Breakish man rather limped to the turn in 49 but 43 shots coming home was a much better display on what was rather a miserable day for all of the competitors.
It was a local one, two in this section with June Sanderson getting the better of Donalda Johnston in the prize list on this occasion.
June’s two nines were 43/49 off her 24 handicap for a nett score of 68 while Donalda registered 52/44 for consideration and with 25 handicap removed her nett score was 71.
The turnout to play was good and the sprinkling of visitors added splendid colour and variety to the competition. Although there was a smaller than usual posse from our good friends and neighbours at Traigh GC they still made their presence felt-and they were very welcome.
All joking apart there was much praise for John ‘Greens’ and his able lieutenant Calum Beaton for the condition, preparation and ‘setting up’ of the course-so very well done boys!
Finally, many thanks to all the team at the Isle of Raasay Distillery for their continuing support and generosity which is very much appreciated by all of us at the IOSGC.
* Reigning club champion Ryan Macaskill does a bit of caddying as part of his job requirement at Royal Dornoch GC.
Recently he picked up the bag belonging to a lady from the USA. In mid-round conversation when Ryan mentioned his home as being the Isle of Skye the lady said that the Director of Golf at her club in Seattle, Washington had links with the island.
Craig Hunter, from Portree is the man in question and Craig like Ryan started his golfing career with us down at Sconser.
* Ryan recently equalled the club record of four-in-a-row club championship victories held jointly by Jim Rodger and Michael Whatley.
In a recent perusal of the golfing scene in Scotland I discovered that Michael was playing in the British Senior Open Championship at Royal Dornoch.
From some distance away I tried, unsuccessfully to orchestrate a meeting between Ryan and Michael but their more important commitments had to take precedence.
Originally from Edinbane Michael competed alongside 197 other golfers from around the world such is the prestige of this championship.
After two rounds in pretty nasty conditions(sound familiar?) he found himself in a lowly 150th place.
However, as his second qualifying round was completed before noon on day two things gradually improved until without hitting another ball he finished tied 79th but unfortunately missed the ‘cut’ by two strokes.
He teed off playing to a handicap of +0.7 and that means he adds on to his total when the round is complete whereas we duffers subtract our handicap from our gross score.
At the end of the Championship not one single player in the whole field finished under par such is the difficulty of this world famous golf course!
On Saturday the gents and ladies sections should unite for the annual playing of the Ian Campbell Memorial Scramble.
Ian, who died tragically young was a son of Ian and Fiona Campbell, Sconser who were so heavily involved in the creation of the golf course and Sconser Golf Club way back in the early 1960’s.
Ian was a very enthusiastic golfer and we remember him.
Next day both gents and ladies are playing their respective medal competitions.
Isle of Skye Open, sponsored by the Isle of Raasay Distillery.
1) M Cunningham 69; 2) J Cunningham 70; 3) A Macaskill 72.
1) C Mackinnon 74(11) nett 63; 2) A Sutherland 73(7) 66 bih; 3) A I Campbell 78(12) 66.
1) D Corrigall 92(28) nett 64; 2) P Mackenzie 84(15) 69: 3) R Beatson 92(21) 71.
1) L Stevenson 81; 2). Jill Mackinnon 92.
1) J Sanderson 92(24) nett 68; 2) D Johnston 96(25) 71.