Norrie T MacDonald: Tweed jacket victory in the ‘Republic’ halts Christmas pudding run

Norrie T traded in a his regular raffle pudding for a swanky new coat with a sweet victory.

At Stornoway Golf Club these days, it’s hard to pick a winner from any given field.

You can almost guarantee that Peter Grant will be in the running, such has been his recent good form; but with handicaps now increasing to your waist size, and beyond, breaking 100 might just be good enough for the victory.

Some people will rail against this, demanding that 28 be the maximum handicap for men’s competitive play; others will argue, why not?

The handicap system is there for a good reason.

It’s to encourage more people to play golf.

Debate this amongst yourselves.

I’m not getting involved.

Peter, however, may well be a bit miffed.

Having, yet again, shown subliminal coolness in plotting his way round to an effortless 79 (63); he was reduced to but a distant runner-up by a new golfing convert, Darren ‘Cage’ Wilson, who scored an excellent 96 (59) in Wednesday night’s Kenny MacKay Shield.

You do the arithmetic.

Well played Darren – and Peter.

Daniel Crossley, 77 (63), himself a relative ‘newbie’, was edged out to third spot by BIH.

Once again we saw a healthy turnout of just under 60.

New golfing covert Darren ‘Cage’ Wilson hit the ground running in the Kenny MacKay Shield

That more took part in Saturday’s Leukemia Research Trophy should go without mentioning, but with the handling of money now a distinct no-no, any hopes of raising any significant funds for charity are severely hampered.

Not hampered in the slightest by anything but his own demons was my own pal and winter league partner, Murdo ‘Hollo’ MacLennan.

Murdo has struggled of late, not least as a result of carrying me on his back for six months of the golfing year, each year for the past decade.

A steady increase in handicap from 6 to 12 – in increments of 0.1 – has seen him not record a reduction in almost six years.

Golfing purgatory.

For such a class’ golfer, a horrific indictment of his particular ‘yip’.

He put all that aside at the weekend, storming to a 2-under after a four holes start, 4-4-3-3.

Out in, 1-over, 36; he had his best opening nine holes in years.

A treble-bogey at 10 almost saw a return to the ‘old’ Murdo.

He recovered to post a 76 (64) and a two-shot victory over Stuart ‘Tyson’ Campbell who scored 76 (66).

Managing to get the ball from ‘just off’ the green to ‘just on’ the green might seem like the simplest part of the game for those of us who struggle from the tee, or with our irons.

For Murdo, it’s the hardest part.

He is prodigious over the maximum distance with any club.

A sublime striker of the ball and confident over any ‘full’ shot.

But miss by 10 yards and things get complicated.

He has simplified things by a combination of willpower and tenacity.

I’m too scared to ask him how.

I might break this new, and very welcome, spell.

It was also good to see Norrie ‘Onions’ MacDonald back to a semblance of form with a 72 (68) which must make him feel better after his recent cycling accident.

Playing Tour de France on his wee fellow’s bike, he succumbed to the Chris Froome braking method and bruised several ribs.

Back in the swing, anything’s possible for one of the most naturally talented golfers these Islands have produced.

In the ladies section, Jane Nicolson took the plaudits, beating Catherine Anne MacLeod by seven points in their Saturday Medal Qualifier. Liz Carmichael finished a point further adrift.

In the Sports Council Medal for junior golfers, Geordie H Ross followed up last week’s win with yet another solid performance.

His 95 (65) beat Keith Bray Jr, 95 (67) by a couple; and his brother Calum G Ross, 85 (68), who, despite two birdies and a solid finish over the closing nine holes, was just edged out into third place.

There probably aren’t many things you could do to find yourself completely unwelcome on the good side of the Clisham.

They’re a hugely cordial lot in the land of crowdie and cream; friendly, accessible, generally glad to meet and greet you, happy to make you feel at home.

Almost to a man – and woman – they will extend to you the kind of courtesy and kinship we Leodhasaich reserve for folk in Barbour and tweed – usually on the way to Harris.

Or maybe that’s just the airport taxi driver in me?

Tips gratefully accepted.

As a season ticket holder at Scarista for a decade or more, I’ve tried to be as ‘modhail’ as I can be, respectful almost, when it comes to being an ‘overseas’ member, the Republic having its own status the world over.

Now I’m as regular a participant as time and work allow, I try to have a decent showing in the odd competition to prove I’m not just there for the scenery. So any wins, which are very occasionally, and usually when all the others falter, have marked me out as a solid if not spectacular, member.

I’ve had the luck to have all of my happiest, competitive, golfing memories where the scenery parcels your breath and sends it long distance.

Prior to a couple of years ago, the only thing I ever took home from the annual prizegiving, held every year in December, was the Christmas pudding donated for the raffle.

I had a monopoly on the damned thing.

Then came the big breakthrough.

A tweed jacket.

The kind of win that golfers of my ability can only dream about.

There have been other successes – yes, modesty forbids; but when you are still something of an interloper, it still feels like plunder when you get lucky on the ‘other side’.

Imagine my horror this week when I crossed the border three times and came away successful on each occasion.

I won the medal accumulator on Tuesday, knocked club captain, Kenny ‘Kuna’ Morrison, out of the match play on Friday night, and somehow prevailed in the Nula Morrison Memorial competition on Saturday.

Somehow I don’t think I’ll be welcome down there for several weeks to come?

I may have pushed my luck a bit too far.

Thankfully, I’m back on nightshift for a bit.

It was great to see my old pal, and regular southbound travelling companion, Robbie MacRae, get back amongst competitive play again after a Covid-induced, lay-off.

Now in his ninth decade, he still has the ability to inspire and educate everyone he comes into contact with, regaling them with golfing tales from a bygone era when things seemed much simpler.

He’s seen and heard it all, yet his philosophy remains simple.

Get up and address the ball, swing, hit it, and walk forward.

Golfing guru Robbie MacRae was a welcome sight on the course, having returned to action after a Covid-induced lay-off.

A very decent, county-standard, golfer in his younger days; he doesn’t go in for all the ‘fancy talk’ from today’s breed of mechanised trolley-pushing’, range-finder or app-consulting, shaft and flex know-it-all, should have been a better score, bovine excrement spreaders.

‘Grip it and rip it’.

No excuses.

None that he wants to hear.

Your golfing destiny is in your own hands.

He refreshes and keeps you ‘real’.

A tonic, and certainly one of the reasons my fortunes occasionally change for the better.

After a horrendous opening nine holes on Saturday, I decided to take some of his advice.

“Look around you and remember where you are. There’s many a fellow in Sandwick (cemetery) who would pay good money to be standing where you are now. Relax and enjoy yourself, you’re no’ on the telly. Breathe in an’ oot, just remember it’s a simple game aboot hitting a sma’ ba’ “.

His Golspie lilt still evident, despite more than half a lifetime by the shores of Loch Leurbost.

The sun was shining and Scarista was its usual, glorious, self.

Like a stuck record, I’ll say this again: “there’s no such thing as a bad day on the golf course”.

Not one as majestic as this.

Now I’ve been extolling the virtues of travelling south to play golf for many years and, I suppose, the inevitable has begun to happen.

More and more of my fellow Stornoway members have decided to come and see what the fuss is all about, but on a more permanent basis.

Yes, many have played in the ‘Jackets’ and Open weekend and some, occasionally, ventured down when, usually in the winter, Lady Lever Park was closed.

But now ‘we’ have a small invasion of new members, determined to properly broaden their golfing horizons.


Because under the exceptional stewardship of greenkeeper, James Dunne, Scarista is now more of a golfing Nirvana than ever before.

The course he presents is a joy.


My reward for knocking out the Harris Golf Club Captain in the Harris Golf Club match play competition?

A ‘home’ tie against Stornoway Golf Club Champion, and new Scarista member, David Black.

I may require a bit more than some of Robbie’s, Zen-like, philosophy to progress further.

Down at Benbecula Golf Club last Tuesday, in the seventh round of their Order of Merit, it was an about-turn’ from the previous week; Harry Luney’s superb (41) Stableford points beating W.J.Monk (37) into second spot.

Dami Steele, outside a top-three finish for the first time this season, sees his lead at the top cut to just 10.

1) Dami Steele – 59 points

2) W.J.Monk – 49pts

3) Shaun Brennan – 44pts

In Saturday’s July Medal, a rejuvenated Len Wilson won with a 75 (61) in difficult, blustery, conditions. He qualifies for the end of season gold medal.

Further south at Askernish, from Colin Russell.

In the Gordon Irvine Salver, some quick-thinking was required. If it’s good enough for the PGA tour to go off early to beat the weather, then it’s good enough for us. However, unlike the tour – which went to a playoff- a four-way tie meant we didn’t know the winner until midweek. All four were tied on 33 pts.

At stage one of countback Lawrence Walker – fourth – got discarded and Colin Russell finished third.

It took until the fifth stage, and a lot of number crunching, to declare Donald MacInnes the winner over Ron MacKinnon, so well done to Donald and hard lines to Ron.

On Wednesday we started our nine-hole competition and, out of 13 players, seven have made the cut with John Archie Macintyre holding a one-point lead on 19.