In the month of June, an eighteen-strong raiding party left the shores of Cholbhasa, bound for Eileann Ila, writes our Golf Correspondent Scott Weatherstone. Their challenge was to play The Machrie, one of the finest but trickiest golf courses in Scotland; it has a lot more long rough than our course; it’s 1,000 yards longer and has deep bunkers; there isn’t an easy hole in the whole course. The date chosen? Friday the thirteenth; what could possibly go wrong?
The eleven elite athletes and seven WAGs travelled by RIB, by Hebridean Air and by ferry. The trip had been devised by David Binnie, reviving an old tradition of Colonsay/Islay golfing links.
The raiders were surprised, on arriving at the course, to see that the hotel and chalets appeared to have been closed for several years. Ian Brown, the golf shop Manager, explained that a wealthy couple had bought the place three years ago, but that their redevelopment plans had been stymied by the lack of a clean water supply.
In stark contrast, the course itself was resplendent: “Golfing Heaven”! The humps, hollows, ridges and slopes give the subtly-contoured land a real aesthetic beauty; the greens are 100% true and the course tests every department of the player’s game. In 1890, when some Ilachs wanted to build a course and consulted prominent golf champion Willie Campbell of Bridge of Weir, his response, having surveyed the machair along the Eastern shore of Laggan Bay, was: “This place was made for Gowf”.
Only one of the eleven golfers can be said to have mastered the course: Mr Liam McNeill, The Pocket Rocket! To score 85 (against a par of 71) was a great achievement, both mentally and physically. He’d already won the Winter League trophy; he could make it a 2014 hat-trick (the Colonsay Grand Slam) by bagging the Open in August. The older players are reacting with great good humour to being beaten on a regular basis by a seventeen-year-old and denied any knowledge of rumours that plans were afoot somehow to nobble their youthful vanquisher. If you now feel that you have enough information about Liam’s performance, please do not, under any circumstances, so much as make eye-contact with him, at least until October.
THE ISLAY TROPHY 2014 RESULTS (Stableford scoring system)
1st Liam McNeill 36 points
2nd Derek Emslie 27 points
3rd David Binnie 24 points
Most Enthusiastic: Donald MacAllister Jnr
The other players were Donald MacAllisters Senior and Junior, Davie Bell, Neil Hutton, Matthew “Cammie” Cameron and Scott Weatherstone. The WAGS were Kirsty and Hannah MacAllister, Jan Binnie, Michelle Cameron, Alison Johnston and Moira Bell.
The people of Islay were extremely hospitable, Ian Brown at the Machrie and the staff of the Bowmore Inn and the Lochside Hotel in particular. The trip was an unqualified success (if you don’t count the lost balls and the shattered egos), Islay distilleries’ profits were hugely boosted and the Club is in the process of re-booking for next year, probably for Friday, 12th June.