RYDER CUP PLAYER VISITS MACHRIE
When Costantino Rocca, Mike Nicholson, Distillery Manager and Murray Bremner, the Whisky Trades Heritage Director visited Machrie recently, the sun came out after a dull day and the assembled members of Islay Golf club also gave them a warm Islay welcome. He had arrived on the island to visit Lagavulin Distillery during a promotional visit on behalf of Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky, the sponsors of the forthcoming Open at Troon. His entourage was followed by a media team recording all the visit.
In true Italian fashion he first greeted the Ladies Section and gave time for autographs and photographs. Inside the hotel he met some of the club's office bearers and was keen to see and learn of the remarkable history of the Kildalton Cross and Lagavulin Quaich.
On the course he accepted an invitation to hit a five iron from the first tee. Despite dress shoes, a jacket and rib binding from a recent injury he almost carried the green, to the consternation of the onlookers who would have required a driver.
He followed with a demonstration of his putting skills and took on some of the local juniors in friendly contest. A short memorable visit by a most affable ambassador of golf and hopefully an inspiration to the junior ranks.
The sun kept shining for the rest if July with only an odd shower keeping the Machrie course in playing condition for Cross Week.
INTERNATIONAL "TEAM" VISIT FOR CROSS WEEK
The Aberdeen contingent, mostly firemen, should have been asked to bring their hoses to assist in the course preparations but in true Islay fashion Mother Nature assisted the greensstaff at the eleventh hour.
From California and Hong Kong and all points north and south the members arrived to renew old friendships and foster new ones.
Once more a record entry from a record membership entered the Club Championship on August 2 to start the 97th Kildalton Cross Week. A hundred and six competitors teed off in the most perfect conditions. Over the 36 hole competition the Championship was won by last years Kildalton Cross winner from Aberdeen, Nicol Meldrum with a two round total of 147. (Local Press only... Nicol had given himself an additional handicap for the second round when he was accompanied by that well known raconteur and incessant blether on your downswing, Eddie Brown) Had Nicol set himself up for a double this year? Run in conjunction with the Championship was the Lachie Mackinnon Memorial Shield for the first round handicap prize, the winner being former winner of the Cross, Derek Gray. Alex 'Pudda' Brown took the S W Thompson Cross for the over 50's with the best net score over 10 holes.
Due to the unexpected numbers entering the competition the tee-off timetable was much extended causing delays to following matches and the Ladies Championship. Such is the success of the club and its entries that ' Islay Time' might be a thing of the past!
The Annual General Meeting of the club was held that evening in the function suite of the Machrie Hotel. The members welcomed their new Captain, Roger Hardie from Greenock, a lookalike for the redundant Chris Patten in the Hong Kong contingent.
WIN AT LAST
Sunday 3rd is the traditional Locals meet the Visitors competition and again a record field assembled for the 'shotgun' start. Perfect conditions were obviously in the visitors favour as the match resulted in 14 wins to 9 . An unusual result as traditionally a draw was achieved. - perhaps the new members haven't got the message yet.
NOW THE SERIOUS STUFF
The fun and games over and Monday welcomed the first qualifying round for the Cross and Captains Prize. A new record field of 116 was spread through the day. A stiff easterly ensured that Machrie would be a test of skill. At the end of the first day the Captain's prize was won by Ian Patrick , a new member from Paisley, with a net score of 68. Only ten competitors had equalled or bettered the CSS of 72 but 32 were required for the Cross and all was to be played for the next day.
THE LOCAL PEKING MAN
Identical weather conditions prevailed for the second round and Peking Cup. The field had been reduced by seven who had N/R'd and two who had been disqualified for playing with each others balls over two holes. (Press can rephrase). By the end of the day's play local member Charles Holyoake had secured the Cup and a place among the 32 qualifiers. Again only ten players had bettered the CSS of 72.
The customary Cross Auction was held during the evening when groups and individuals were prepared to make a small wager on the success of their particular favourite. Proceeds go to club funds and adds to the excitement of the occasion. Captain's wife, Trish Hardie made the draw of the successful 32 players who would start the next day in match play competition. In the time honoured way competitors would start holes up or down depending on half their stroke difference up to a maximum of 12.
The next best 32 players had qualified to compete for the Kildalton Plate and the rest of the unqualified successes would be eligible to play for the Consolation Mug.
The field was an even mixture of locals and mainland members with six previous Cross winners included. The Middleton clan were well represented once more with Allan, Iain and Rob and local family of Holyoakes, Arthur, Donny and Charles were accompanied by several new members. Age groups were also well represented including a couple hovering around the sixty mark who were eventually to reach the quarter finals. Who says its a young man's game. (Local Press only... Even Eddie Brown and former winner Gordon MacMillan's father had qualified...)
Two rounds, each eliminating half the field on Wednesday saw the last eight, six locals and two visitors starting in perfect conditions the following morning. By lunchtime on Thursday the competition had reached the semi-final stage with Norman Macdonald playing Arthur Holyoake and Gordon MacMillan playing David Turner. At the close of play for the day both Arthur and Gordon had again achieved the final stages of the Kildalton Cross.
Reports of heavy rain and serious flooding in the south made everyone aware of the glorious weather we had enjoyed. Would it last for just one more day or would the clouds which were gathering deter the assembling gallery.
THE FINAL ROUNDS
On Friday, Arthur stood on the first tee of a 36 hole final for the third time in his golfing career. He was 3 holes up on Gordon who had been successful two years earlier.
The first 18 holes were favourable to Gordon as he clawed back the deficit and the players came into lunch on a level score. The jungle drums were sounding round the island that a close match was in progress at Machrie and so they arrived in their dozens to follow the second stage of the match.
At 1.15pm in true established fashion, Captain Roger Hardie drove himself into office and presented the ball retrievers with suitable gifts.
The Kildalton Plate had also advanced to its final stage with local man John MacIntyre Jnr and new visiting member, Tony Lomax contesting the final. After they teed off for the final eighteen holes they were followed shortly after by the Cross finalists.
By the 27th hole Arthur had again taken the lead and kept the honour till 31st par 5 hole. Gordon broke the impasse at this point and the match remained level and running out of holes. Gordon followed his success on the 31st with a win on the 32nd to take the lead for the first time. In football parlance the weakest time for a team is immediately after scoring. So too with golf, Arthur immediately restored the balance at 34th hole with a 15 foot putt. Arthur again took the lead at 35th.
With only one hole to go Arthur was dormie and looked like finishing the match in regulation. But as someone once said "It's not all over till the fat lady sings". No choirs could be heard as the players teed off down the 36th. Nerves jangling they both scrambled down the fairway. All Arthur required to do was hit his ball over the hill onto the hidden green but alas whatever the reason, mishit?, wrong club? the ball remained on the wrong side of the hill. Gordon putted out to square the match on the final green.
A winner must be found and so the two drove off in 'sudden death' playoff on 37th. Counter productive irons off the tee for safety left Arthur with a difficult shot to the green. He missed the green and finished 20 yards from the pin. Advantage Gordon. Gordon's shot to the green was even further afield on a similar line. Stalemate. Gordon elected to chip to the flag which he did superbly for a conceded putt. Advantage Gordon. Arthur's putter left him above the hole with a difficult 4 footer. The gallery was hushed. Converted, all square. The 38th was similarly halved with putting opportunities missed. The 39th, with its difficult pin position testing golfers all week, was to see the end of a classic match. Arthur holed out for a 4 leaving Gordon a difficult 6 footer to halve another hole. Not to be. Gordon missed the target and Arthur was the 97th Cross Winner .
JOHN CLEARS THE PLATE
One down at the turn, John MacIntyre jnr, played some fine par golf round 'the loop' to be one up at 14th. Securing the 15th and 16th again in par won him the match from Tony on his first and hopefully many visits to Islay.
The weeks trophies were presented by Trish Hardie in the courtyard of the hotel. All the Cross Family, young and old had gathered to watch the ceremony and gave atmosphere to the occasion. Special ties had been gifted and were presented to all the 32 qualifiers. But the week was not yet over. A quick dash back to chalets and homes to prepare for the evenings dinner.
Some 160 members and friends attended the dinner held in the hotel function suite. Again an overflow table was required in the adjacent room. Included in the guests was Doctor Alex Campbell the club's oldest past captain also in his 97th year. A sumptuous meal had been created by Francois, the hotels resident chef and was expertly served by the experienced staff. After the repast the company were entertained with speeches from Past Captain Bill Brownlee and his daughter Fiona trying their best to emulate Mum's memorable Biblical theme on the creation of Machrie. Nicol Meldrum the Club Champion also sang or to be more correct waxed lyrically for his supper. The dance till the wee sma' hours was orchestrated by Tom Kelly and his Country and Western group or after metamorphosis a Scottish Ceilidh Band
All in all a perfect end to a perfect week which witnessed ideal holiday/golfing weather, a hat-trick for the winner, a large increase in members/competitors and above all a family gathering second to none.
(Club's Newsletter only)
A special tie has been donated to the club bearing the 'Cross' motif for all past qualifiers for the 'Cross'. The tie is available from the secretary at a cost of ,5.00.
Captain Roger Hardie has arranged for the manufacture of lambswool pullovers - 'V' neck or 'crew' neck; lambswool slipovers, polo shirts and sweat shirts. All bear the gaelic crest of the 1991 supply. They are available in assorted colours. Order forms are available in the clubhouse but mainland members can contact Roger at 16 Johnston Street, Greenock. Tele No 01475 728166
Members are reminded that copies of the Club's facinating and historicle book are still available. An ideal birthday/Christmas present for any discerning golfer. All you new members who have not had the opportunity to purchase, please give me a call at 01496 302409. Cost to members is ,10 plus ,1 p&p.
KILMACOLM GC RETURN
A weekend in June was arranged by the Captains Tim Morrison and Joe Knowles for the return of a team from Kilmacolm GC to Machrie Links. Many years had passed but now that we have moved out of the dark ages our once regular visitors are finding their way back. A very successful competition resulted in a win for one of the teams but that was a minor matter. Local members were later treated to dinner during which plans were laid for a return match to the mainland next year.
"Toast At The Machrie"
(To Our Fathers)
I know they live free:
Spirits unseen to me.
In certain places of creation
Their presence is felt as deep sensation
Old Tom lives at Machrihanish
Where he angled greens to astonish
Doctor MacKenzie it's held true
At Lahinch, may play a round with you
And Young Tom near the fifteenth at Prestwick
Whispers, "make two laddie, take the lang stick"
But where I sence it deepest,
Is on the bonnie Machrie
Willie Campbell's graves not here,
But he left his legacy.
I know he's here, with spirit free,
Laughing, playing and tickling me.
In the turf, the sand, or by a burn,
Elements of broken- hearted spirits return.
They play and luve here, triumphantly,
No heart-ache further to endure
They live forever in the minds
Of the players who came after
Who invoke their presence frequently
By their admiration, joy and laughter.
So here's a toast to those departed
Who in their lives were broken-hearted.
Join us now for a dram and frivolity,
For we remember, appreciate and truely luve thee
This poem was composed by James J Kehr, Ph.D. of California a one handicap golfer
whose poetic impulse was more inspired than his golf during the Machrie Open 1997