MEN OF METAL ONLY
With the lack of summer weather this year it was hoped that a change might be in the forecast for this years Kildalton Cross week. Hope springs eternal! Membership of the Golf Club had again increased this year and many new faces were to be seen around Machrie. Some faces, not so new but well remembered from the past, were also present to make Cross Week another unique occasion. This year Hong Kong seemed to be the furthest distance travelled. The Head greenkeeper, Ewan Logan's plans had worked and the Machrie course was in tip top condition for the forthcoming festival of golf and camaraderie
NICOL RETAINS SILVER
On Saturday the Club Championship was held over two rounds in what was to be the best weather conditions for the week. The highest record entry for the Championship included many first class golfers, all of whom had a chance to win the scratch prize. For the rest of the hopefuls a handicap prize for the Lachie Mackinnon Memorial Trophy was on offer. For the really, really hopefuls the J W Thompson Cross was open to the over 50's over 10 holes. After two rounds in benign conditions the former Cross winner from Murcar, Nicol Meldrum retained the Rosebowl for a second year with a fine scratch total of 150, a polished performance! The Memorial Trophy was won by Balmore's Eric Grieve who has been competing in Cross Week for many years and has finally taken a trophy, a steely achievement!. His game has improved since he retired. The Thompson Cross was again won by former Cross winner, local member John Edgar, another in the can!. A total of ,£100 was donated by the players to the MacMillan Fund, A sterling effort!
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
An aggregate number for this years Meeting was 40 members. Their purpose was to elect new members to the committee, receive the report from the Treasurer and oversee the running of the club. Vice Captain Alan Hyslop took over the Captain's role and introduced his Vice Captain, Kilmacolm's David Wilson. Other new appointments were Gordon Hyslop also from Kilmacolm and local man Archie McKechnie. The passing of Doctor Lex Campbell and Donald Brown were noted with sadness.
VISITORS -V- LOCALS
All tees and some fairways were full at 9.15 on Sunday morning for the shotgun start of the Annual Match. The sky was overcast when Ian Brown, the Hotel's manager, fired the 12 bore into the air on the sixth tee. A short distance away, Captain Alan Hyslop, on the first tee, cursed the rain which had started to fall until he saw, not raindrops but lead pellets, another leading performance.
It true traditional fashion the match was halved, 14 1/2 to 8 1/2 to the visitors.
Monday's weather had deteriorated to mist, rain and strong winds for the Captains Prize, an already handicapped competition. A hundred and fourteen players throughout the day battled the elements in an effort to get the first qualifying round secured with a reasonable score. They knew the two round target would be somewhere in the 150's. The scores were reflected in the weather when only two players equalled the par for the course. The better inward half gave 20 year old from Rothes GC, Willie Binnie the Prize and an easier chance to qualify for the Cross. The nearest yours truly got to the winner was just below him on the scoreboard (not in order of merit obviously)
Only 11 players, including Ross Brownlee ( he 'flu' from Hong Kong ) failed to complete the course.
The next prize for competition was the Peking Cup, not part of a China teaset but a silver trophy. Although it has a long history in the Club, the origin of its name is lost in the annals of time. Weather conditions were similar to Monday and again only two players were to take one shot off the par of 71. A further ten contestants either failed to make a return or in Andrew Morrison's case failed to make a start due to Hong Kong 'flu or something similar. Nicol Meldrum with a better inward half secured his second piece of silver for the week. With a total of 146 for the two rounds and eleven clear of the cut he was easily qualified to try for his third piece, The Kildalton Cross. With the almost continuous rain so far this man of iron would require to be galvanised for the next round.
During the evening a large assembly gathered in the comfort of the Hotel's function suite. The names of the 31 leading scorers plus the holder Arthur Holyoake were boxed and drawn by the Captains wife, Alison. From an entry of 40, the ten home based qualifiers indicated that local knowledge was not paramount. Either luck or Alison's dexterity would see them spread through the field. Resulting from the draw most of the locals were in the top half but to offset this most of the eight previous winners were in the bottom half.
THE KILDALTON CROSS
True to the forecast wind rain and mist greeted the first contestants on Wednesday morning. By lunchtime the field would be reduced to l6. Using the old method of handicapping players stood on the first tee either holes up or down with eighteen to play. One of the six first time qualifiers D.Orr - known to his friends as Duncan or by those that don't as Christian- had a not so golden round and succumbed to the skills of Aberdeen's David Middleton., whose brothers, Iain and Allan had also made the qualifying stage. Also to fall by the skills of their opponent were Arthur Holyoake, beaten by Fraser Irvine who had comfortably qualified with a best two round score of 144. Former winner who has been missing for many years, John McKean , lost to Andrew Soutter, a regular visitor with the family. Conditions didn't improve much for the afternoon second rounders and by the end of the second day four former winners were matched with four contenders.
Previous winner John Edgar was first off the tee on Thursday. He was matched with Kenny Gillies, a local builder who had struggled to qualify but whose game was steadily improving. The second match was John Gordon a three times winner of the Cross and grandson of the late Mr and Mrs J A Bell of Ballygrant, being challenged by the young but capable Willie Binnie. Third match was young John Campbell who was to face the experienced Iain Middleton. The fourth match was David Middleton who had progressed to the quarter finals by comfortably beating the former winner Nicol Meldrum. He was to face the confident Norrie Macdonald, the other previous holder. In less than comfortable conditions the field was reduced to the semi final for the afternoon. Kenny Gillies, starting 3 up on John successfully built a winning lead of six holes. .
The other former winners were all successful and experience prevailed to leave John Gordon challenging Kenny in the top half and Norrie Macdonald challenging Iain Middleton for a place in the final. Mist and drizzle accompanied the players around the course. Interest was building up and many stalwart members followed the matches. Kenny had added to his comfortable start and by the turn he was well ahead. As happens so often perseverance prevailed and John, winning a number of consecutive holes, won the day In the other semi, Norrie's steady play won for him a place in the final for the second time.
Grey skies, overnight rain and light drizzle greeted the contestants, their caddies, referee David Wilson and a small entourage of spectators. One thing was missing - the wind - only to be replaced by the other scourge - the midge. Different clubs again, irons instead of metal woods, different pins, different positions, different pressures - a different game!
Norrie was first to drive starting two up. John's 3 wood drive found the right rough and was lost. Norrie 3 up. Hole two, both drives to the semi rough on the right. John's second shot found the wet rough on the right, ball lost, Norrie four up. Anyone but a dentist would be really down in the mouth by now but John, taking a break from his profession, stopped the rot at the third, found the hole successfully and plugged the gap. The fourth was similarly halved Norrie lost the fifth and sixth while still suffering the pain and managed to hold out till the ninth when his putt sat on the lip and John visited the can again. Norrie one up at the turn. It remained that way with holes halved until the seventeenth when Norrie again picked up a hole and then repeated the effort at the eighteenth to go into lunch at 3up.
Behind the Cross Finalists the Plate semi finalist were girding their loins. Local member Donny Holyoake was resisting the challenge of previous holder Bill McCreadie and local Neil Johnston was challenging the injured Alistair MacMillan who had earlier tried to plug a rabbit hole with his foot.. Both local boys were successful to ensure that one of the major trophies would stay locally.
THE CAPTAIN DRIVES IN
Before the final events tee-off Captain Alan Hyslop was required to perform his first duty. A ball driven at the waiting crowd down the first fairway was retrieved by visitor John McDougall from Clydebank for the juniors prize. The second ball was retrieved by local member Alex MacLean for a bottle of Laphroaig's famous malt.
THE FINAL 18
Captain Alan Hyslop was in charge of the final eighteen holes. Conditions remained benign but wet which didn't deter a gallery of seventy to eighty stalwarts. Perhaps their flasks contained enough "rusty nails" or was it a supply of WD40? Holes 19 and 20 were halved but a birdie at the 21st (3rd) put Norrie back in a commanding lead of 4up. It was short lived however. A missed putt and bogey at the 22nd (4th) lost him the hole and again the pain set in. John, first off the tee at the 196 yard 23rd (5th) found the gaping bunker and with Norrie's tee shot safely on the green all looked well for him. With a brilliant sand wedge from below the lip of the bunker, John drilled his ball into the hole for a "Golden Ferret" - too good for Norrie's three. A further birdie at the 24th (6th) from John brought Norrie to just 1 up and a concession at the 27th (9th) levelled the match for the first time. John had negotiated the first nine in the afternoon in 33 blows - three under par. Par golf by John while Norrie was struggling and at the 32nd (14th) John's three holes up saw him through to the 34th (16th) where another concession made him the 1998 Cross Winner for the fourth time by four holes up.
After a close match Donny found himself the winner for the first time by 2 holes up with one to play.
PRESENTATION OF PRIZES
Rain made it impossible to hold the presentation ceremony in the courtyard and the Golf Bar was used as the second best venue. Alison was again called for official duties.
All the major trophies and their accompanying vouchers were presented to the winners. Included was the Consolation Trophy - a wooden club head miniature container gifted by Dr Alistair Gray- to Paisley's Ian Patrick. . Past Captain S W Morrison was on hand to present the trophies to the Junior Section. Junior Cross Winner was visitor Grant Hamilton and the Junior Club Champion was local Donald Darroch.
THE CROSS DINNER
Bookings were again up these year creating seating problems for the main function suite. Recently decorated in Regency style and furbished with an 1860's long table from the Garret Club, the Library, as the breakfast room is now called, was utilised for the 'young' table. Some thirty-five young generation were seated in their opulent surroundings, overseen by "Malcolm" - a Royal Stags head recently erected for the benefit of the dinner guests. We are assured "Malcolm" is well hung, - a necessity for anyone under him. Unfortunately the misty weather had prevented planes from arriving and as a result several guests, including the other Malcolm, were unable to attend. Captain Hyslop controlled the proceedings in a humorous and confident manner. He introduced his table guests who comprised of the Cross winner and runner up, committee members and their wives , his wife Alison and 12 year old daughter Ashley. Prior to a scrumptious meal, Ashley said Grace in clear and precise Gaelic followed by its English translation . Applause to a Grace is now always forthcoming but on this occasion it was and very justified. After the skills on the course we were now to benefit from the skills of chef Francois and his team. Surprisingly, given the weather, duck was not to be seen on the menu but the first two courses were in keeping. Starter Atlantic prawns, second mouthwatering watermelons, main course Islay sirloin of beef followed by Eve's Pudding, coffee and mints. Suitably replete the guests settled down for the guest speakers. The Cross winner and runner up were gracious in their remarks about the organisation by the committee and the efforts of the greenstaff Ewan Logan and Donald McAllister. Ayrshire member Michael Scott gave an hilarious account of a round of golf on Machrie Links in his toast to Islay Golf Club. A suitable reply from the Captain preceded a toast to the Ladies by Brian Dennison from Newton Mearns in equally humorous mood. The Ladies secretary, Isobel Fraser responded with a hint that the ladies in the golfing world will soon be on level par with their male colleagues. Captain Alan then wound up the formal part of a very successful evening.
THE LAST FLING
Accompanied by the lone musician, Campbeltown's Kevin John MacMillan at one time known as a one man band, this exponent and virtuoso of the electric sound machines, set the mood for the rest of the evening and morning to come. "The mirth and fun grew fast and furious, the piper loud and louder blew. The dancers quick and quicker flew. They reel'd, they set, they cross'd, they cleekit, till ilka [lassie] swat and reekit" and the boys were a bit hot under the collar too! Another dawn over Machries links and still the festivities continued. There was more reason to celebrate - the rain had gone off, the wind had dropped and the sun rose again for what was to be one of the best days for many weeks. Sunshine ! who needs it ? When you can have the best Cross Week ever in the worst conditions ever, it says a multitude for the camaraderie which only the "Cross Family" can create.