KILDALTON CENTENERY CROSS
What has the Queen Mum, Kildalton Challenge Cross, the Grier twins, and Norrie McDonald have in common? . All have a birthday during Cross Week. The first two celebrate their centenary while the others just celebrate returning to Islay to sample the delights of a special occasion. The euphoria of the Millennium continued from 1st January to 29 July. Families who had found themselves separated in recent years had made the effort to come together again to join in Islay Golf Club's special year. Cousins from Canada, Antipodeans from Australia, from Hong Kong and Singapore, America and Aberdeen , the international family assembled. And special it promised to be. For the hotel guests the dining room and bars had been refurbished courtesy of Malcolm King. For the golfers the course had been presented in perfect condition, thanks to Simon Freeman and his team. For the administration chaps and the ladies, the clubhouse had been refurbished, thanks to Kenny Gillies. For the celebrations to continue, thanks to the members and friends of Islay Golf Club.
The highest ever entry for Cross Week, initially 130 was reduced for various reasons to 125 contestants, an increase from last year's 108
CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP Top
Day one, Saturday 29 July, the weather was ideal for golf. Two rounds of scratch golf were to be completed for the Club Championship. Running simultaneously for the handicap prize was the Lachie Mackinnon Shield and new in the centenary year was the Secretary's Trophy over one handicap round for the over 50's. The completed entries for each respectively were 20, 95 and 32.
At the close of play, former youngest Cross Winner, Simon Crawford , handicap (5) attached to Gleneagles, had successfully completed each round in 75 and 70 strokes to take his first Championship. Islay's Keith McDonald (6) won the Mackinnon Shield with a fine nett score of 67. Former Cross winner and recently returned to the links, Archie McFarlane (12) managed to pip Paisley's Ian Patrick for the Secretary's Trophy . Match secretary Ralph Middleton has his red pen poised.
A G M Top
During the evening the Annual General Meeting of the Club was held in the Machrie Hotel. Some fifty members saw David Wilson demit office as Captain and hand over the role to Tom Dunn for the ensuing year. He in turn welcomed his Vice Captain Gordon Hyslop from Kilmacolm to the ranks of office bearers. While other members were re-elected, Ken Clark from Glasgow was appointed to the committee.
IAN MUIR TROPHY Top
Day two and some 102 players assembled to celebrate the memory of Ian Muir, whose death last year left a deep void. Liz had presented a crystal decanter to be competed between the Visitors and Locals, a competition which Ian enjoyed so much. All tees and fairways were occupied awaiting manager Ian Brown's signal to start. At the appointed time, 9.15 IT (Islay Time) the Captains and partners on the first tee, plus the greenkeepers sheds were suitable showered with lead pellets, in what has become a customary initiation.
The event is unequalled for the spirit and camaraderie in which it is played. Despite several recounts by unbiased Ralph Middleton, the winners were announced as Vice Captain Gordon Hyslop and his team of visitors by the narrow margin of 14 1/2 to 11 1/2
CAPTAIN'S PRIZE Top
The respite from serious golf was short lived and by Monday the first qualifying round was being contested. Weather had been favourable up till now . The long drought which had reached serious proportions from the greenkeepers point of view had ended with light showers assisting the manual watering systems .
Of the 125 entrants only five managed to equal par or better. Best of all for the Captains Prize was John Baird (12). A testing breeze hindered the best scratch scores to 75 and 77 for Cross winners Ian Middleton and Derek Gray. The CSS for the day was 72
PEKING CUP Top
Only seven dropped off the field for the second round, the Peking Cup, on Tuesday. Again only five players equalled par or better . This time the prize was secured by Islay's John 'Tam' Campbell with a nett score of 68 off seven.
By the end of the days play the contenders for the Cross were known. The next best thirty two players were eligible for the Kildalton Plate.
THE DRAW Top
During the evening the Master of Ceremonies, Alastair McLachlan, humorously introduced the qualifiers to the assembled audience. After an odd side bet or two had taken place, the Captains wife, Rita Dunn, influenced the destiny of each contestant by making the draw.
THE FLOOD - AGAIN Top
Wednesday, day three, and clouds were gathering. Simons rain dancing had been too vigorous. The morning round eliminated sixteen players who then had the choice of activities in the afternoon The successful sixteen, which included six former Cross winners, nine previous qualifiers and a first time qualifier, were about to experience yet again the theory of global warming. For the second year running, torrential downpours flooded the greens and play had to be interrupted. Ever changing their contingency plans the Club had purchased an air horn to signal the suspension of play. As the distant players were slow to receive the signal, an additional airhorn will be purchased for next year.
CELEBRATIONS - AGAIN Top
Highlight of the day fell to Ian Middleton whose six iron shot at the 190 yard 5th hole found the hole for his second ever hole in one. An expensive round later ensued in the bar but when the small print in the insurance form was studied it was found that Match Play Holes in One are not included. By the time a 'whip round' was organised the bar was empty. The first round of the Plate had followed the morning Cross players and the successful sixteen would be meeting the next day.
SAMBA OR LAMBADA Top
Wednesday night is Ladies Night and they had organised a Mexican Theme night in the Hotels function suite. Usually bars are busier than the dance floor but the atmosphere created by Dunstan Gallary and his 'Bootleggers' had everyone dancing and singing the night away
LAST EIGHT Top
Thursday, quarter finals day for the Cross players. The only local man left to uphold the challenge from mainland members was Hamish Campbell (9) who was pitted against first time qualifier, Andrew Morrison (6) of Ayrshire. Former Cross winners, David Livingstone and Derek Gray were matched. Fraser Irvine was matched against Andrew's father Tim Morrison whose progress excelled any previous attempt. Completing the eight remaining players were former Cross winners John Gordon and Nicol Meldrum. After the morning round of friendly but competitive golf a family double proved positive. Andrew was to play Derek Gray and dad Tim was to play Nicol Meldrum. Once again the golfing gods had set the stage for an enthralling semi final. Could it be a father - son Final or would just one of them achieve a life time ambition and reach the final. Whatever, history had already been made. In the afternoon matches a close contest ensued. Nip and tuck , never more than a hole in it in the latter stages. Both eventually reached the last hole.
CELEBRATIONS & COMMISERATIONS Top
All square going down the eighteenth both players balls were just off the back of the green for awkward downhill putts. Andrew first, his ball was heading for the hole from twenty feet but kept rolling and turning away to five feet. Derek's 6" dead trickle down from eighteen feet left Andrew with a most difficult cross hill putt which failed to meet the hole. Derek was once more through to the final. Not far behind, the final pair were coming down to their drives with Nicol one hole up. Disaster at the thirteenth was a missed chance for Tim and by the sixteenth another bogey failed to close the gap. Nicol's long and straight drive had found the perfect position across the path while Tim's long tee shot had rolled off the fairway on the left and gave him an impossible shot. His extract from the rough was safe but inadequate and Nicol's second to the green virtually sealed the match. However, never say die in match play. Down to the last putts but no mistake by Nicol and his final was secured. History was made by the Morrisons but what a headline the alternative would have made. But, as we say every year, there is always next year.
LAST LAP OF THE PLATE Top
Meanwhile in the Plate, local man John MacIntyre jnr was left to uphold the locals banner. Mainland members Gregor Govan and Bill MacCreadie vied in the top spot. Vice Captain Gordon Hyslop was set against Ayrshire Eugene O'Donoghue. Our John was to see off Past Captain David Wilson and new to the club and all the way from San Antonio, Paul Hammons was against Newcastle copper Richard Kidd.
THE HISTORY Top
"What's the celebration all about?", one might hear a Martian asking The Kildalton Challenge Cross was presented by the Ramsay family to Islay Golf Club in 1900. It was a replica of a magnificent silver miniature of the famous Celtic cross which stands in the grounds of Kildalton Church yard. In appreciation of the restoration work done to the original cross by John Ramsay of Kildalton, the Antiquarian Society of Scotland, had presented him with the silver miniature. The first winner of the Cross was a Yorkshire born minister, the Reverend James E Pease who golfed on to become a plus four golfer and holder of five course records.
WINNERS DINNER Top
To celebrate the100th anniversary of the first playing of the Cross, all past winners were invited to attend a dinner a the Machrie Hotel. Unable to attend was winner in 1933, Roy C MacGregor, a Walker Cup player and three times winner of the Cross in the 30s and 40s. The earliest winner able to attend was sprightly octogenarian, Pat Soutter who won for the first time in 1937. All other winners available since then, barring two, assembled with the Captain Tom Dunn, his Vice Captain Gordon Hyslop and the owner of the Machrie, Malcolm King. A total of twenty nine diners assembled for the celebration.
THE FIRST EVER WINNER Top
After a sumptuous meal and presentation of commemorative ties, the company were entertained by John Gordon who had gone to great lengths to research the life of the enigmatic James E Pease. At the end of the resume he produced the very miniature engraved cross which had been presented to the first winner to keep in lieu of the Trophy itself. The miniature had been kept by Pease's family since his death in 1926.
SETTING THE STAGE Top
Friday, the day of reckoning. Both experienced and former winners, Derek (4) Ranfurly Castle and Nicol (3) Murcar set off with Derek one up and refereed by Vice Captain Gordon Hyslop. Conditions were again benign and promised to be a close match. Nicol's quick birdie at the 2nd levelled the match and another at the 4th put him one up. Two excellent birdies at 6th kept the match stable until the eight which Derek bogied giving Nicol another hole. Both bogied the difficult ninth to go to the turn in 37 and 34 respectively and Nicol 2 holes up. Pars for Nicol at ten and eleven took him to three up. Derek's determined pars at the twelfth and thirteen pulled Nicol back to one up. At the fourteenth Nicol turned the tide with par to go 2 up once more but again Derek came back with pars at fifteen and sixteen to level the match. The last two holes were finished in pars by Nicol to bogies by Derek and so the match stopped for lunch with Nicol two holes up. In the Plate, Messrs MacCreadie, Hyslop, Oor John and Hammond had reached their zenith for this year leaving a morning semi final of Govan versus O'Donoghue and Wilson versus Kidd. Success for progress to the afternoon final went to Gregor Govan and Richard Kidd.
FOR THE MATURE GOLFER Top
The S W Thomson Cross for sixty year olds was competed over the first five holes, twice. Some 18 contestants were on the field. First time on the prize list Ayrshires William (Bill) Wallace scooped the prize.
CAPTAIN DRIVES IN Top
At 1.00 IT the clock was turned back 100 years (IT) when the spirit of (the enigmatic, remember?) James E Pease appeared to drive into office. The new Captain , Tom Dunn, was suitably attired as the Reverend accompanied by his beadle, his suitably cloaked wife Rita, son Andy and grandchildren, Cheryl and Emma . After a sermon on the Mount with hand signing for the hard of hearing, two balls were struck towards a crowd waiting for prizes.
FINAL STAGE Top
After the ceremony the final of the Plate tee-ed off accompanied by Past Captain Wilson as referee. At 1.30 (IT) the final of the 100th anniversary of the Kildalton Challenge Cross was underway and refereed by the new captain. A quick birdie at the 19th hole after a good chip and putt put Nicol three holes up. Pars each at the 20th and 21st remained unchanged but at 22nd better putts by Derek reduced his deficit to 2 holes and so it remained at 23, 24 and 25. By this time Derek was showing signs of pain from a pulled muscle in his shoulder. His tee shot at 26 was pulled into the rough with little distance and no chance to catch up on Nicol who parred to go to 3 up again. At the 27th it appeared that Derek's perfect fairway wood had made up for a poor tee shot while Nicol's long and straight drive left a short chip to the green. Derek's ball had travelled on and on and what seemed like a recovery shot had left him three more blows to hole out. Nicol's two putts secured the hole to go 4 up. At the 28th both missed the green but Derek's pulled tee shot bounced into the GUR to the left of the hole. His second shot from the drop zone made the green but left an awkward return putt and again Nicol's deft chip and putt made good the hole. A lost ball in the rough at the 29th and the hole was conceded by Derek. Now six holes down and in pain. The 30th was completed successfully in par by both golfers but holes were running out for Derek and success at the 31st for Nicol secured the Cross for the second time and in this special year. News reached the clubhouse shortly after that Gregor Govan had been successful in attaining the Kildalton Plate.
Later in the courtyard of the hotel Diane Brown started the presentation process by asking Tim Morrison to award the prizes to the successful juniors who were very much in force. Junior Club Champion, John Kidd and Junior Cross winner, local Donald Darroch will soon be competing in the senior Cross, going by their height. Liz Muir was on hand to dedicate and present Ian's Trophy. All prizes won during Cross Week were presented by the Captains wife and then the Captain thanked all for their support and invited them to continue the celebrations at the Cross Dinner.
THE DINNER Top
After a lavish meal prepared by Francois the company of almost 190 members and guests were entertained with humorous and light-hearted speeches. Nicol and Derek excelled before Past Captain John Mason toasted Islay Golf Club. Banker, late of Islay, Iain Gibson poetically toasted the ladies and just as expertly Margaret Morrison whose husband and son had already equipped themselves so expertly in the field, responded with real professionalism. A fitting end to the week's celebrations.
THE END ??? Top
But it doesn't end there, not for the revellers who are entertained into the small hours by Jean Campbell's Islay Ceilidh Band. And it doesn't end there either. The young set, after partying all night, decide on a golf tournament at dawn. Norrie MacDonald celebrates his birthday and breaks the record for the longest drive into the bunker at the first hole. Paul Samphire breaks the record for nearest the hole at the fifth (and threw himself just as far) and poor Caroline Morrison not to be outdone by her companions or her family, breaks her arm while on the tee. And it doesn't end there for the whole weeks celebrations have been recorded for posterity by Eddie Morris and an edited tape will be available in the near future. And it doesn't end here either. The celebrations will go on for another hundred years. Each year at a time, as long as the unique international family keeps coming back to the home of the KILDALTON CROSS.
THE CAPTAIN'S MESSAGE Top
Having just completed the major role as captain of Islay Golf Club I would like to thank all who contributed to the outstanding success of Cross Week 2000. Individual letters have gone out but this is the best media to pass on my thank generally. Being a special occasion in the history of the Club, I am delighted that David Wilson thought of me to carry his baton into the 21 century. As the next 100 years hold unknown wonders, so does the Club. Thanks to the close association we have with Malcolm King the Club can now consider improving its assets and standing in golfing circles. Membership is at an all time high with already 365 members with an expected rise to 400 before the end of the financial year. The Machrie Open and Icicle Trophy which we administrate for the Hotel are proving more successful each year. This gains us experience to run major events, an experience now required to run the Cross itself. Gone are the days of seventy or eighty players (some remember dragging players off the street to make up the 32 qualifiers) all accepting the hiccups and disappointments which can occur at any time. With the number of low handicappers striving to have their name on the Cross we must be more professional in the administration of the event. One of the more serious points of contention was the handicapping system . Fortunately the SGU and technology will come to our aid next year. A Centralised Handicapping system, with each golfer having a smart card, is being introduced. He can access his own data at the end of competition and obtain an accurate and updated handicap for the next. The success of the competition side of the week was due solely to the work done by the committee who tirelessly dedicated their time and family life not only to the event but the weeks leading up to it. A system of entry form is being considered for next year as part of the improvements. "The ladies assisted greatly this year both if the field supervising the juniors and in the clubhouse assisting the administration. Their expertise will be called on in the future". To relieve me of some of my duties of office, Vice Captain Hyslop will become the minute secretary and John MacIntyre jnr will be assisting me as treasurer and looking at simplifying the work involved in collecting and recording fees. All this I take as a challenge but with the help of my Vice, Committee and you, the members, 2001 will be an Odyssey.
NEXT CROSS Top
A note for your diaries - Cross Week next year starts Saturday 4th August, 2001
PRESENTATION OF PRIZES Top
A reminder that the next Annual Prizegiving will be held at the Machrie Hotel on Saturday 28th October 2000