KILDALTON CROSS WEEK 1999
Expectations ran particularly high this year for the annual gathering at Machrie on the Island of Islay. In rehearsal for the Cross's centenary next year Islay Golf Club contrived to improve on previous successes. Not an easy task.
The management of the Machrie Hotel had been successful earlier in the year in taking into employment, Simon Freeman as head greenkeeper. Simon his wife Catherine and small son have taken to island life from Crieff in Perthshire where Simon had been greenkeeper at Crieff Hydro Golf Club.
The transformation of Machrie Links has to be seen. Assisted by impeccable timing by Mother Nature, the presentation of the course by Simon's team is a delight to the eye as well as a challenge to the aspiring golfer.
The festival of golf began on Saturday 31 July when eighty-eight members, some old, some new some harrowed some blue, assembled for the Club Championship
Weather conditions were perfect as it had been all week. The first round included the Lachie Mackinnon Memorial shield, a handicap competition which was won by Rob Smith. He had come with his wife Ann all the way from Ohio, USA, just to play the Cross. The fact that they were also visiting the Middleton Clan was incidental. After two rounds of scratch event Iain Middleton (Royal Aberdeen and Islay GCs) added another Championship to his list of achievements with a fine 147. This sixth Championship title equalled Derek Gray's existing record. The CSS was 72.
The club's Annual General Meeting was held during the evening and David Wilson (Kilmacolm and IGCs) was admitted to the office of Captain. A ballot secured the other members to see the Club into the Millennium.
OFF TO A BANG
All holes, and then some, were occupied for the Sunday match between the Visitors and Locals. Hotel Manager, Ian Brown managed to start the proceedings this year without raining lead from the shotgun onto the contestants. In true Islay tradition although the count seemed to favour the locals by 12 1/2 to 8 1/2 the match was declared a draw.
The frivolities over, the draw for the qualifying rounds set the field for the next two days. One hundred and eight names of aspiring members went into the hat. The Captain's Prize was the goal for Monday's round but all the players in the morning round were about to be affected by 'a first' on Machrie. The first match had reached the 14th and the last match had teed off when the course was deluged with torrential rain. The dry spell had caused the greens to be hard packed and as a result most of them flooded. Play was suspended for the first time in memory while Simon's team impersonated Venetian street sweepers. Particularly affected was the punchbowl of the third hole. A chain-gang of buckets was used to empty the rainwater over the side. After an hour all players and greens were dried out and play recommenced. No truth in the rumour that Ian Brown was seen putting away his rainmaking kit before counting the extra bar takings.
Winner at the end of the days play was Allan Middleton (Murcar and IGCs) with a nett 65 playing off 10. The CSS was 71 despite the rain and change of green speed.
Tuesday and the skies remained overcast with a stiff easterly breeze. The same three-balls started at 8am. in search of one of the clubs oldest trophies, the Peking Cup. No interruptions on the second day and the winner was Alastair Livingstone (IGC). The CSS was calculated as 70.
Committee activities increased to establish the thirty-two qualifiers for 1999. Where would the cut be made? - trepidation for the contestants with scores around 150's. Final calculations proved that the best second round total of 150 completed the 32 plus reserve player. Consolation for the next thirty-two was the Kildalton Plate.
Fun and excitement during the evening when the competitors were introduced to an assembled audience in the hotel's function suite. The draw for the order of play was made by the Club Captain's wife, Lorraine.
Weather conditions remained similar to the previous days as the first and second rounds were completed on Wednesday. The Cross finals are played in Match play competition using the old fashioned system of players starting holes up or down depending on half the difference between the two handicaps.
The quarter-finals had seen the field reduced to single figure handicappers bar the new Captain whose play off 12 had been inspired by his recent promotion. Only two local players remained in the top half of the draw. Previous Cross winners John Edgar (IGC) and Nicol Meldrum (Murcar and IGC) featured in the top half along with Allan Middleton and Doctor Ian Cannon.
The bottom four also highlighted a former six times Club Champion in Derek Gray (Ranfurly Castle and IGCs), last years Cross winner John Gordon (Parkstone and IGCs), John McKean previous two times finalist and big Davie Wilson.
The morning round reduced the field to the last four: Allan and John being the locals to contest for a place in the final and Derek and John McKean to vie for the other.
Well fought battles in the afternoon left Allan and John to face each other over a 36 hole final the following day. Both competitors had been in similar situations on Machrie Links. Allan whose game had improved as the week progressed, aspired to have his name alongside brother Iain's . John, who had been visiting Machrie for two decades, hoped that his third attempt would be successful.
Glorious sunshine greeted the players and gallery. The tempering east breeze remained and the course had never been better presented for a final.
New Vice Captain, Tom Dunn was appointed referee for the first half of the match. Allan, who started six holes up over the 36 holes, was first to drive off. John knew that his task was to quickly reduce Allan's lead and this he did at the first hole with a perfect birdie. Allan's par golf through the first seven holes saw his deficit not only restored but his lead increased to 8. Only one shot dropped by Allan in the first nine left him seven holes clear after nine.
Holes won at the 10th with a birdie and 11th with a difficult par putt left John nine holes behind. At the twelfth Allan's first wayward shot against the stiff easterly breeze inspired John to hit the green and win the hole. Allan peaked again with a birdie at the thirteenth. Wins by John at the fourteenth and fifteenth reduced Allan's lead to seven but a poor drive by John at the sixteenth and par golf thereafter saw the contestants at lunch and Allan eight holes clear.
THE LAST LAP
Behind the Cross final the Kildalton Plate had reached its Semi Final with Chris Grier (West Kilbride and IGCs) taking first place to Allan McIntosh and Eliot Soutter having success over local David Turner.
The S W Thompson Cross had been played over the first five holes, twice, for the over 60s by eighteen hexogenarians. Winner was local Dougal McDougall following on his success as the 1954 Kildalton Cross winner.
One O'clock and Captain David Wilson drove himself into office before refereeing the Cross Final.
Messrs Grier and Soutter set off in pursuit of the Plate leaving the Links clear for the final stages of the 1999 Kildalton Cross
....PUTT FOR DOUGH.
The excellent weather brought out the spectators who were about to witness impeccable putting skills.
"..fine weather..perfect greens.."
Holes 19 and 20 were halved and a birdie win at the twenty-first left John with an uphill battle. Honours equal at 22nd Allan again birdied the 23rd (5th). Long putts at 24th and 25th and both three putting 26 kept Allan's score intact. A win for Allan at the 27th secured the match 10 holes up and nine to play.
Allan's par golf over 36 holes with flawless putting for pars and birdies made John's almost par round insufficient.
"The fine weather, lack of rain or strong wind and perfect greens all contributed to the win" commented Allan modestly later.
His wife Joan and children, Laura, aged 8 and 6 year old Rachel, were waiting to congratulate dad on leaving the course. First thing to check, -- was Dad wearing the lucky socks they had bought ? - of course he was.
It was said many times from many sources how sporting and friendly the match had been, -the quintessence of all that is Cross Week.
The gallery which followed the main event were left to follow the Plate competitors who were having a ding dong battle during their final holes. Eliot completed the seventeenth hole in fine style to stay in the match but at the eighteenth an errant shot allowed Chris the hole and the Plate.
In the hotels courtyard in brilliant sunshine the presentation of the week's trophies took place.
Match Secretary, Ralph Middleton, called the winners in turn to receive their trophies from Lorraine Wilson. Of special significance were of course sons Iain and Allan and son-in-law Rob.
Immediate Past Captain Allan Hyslop presented his prize to Allan and Past Captain S W (Tim) Morrison presented the Junior Trophies. This year Grant Hamilton from Currie, Mid Lothian
created a magnificent double in taking the Junior Championship and the Junior Cross.
A BIT EXTRA
As usual the Week had thrown up the anecdotes and idiosyncrasies worth relating.
After his win in the Championship and the flooded greens of Monday, Iain Middleton was seen to walk on water at the sixth green. The source of this information cannot be divulged but his initials are Robert Dobbin.
Having regularly failed to complete the 170 yard carry over the 'Scots Maiden' in recent weeks, local committee man, Bob Hogben, on leaving the sixth green 'sacrificed' a ball by throwing it into the arms of the Maiden. Of course his tee shot successfully cleared this time.
Aberdonian Ralph Middleton had reached the final green when play was suspended during the deluge. As the hole was under water all balls were marked and were to be left unattended for the next hour. Ralph, who had been using a twenty pence coin, was so relieved when he was able to borrow a plastic ball marker and safely pocket his 20p.
TOWARDS THE END
To end the week the traditional Cross Dinner Dance was held in the Hotel function suite. A record number of members and guests were catered to the highest standard by the staff. Main course of the evening was rack of Islay lamb succulently prepared by chef Francois. Top Table guests included greenkeeper Simon Freeman who was complimented from every quarter for his expertise and presentation of the course in his first few months at Machrie. Simon graciously accepted the plaudits on behalf of his team and implored the mainland members to spread the word to encourage more visitors.
Hilarious and entertaining speeches were heard from Iain Middleton, John McKean and BAM Hyslop. Captain Wilson drew the formalities to a close and handed over to Kevin McMillan, Campbeltowns one man musician, to conduct the final fling. As usual the celebrations lasted till dawn at which time some thirty golfers assembled on the first tee - in practice for Millennium Year AND THE CENTENARY OF THE KILDALTON CROSSMACHRIE'S HISTORY.
What has Machrie Links got in common with The Country Club at Brookline, Massachusetts.? Most will know that the latter hosts the 1999 Ryder Cup next month but what is the connection.?
Early this year an e-mail was received from Brian DeLacey a golf historian from the States. He was intending to visit Scotland to visit the grass roots of golf and establish its importance in bringing the game to the States.
His research into early Scottish pioneers, centred on Willie Campbell, among other golfing greats of their time. (Got the first clue?)
Brian was fortunate to have as a good friend, the grandson of Willie Campbell, 81 year old Bob Lamprey. An odyssey was planned.
Willie Campbell was born in Mussleburgh in 1862. Like many a lad from that area he took to golf and became very proficient. By the age of 25 he had competed in the Open Championship and was the equal to all the golfing stars of the day.
"...the best ground for golf..."
With the boom of golf in the 1880s he became famous as a professional golf course architect. He was at Old Ranfurly Golf Club in Bridge of Weir as designer and resident professional when the founder members of Islay Golf Club invited him to design the Machrie Links (the 'link' is almost complete). At this time he was also credited with the layout of Cowal Golf Club in Dunoon, such was his fame.
It is minuted in the earliest of Islay Golf Clubs books a transcription of Willie Campbell's report back to the committee.
" I visited Islay as you ordered me and have much to report it is the best ground for a golf course that I have ever had the pleasure of viewing. Sir, I can say that you could make for very little money one of the best courses in Scotland as it will need very little more than cutting the 'puttin' greens and making a bridge here and there. If this was dunn you could play golf the next day.
(Sgd) Willie Campbell"
The time scale was accurate. Between his visit in the summer of 1890 and 23 May 1891 he was selected to play the first professional challenge on the only 18 hole course to be found in the Hebrides."....,100 and a gold medal...."
As his opponent the Committee invited another top professional of the day, Willie Fernie of Troon. As an inducement the prize was set at ,100 and a gold medal to the winner.
The blow by blow account of the ensuing match is recorded in John Cubbage's " Chronicle of the Islay Golf Club and The Machrie Links". Suffice to say Willie Campbell won the match and pocketed the prize money and more importantly - the gold medal.
Unfortunately towards the end of the century his health affected his competitive prowess but he made good use of the time allotted to him. He continued to design courses using the natural topography rather than early equivalent of JCBs and the like. In 1894 he emigrated to the USA, lost the first unofficial US Open by two shots to Willie Dunn and in the same year became the first professional at the Country Club. (Link complete)
He is credited with many other prestigious courses on the eastern seaboard including Franklin Park in Boston where he was the first greenkeeper.
During these hectic years he met and married Georgina who, interesting to note, became the first lady golf professional in America shortly after Willie's death in 1900
In June East Lothian Council held a celebration of the Mussleburgh Links and its five Open Champions and its further six Local Heroes. Willie Campbell of course being one of them.
The descendants of all were invited to join in the Celebration
Brian DeLacey accompanied Bob Lamprey and enjoyed the festivities laid on for the day.
Next stop Old Ranfurly and made acquaintance with local committee members and during the following week continued to follow in Willie's footsteps.
On Sunday 27 June Bob Hogben and Tom Dunn met Brian who had arrived on Islay the previous day with his friends. A casual few holes till 11pm showed Brian, a competent golfer, some of Machrie's delights.
Weather was perfect for the golf and photosession planned for Monday.
Bob was a bright octogenarian with a permanent twinkle and smile. He was indeed enjoying seeing all the places his grandfather had made famous.
While the younger ones golfed Bob walked the course and at the 15th green - Willie's Fancy- photos were taken to record the visit.
Back at the Hotel, old minute books were displayed, items 'drooled' over by Brian. A National newspaper cutting, advertising the challenge match between Campbell and Fernie for ,100 and a gold medal, is pasted in the book near Willie's transcribed letter. But the piece de resistance was the presentation of the pristine gold medal retained by Bob as a family heirloom. More photographs for the annals of the Club. More friendships made and more especially more people finding out more about Islay Golf Club and Machrie Links.
HON SECs BRIEFS
This year the dance will be held at the Machrie Hotel on Saturday 6 November 1999 and not as stated in the Fixture Card
Some of you may have noticed a dearth of Newsletters this year. From some of your comments some people actually enjoy keeping in touch. Anni Horribilis are not only confined to Royalty. This year has been one of those better forgotten -except for the eventful arrival of our latest granddaughter. The future is bright. David Wilson will expertly guide us into the new Millennium and I am looking forward to taking the reins next August.
With John MacIntyre on hand to guide me along the labyrinth of computer corridors I hope to keep you all better informed of future activities.
To this end our Millennium Committee has been set up and they are looking at different ways to celebrate the New Year and Centenary Cross Week. If you have any suggestions please phone or write to me.
One item, which is already penned in for the Thursday night of Centenary Cross Week is a dinner for all previous Cross Winners. Most are still members but the few who are no longer members will be invited.
Those of you who have been over this year will have seen the derelict we still call a clubhouse.
Last winters gales tolled its final hours and it is not expected to survive another winter. Almost thirty years the present building has survived but it is now time to negotiate alternative accommodation. Malcolm King has made generous offers and the committee are presently negotiating with him to establish better facilities for the Millennium.
NEW COMMITTEE MEMBER
For the first time in many years a ballot was required at the AGM to fill the vacancies created by rotations and resignation.
As a result Angus MacAulay has joined John MacIntyre, Archie McKechnie, Bob Hogben , Alistair McDonald and Kenny Gillies as the 'home' team and Dougie Mackinnon, Gordon Hyslop and Alistair MacMillan are the 'away' supportTHE LADIES
On the distaff side Violet Cusworth is leading the ladies into the Millennium ably supported by secretary Margaret Hastie. Rosie Johnston is looking after the financial affairs.
Diane and Alex Brown are doing their best to encourage local youngsters but their recent report highlights the usual apathy. Numbers are dwindling on practice nights but hopefully enthusiasm will return as it usually does from year to year.
Junior Cross this year was well competed and the increase in the number of visiting juniors was apparent . Major trophies were secured by Grant Hamilton from Currie, Mid Lothian.
We have been setting up a web site to take our place on this latest of highways. Only Cross results and some newsletters are available but during the winter my guru and I will try to establish a site attractive to the passing surfer. If you wish to visit us try our url www.islaygolfclub.co.uk/index.php
Although I asked all members to supply their e-mail address on this years application form, some are not as clear as they require to be. In order to provide an accurate mailing list I would invite all members wishing to use their e-mail address to drop me a line at
MESSAGE FROM THE CAPTAIN
I would like to thank all the members for their support during Cross Week, the atmosphere was terrific and all golfing and social events were very successful. Our thanks go to the Committee, greens staff and hotel staff who worked hard to ensure that we had a most enjoyable week.
Your Club is in good shape, the course is the best it has been for a longtime and the hotel is moving forward. We can approach the New Millennium with great confidence.
Lorraine and I will be at the Prizegiving on November 6th and at the Machrie for "the bells", and we look forward to seeing as many of you as possible.
NEWS FROM THE LADIES
The Ladies Committee to see us through the next twelve months are -
Violet Cusworth, Captain, Diane Brown, Vice Captain, Margaret Hastie, Secretary, Rosie Johnston, Treasurer. Support also from May, Karen, Sheena Donalda and Margaret.
On Tuesday of Cross Week the ladies played for the Carol MacIntyre Trophy. This a a fun event played with only two clubs and a putter. We made a very wise decision to play this over only seven holes as the midges were horrendous. Congratulations to Sian Gordon from Poole for coming in with the lowest score.
We had a very enjoyable Ladies Night. Thanks to all who supported us, especially to all our helpers and those who so generously donated raffle prizes. The young gentleman who organised the 'Rolling the ,1 coin' did us proud by raising ,50 for the bottle of whisky the Ladies had won at the 'Feis Ile' carnival (that's another story). If you come up with any bright ideas for next year, please share them with us.
We were pleased to get enough interest to play a Visitors -v- Locals Match. This was played on Thursday afternoon, between the Cross semi finals!, hope we can repeat this next year.
Though the buzz of summer has passed there's still a lot of golf to be played. We have a few competitions from earlier in the season to be slotted in. Details will be displayed in the clubhouse.
We would very much like to see more ladies taking part in our fixtured events. So why not come along or contact any of the ladies mentioned above to arrange a game.
The next club event will be the Joint Annual Prizegiving on 6 November. NOT TO BE MISSED!
Look forward to seeing you all there. MH