2017 - Machrihanish, Scotland
The Tenth Hickory Grail, Machrihanish Golf Club. Mull of Kintyre, Scotland 3rd – 5th July 2017. There are certain locations in the world of golf that are iconic. Machrihanish is at the forefront. So remote, beautiful, inaccessible! It always was and always will be but for all the trials and tribulation of the journey, the course and the welcome are so worth the effort.
Would you know the spell which all care can banish?
Take at once the route that leads to Machrihanish,
Where the breezes blow, wafting from the islands,
That which stirs the blood, vigour of the Highlands.
Up, my golfing friend, out and try your fettle,'
This is now the links, worthy of your mettle.
You’ve seen a better green? Let that idea vanish,
Best you’ve ever see, comes after Machrihanish.
Where is turf like this, thick and softly springing?
The very larks delight it’s praises to be singing.
I may take issue with the golfing poet from the late Victorian era, John Thompson’s, “wafting breezes”, but there can be no doubt that his description in the second verse is still as accurate today as it was 130 years ago. This course is a masterpiece and there was a general joy amongst both teams, of being on these links, irrespective of their fortunes on this revered turf.
The entire week on the Kintyre peninsular was a festival of golf. Most players arrived on Sunday with practice starting in earnest on Monday morning. This is an out and back course and with a gentle breeze behind us as we drove across the bay, the two Captains formed the view that we should create a composite course with the white tees in use down wind and quite a few yellow ones on the way back.
A significant crowd materialised to watch the opening ceremony with both teams marching out to the first tee behind a band of swirling pipes and drums. We are indebted to the Club for laying on the Campbeltown Band for this purpose
Belle Robertson, legendary Curtis Cup player and Captain, and honorary member of both Machrihanish and the R&A did us the honour of raising the flags of the US, Europe and the BGCS itself. The teams were introduced and the pairings for the morning foursomes announced. We then retired to the Club House for a splendid buffet supper.
Tuesday - First day of play
Tuesday morning dawned, dark wet and forebidding and, worse still, the wind was blowing at 25 MPH from the wrong direction for the carefully sited tees. The players got soaked, mainly in the waist high rough which was prevalent at every hole. Machrihanish has glorious driving holes over sand hills to hidden fairways. Greens are extravagant in their contours, with some perched on the top of sliced off sand hills. This was tough.
Peyron and Bleasby got Europe off to a flying start but reversals in matches 2 and 3 edged the US in front before the remaining three matches all came in for Europe. Europe 4 to USA 2 at lunch.
Henrik Peyron this time partnered by Tony Hunt led Europe out in the afternoon four balls for a significant win over Miller and McAllister. Three more points followed for Europe and one to the USA leaving the visitors in desperate need of a win in the anchor match. This was an epic with the two big hitting Swedes, Jonas Fack and Jorgen Isberg powering their drives way beyond Mark Wehring and Bill Farmer. But they could not shake off the Americans. Wehring birdied the short 15th but then just failed to do the same thing at the 16th, Rorkes Drift, when having hit a mashie to 4 feet, his putt spun out. This left the match square. The seventeenth fell to Europe but Wehring was not to be thwarted and in the gathering darkness as the sun set over Islay and Jura, he holed from 30 ft for a birdie to square the match. But Europe now led 8 ½ to 3 ½, a significant advantage.
Video: Mikael Martinsson
The 18th fairway is lined with grand houses built by Glasgow’s great and good in the late Victorian and Edwardian period. The Swedes had taken two of them and hosted a splendid Smorgasbord for both teams. There was a lot of smoked and soused fish eaten accompanied by a measure or two of snaps and some rousing singing. It was also the 4th July made more memorable by the 50th birthday of US Captain Mark Wehring. We are indebted to the Swedish Ladies for laying on such a splendid meal.
Wednesday - Second day of play
The weather was a lot more kind on Wednesday morning as the 12 singles got under way. Swedish players took the top four singles before Ross Hays and Jerry Esselman (making his debut) got two points back but the Europeans picked up most of the rest to secure the singles 9 – 3.
Belle Robertson did the honours once again as the flags were struck to a lone piper and Nigel Notley was presented with the Grail. The overall score was 17 ½ to 6 ½.
Events were concluded at the Convivial Dinner in the Club House. Chris Walker, Captain of the BGCS, presented the Club with a commemorative shield and a fine mashie iron made by local professional Hector Thompson in the hickory era and then proposed the toast of Machrihanish. Iain McGougan Captain of the Club, responded with the formal welcome and Belle Robertson narrated stories from her time as a leading amateur and caused some consternation by saying she preferred Dunaverty to Machrihanish to loud laughter from the room.
Mark Wehring congratulated Europe and raised a toast. Nigel Notley responded toasting the USA coupled with the name of Clive Mitchell, who was scheduled to play before his sudden and untimely death.
That left John Crow Miller to conclude the evening with the award of the Livingston Medal to the person who has done most for the furtherance of hickory golf. To loud acclaim it was awarded to Mark Wehring.
The members of the Club took a keen interest in hickory play and that added significantly to our enjoyment. Special thanks are due to Jennie Dunn the new Machrihanish Professional. What a lovely person and it was so good of her to announce every match, even on that dire first morning. Also we should thank Fergus Walker, last year’s Captain and the man who allowed us to play, his wife Dorothy who led the band, Iain the Club Captain, Maggie in the Office and last but not least Iain the steward and his staff who laid on excellent food and beverages with total calm throughout