The Northern Open – Royal Dornoch (21st-24th June 2016)
A fair trek up to the far north of Scotland took me to one of the best courses in the country. It takes almost 4 hours to reach Dornoch and is similar to traveling from Glasgow to Manchester if you were to go in the opposite direction. The scenery in this part of the world takes your mind off the time though and its no wonder so many Americans travel up this far just to play the course and visit the area. Notable honorary members of Royal Dornoch include HRH Prince Andrew and Tom Watson. Mr Watson once described this as one of his favourite courses which is not a bad advert from one of the best ever players of the game.
The sun was out for most of the time and the temperatures were very pleasant, but we did have a strong wind coming from the south west for most of the tournament which meant the back 9 was predominantly into the wind each day. Make your score on the front and then hold on for the back was the philosophy most were talking about and I had a good few chats over the first couple of days with some guys I knew.
Craig Ronald was on the practice ground hitting balls and we conversed about how he was struggling motivating himself as he felt he was losing interest in the game. He still plays very well and ended up finishing in the top 10 for the event but I got the feeling he was going through the motions with golf at the moment and probably feels he needs a win soon to spark the enthusiasm again. We all search for something extra when we feel we are in a rut and sadly when we get what we want it is not all its cracked up to be. Appreciating what we have is the key and something that so many off us, including myself, forget so easily. He will remain in my thoughts.
My playing partners were Alistair McDonald from Dunniker Park and Craig Mackay who is an amateur and Greenkeeper from Dornoch. The Northern Open is one of the few events on the Tartan Tour where amateurs can play in the event as individuals alongside the professionals and all of them that get into the event generally play very well. As we waited on the tee for the green to clear, we all identified our balls and this gave me an opportunity to explain to the boys about my attachment as Craig asked what course it was linked to. We had a bit of a wait before teeing off due to the 1st being a short par 4 downwind and most of the guys who were hitting driver could reach it, so as soon as the starter, dressed in kilt and all, saw we had drivers he wanted us to wait till the green had fully cleared. This gave me a good opportunity to share about my faith and how I came to be involved with Logos. After we finally got going we had some calm weather for the front 9 due to the protection of the lower valley, but as we turned for home and a more exposed part of the course, we got the true strength of the wind and we had to ‘hold on’ to protect our scores. Alistair struggled a bit coming back along with myself, but Craig played well and completed a good solid round. We were all playing with each other the following day again so I would get the chance to see them again.
That day I also got to speak with Murray Urquart, someone I hadn’t seen for a number of years. Murray used to be at Spey Valley but has since moved to Nairn and is teaching there full-time. He asked me what I’d been up to this past while which allowed me to explain about my personal life and my involvement with the ministry which he seemed pleasantly surprised about. He said it was good I was able to get back out there more and wished me every success. Just as I left Murray, I then bumped into my friend Gareth who had just come off the course not very happy. He had not played much over the past while due to injury and was not pleased with his score. We had a brief chat about the conditions and his knee so we agreed to try and catch up later but sadly I didn’t see him for the rest of the tournament so will try to get in touch with him to arrange a practice game at some point.
The following day brought very similar conditions and the only thing more frustrating than not playing too well on a good course is playing well and not making any birdie putts. It can be very frustrating constantly shaving the hole, especially when you have half a dozen 10 footers for birdie and none drop. A very trying day but the other side of that was I chatted a good bit to Craig and we got to know each other a little better which is a good foundation for future conversation. Alistair really struggled this day and did not say too much but it was understandable given the circumstances.
Looking back at this tournament I really should have made the cut as there were no lost balls or penalty shots, but it just goes to show how something as simple as missing a few birdie putts can be the difference. I was happy for Craig though as he was one of the few amateurs to make it through and played very solid over the whole tournament, and holed his birdie putts when he had the chance. Hitting the ball well looks good but putting is what makes the score. More importantly, I was happy to have the conversations I had and I pray for God to continually move in these areas and for the future conversations I will have going forward.
In his service,
Vincent Brown, Logos Golf Ministries Ambassador to the Tartan Tour
to contact Vincent by email firstname.lastname@example.org