Strathmore Golf Centre 2011
The tour welcomed three rookies this year - David Wright, Paul Lever and luke reilly. As usual our luxury coach picked up the team at 07:30hrs, but what was unusual was the coach was actually in the luxury class; completed with fridge and DVD system with two TV screens. As Dod marveled at the fridge for the carry out that he had purchased, the rest of us settled back with beer and cider and watched a re-run of the 2010 event.
Missing from this years event was defending champion Niall Ritchie, who had to attend a school football event; Big Bob, who was carted off to Royal Ascot by his dearly beloved; John Murray who was dragged over to Menorca by his dearly beloved; Matt Reilly who was sent to Holland by his employer and a late call-off by Jim Wright due to illness - the only one with a plausible excuse!
In the absence of the defending Champion, Niall Ritchie, the tour's number 1 player and early tournament favourite, Phil Sinclair had the honour of teeing off first to get the 5th Major underway. Bathed in sunshine and with the gallery of the 21 other competitors watching, Phil gathered his thoughts, set-up brilliantly (his practice swing was majestic), and promptly sliced his tee shot into the trees. It was to be a defining moment for Phil's round as he demonstrated that he could play like Rory McIlroy at Augusta. This should have given a boost to the remainder of the field, but alas only two people broke par (36 stableford points). Gary Wood suffered most with being dragged down in form as he was playing alongside Phil and managed to lose six Titelist Pro-V1's and score only 21 points. If it had not beeen for a strong finish (5 points in the last 4 holes) he could have challenged for the M&S cup.
With John Murray having pulled out of the tournament, the competition for lifting the M&S Cup was wide open. With the introduction, by Dod the Kitty man, of 'mandatory' drinking of Drambuie for the rookies on the way down in the bus, the early money was placed on Paul and Luke. However, Gavin had managed to hide his broken metatarsul bone in his hand and hobbled in with 16 points to become the third 'winner' of the M&S trophy.
The business end of the leaderboard saw three players within three points of each other. On 35 points; Dod Laing (defender of the M&S Cup) had a vastly improved performance from 2010, coming in third place; on 37 points former champion and currently recovering from the disgrace of 2010 was Graeme Meade. However, with a steady, consistant round, which included one lost ball, two real birdies, three rusty nails, four nett-pars, seven nett-birdies and numerous Budweisers was Rod Phillips.
The morning round had two Nearest-the-Hole competitions. The 6th hole, sponsored by Nick Frost Photography who very kindly donated a £100 voucher for a photo shoot, was won by Gary Wood. Last years winner, Iain 'The Hobbit' Sellar can vouch for how good a prize this is, as Nick was able to make him 6" taller and look like a golfer. The 13th hole sponsored by Graeme Meade Plumbing who donated a £30 voucher for the Kings Links Golf Centre, was won by Graeme Meade.
The afternoon competition was a nine hole Texas Scramble over the Leftie Links course. Runners-up were Gary Wood, Derek Wood and Stuart Meade with a score of 26.8, but with a score of 26.3 the winners were Paul Lever, Stewart McBain and Iain Sellar.
This years Nick McLeod Putting competition was supposed see the return of the spring-loaded putter. However, the putter was left on the coach so the next best odd-ball putter was used - Iain Sellar's rusty wooden shafted putter, which would not look out of place in the golf museum at St Andrews. After the initial round it looked like bad light (darkness) would interupt the competition, as most players struggled to hit the ball, never mind get it near the hole. The event however was over in round 4 and was won, for the second time, by Ian 'The Chief/Duke/Larry/Fairmer' Trotter.
Unlike the professionalism shown by last years winner in denying himself the chance to celebrate, Rod took full advantage of the bar facilities, carry-out on the bus home and finished off in Soul Casino.
Over the course of the last twenty years or so, most of the tour members have dreamt of being able to play like Colin Montgomerie - after this years performance it can safely be said that most have now achieved this goal!
The most important effect of Rod winning the 5th Major is that he has now shaken off the noteriety of being 'the best player to have not won a major'. This title has now been passed onto Steve McGrath.
The journey home was noisy, with the entertainment being led by Phil, who had created 'Sounds of the 5th Major - Volume 2'. However, unlike last year where the bus did not have a CD player, this year we had a full sound system with multiple speakers in the bus. The cats choir was again diabolical, and we can safely say the the 5th Major Does Not Have Talent.
For the first time we did not have a spewer - a fantastic achievement, give the amount of booze that was tanned throughout the day.
After returning back to Aberdeen, three of the group, Rod, Nick McL and Kenny managed to stagger to Soul Casino for more drink (why??) and to lose money (why??), and to celebrate Rod's win.
It was another classic 5th Major .......
A DVD of the day will be available soon.