Bragging rights go to dad Neil

Craig Irvine and Neil Irvine
Craig Irvine and Neil Irvine

It’s a common problem in golfing families deciding who is top dog on the course -- but it has been solved, albeit temporarily, in one such family in Stonehaven.

Neil Irvine, 56-years-old, has clear bragging rights in his household at present, having just won the Stonehaven Golf Club championship for the sixth time, beating son Craig, who is 24, by five shots.

This was actually the second time (more of that later) in Stonehaven GC’s 126-year history that a father and son have finished first and second in the championship, which is played over four stroke-play rounds.

More than 130 members teed off in the competition and, when the cut was made after two rounds, Neil was lying second, one shot back from leader Barry McGillivray, with Craig, who was champion in 2009, in fourth place, two shots behind his dad.

Strong winds rendered the exposed clifftop course all but unplayable in the third round, with balls being blown off the fifth and sixth greens, but play continued and Neil Irvine went into the final round two shots ahead of McGillivray and five ahead of his son.

The three played the last round together, this time much of it in heavy rain, and, despite the greens starting to flood, the Irvines both scored creditable 69s, with McGillivray returning a 74, giving totals of 279 (Neil), 284 (Craig) and 286 (Barry).

Neil Irvine, who plays off two, is thought to be the oldest winner of the Stonehaven championship and the only senior member to have won.

According to club records, which only go back to 1923, three players have won seven times -- Willie Watt between 1928-1935; Charlie Nicol between 1960-1968; Bobby Forbes between 1978-1988.

Bryan Innes, one of the North-east’s top players, now at Murcar Links, was Stonehaven champion six times between 1992 and 1998.

It was Bobby Forbes who was involved in Stonehaven’s first father/son title challenge. His father Sandy, champion in 1977, played the final round in 1978 with Bobby as his partner. Bobby was a stroke ahead playing the last hole and Sandy had a putt on the last green to tie.

Sandy can’t remember now how long the putt was — perhaps seven to eight feet — but he missed it and Bobby clinched his first title.

Said Sandy, who still lives in Stonehaven: “People were saying that I missed it deliberately to let Bobby win — but that’s rubbish. Of course I was trying to hole it.”

So Neil Irvine needs two more championships to become the top multiple winner. He has, however, already surpassed all the others in his longevity -- his six wins span 30 years from his first in 1984, a remarkable generational spread.

And quite a target to set for Craig if he is to continue the Irvine golfing dynasty in Stonehaven. However, Craig could argue he is already ahead of the game. He was champion at age 19 -- his old man didn’t win it until he was 26.

Stonehaven Golf Championship 2014: 279 Neil Irvine (68+68+73+69); 284 Craig Irvine (69+70+76+69); 286 Barry McGillivray (68+68+76+74); 290 Keith Douglas; 296 Josh Halliday, Neil Robertson; 298 Kiefer Brown, Harry Roulston; 299 Stuart Dempster, Chris Taylor; 300 Mason Jenkins, Michael Wood, Gary Graham; 305 Kevin Riddell, Craig Mackay; 307 Steve McGhie; 308 Alan Cruickshank; 309 Paul Kelly; 318 Ian MacLeod.