Unstoppable Gullane win fourth League Title
Nobody was surprised when Gullane captured the Winter League title on Sunday. Jeff Aitken’s team have risen to every challenge they have faced this season and it’s a while since the bookies stopped taking bets on the title race.
But the manner of their campaign this term has been a little bit special. The current format was introduced to create more meaningful matches and make it more difficult for a team to run away with the title, yet with maximum points from seven outings and the other teams all taking points off each other, Jeff Aitken’s team have secured the title earlier than has ever been done before.
In fact round 7 is the earliest stage at which it’s mathematically possible to be crowned champions, so it’s fair to say this is a record which is set to stand for a while !
There’s no doubt Gullane have been a strong team throughout the years they have competed, yet the Winter League title has been elusive. Their previous success (in 2010) came after a 29 year drought, and way back in 1981 their victory was only delivered after a title play off with Longniddry. Perhaps that’s testament to the strength of the league, but that record puts this season’s campaign into context.
The win also means Gullane move above local rivals Dirleton Castle in the table of all time league champions – albeit more than a decade after the Castle’s last appearance in the competition !
But despite their successful run before Christmas there was no doubt the job was not yet done. Defending champions North Berwick stood between the team and the title, the same opponents that ended Gullane’s chances last year when they left with both points in the equivalent match, all but securing the league for themselves.
But there was to be no repeat this week. Scott Walker and Duncan Low, unmatched this season at the top of the order, covered sixteen holes in two under par to put the first point on the board. Despite that the match remained close, and for a while there was little to separate the middle three ties with the visitors always strong at the back.
However the first significant move came from Ross Thomson and George Thomson in match 3. The solid play they produced through the middle of their round turned an early two hole deficit into a commanding four hole lead after thirteen as Cochrane and Stewart faltered for the visitors. The pair duly delivered their point on the fifteenth green.
So advantage to the home side, but with nothing to pick in matches 2 and 4 the game was very much alive.
Match 4 featured a blend of youth and experience on each side, with the father and son combination of Johnston & Johnston one up for the visitors after 11. But the experienced John Clelland, alongside regular partner Greg Houlston, stepped up to the plate by holing a 30 foot putt for a winning birdie on the twelfth. The blow triggered something of a collapse from the Johnstons who surrendered three of the next four holes to par to relinquish their tie, the match, and the league title to their opponents.
Ahead in match 2 the North Berwick pair boarded the eighteenth tee one up, but a wayward drive from Kevin Messer led to a lost ball and the match was halved. Chris Brown and Mike Gray remained in control at the back, but the point they delivered for the visitors on the fifteenth green against Smith and Jack proved to be too little, too late.
All that left was the matter of mathematical certainty, but that came soon enough with the news that Musselburgh had failed to win at Longniddry, allowing the celebrations to begin in earnest.So congratulations go to Gullane on an outstanding campaign, and that’s even before the Cup has started ! No doubt there’s plenty more to come this season.