MATTHEW Monaghan had the honour of being the first strokeplay competition winner of the new season at Helensburgh Golf Club last Saturday.

Golfers in Helensburgh have been fortunate that play was still allowed over the local course under the current Covid restrictions, and many have taken the opportunity in recent weeks despite some severe weather conditions.

However, the Saturday of the Easter weekend brought some respite in the form of warm sunshine for the first strokeplay tournament of 2021 – and in recognition of the start of a new season’s golf, and the benign weather, no fewer than 114 golfers teed off on Saturday, some in expectation of a place on the podium but most in hope.

Golfers across the UK are now playing to a new handicap system, bringing the country into line with most others around the world.

The new scheme’s implementation has seen most players’ handicaps go up, some by several shots, and that would undoubtedly have been the most controversial subject among players in the clubhouse afterwards in non-Covid circumstances, so it’s perhaps just as well that the clubhouse remains closed under the present lockdown rules.

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The obvious effect of the new handicap arrangements was the number of players playing to, or even bettering, their new handicap – 27 in all, almost a quarter of the field, some by several shots.

Few demonstrated that better than Monaghan, whose net score of 62 was some seven shots better than his new handicap of 23.

Four gross pars in his last 10 holes gave Monaghan a gross score of 85, and a one-shot win over two players with a net 63.

Both George Cairns and Steven Slee would have fancied their chances of success with those scores, and both will be rueing the double bogey sixes they posted at the last hole, especially after discovering Monaghan had pipped them to the top spot on the leaderboard by a single shot.