Craig Elliot is closing in on his fifth Dispatch Trophy triumph in ten years despite not picking up a golf club since last season’s event at the Braids.
The 44-year-old is through to the quarter-finals in the tournament’s 117th staging – its first under the golfclubs4cash banner – with Carrickvale.
They face Hailes A, the holders, when the action resumes tonight, with Elliot having proved yet again that he is one of the Capital’s special golfing talents.
“I wanted to play for the B team due to the fact I’ve not actually played since last year’s Dispatch Trophy,” said the 44-year-old.
“I hit 25 balls on the range last Thursday then played six holes on Friday night – that’s been my preparation.”
It’s no surprise that Carrickvale stalwart George Alexander did some “arm-twisting” to get Elliot to turn out for the club’s top team along with Allyn Dick, Craig Deerness and Paul Cunningham.
Dick and Elliot both played in Carrickvale’s trophy hat-trick from 2007-2009 before helping retain the trophy in 2013. Deerness also played in the latter, with Cunningham having replaced Thomas Beattie.
Like Dick, Elliot has made his mark in the past at a higher level than this, including a 2002 Scottish Mid-Amateur Championship win and victory in the Craigmillar Park Open eight years ago,.
“I don’t have the time to play these days,” he added, referring to his three-year-old son Ben, whom he cradled for photographs with the famous old trophy in 2013, as one of the reasons for that. “But I do still enjoy getting the chance to play in the Dispatch Trophy, even though my golf isn’t as good as it once was and I also feel a lot more nervous than ever.”
Dick, a former Lothians champion, reckons Carrickvale are fortunate to be in the last eight after surviving a scare against the Stephen Gallacher Foundation on Tuesday night.
They went from six up overall at the turn to one down with five holes to play before Elliot and Cunningham won the 16th then both Vale pairings took the 17th with par-3s.
“This is a golf course where you need to be in the right positions and that was one of those occasions when Craig and I were out of position the whole time,” said Dick. “We were fortunate that our opponents (Scott Knowles and Cameron Gallagher) did not take advantage.”
Vale, of course, had already beaten Silverknowes on Sunday and now they face another tough test against the defending champions. For Dick, it means locking horns with four of his former Kingsknowe clubmates.
“No game is easy when you get to this stage in the Dispatch and we certainly expect to have a fight on our hands on Thursday,” he admitted.
Bidding to claim this coveted prize for the first time since 2000, Harrison resume their campaign in an event being run by Edinburgh Leisure on this occasion against Barnton Hotel.
“Now it gets very tough,” admitted Harrison’s Dougie Waugh, who certainly isn’t expecting a repeat of his team’s steamroller job on Heriots Quad earlier in the week.
Heriots’ pride was restored at the opposite end of the draw by a top team which consists of a nice blend of youth and experience. Rory Smith and Willem Kerr are the young guns while David Campbell and, in particular, John Archibald are grizzled veterans in this event.
“John has been very steady so far,” acknowledged Smith, a Dalmahoy member who played for Heriots Quad in the first round two years ago but missed on a final appearance with them on that occasion due to college commitments.
Mortonhall man Kerr, who finally got past the first round at the third attempt, holed a key ten-footer for par at the 17th in Tuesday’s narrow win over Edinburgh Thistle.
“I didn’t realise how important it was at the time,” he admitted with a smile afterwards.
For Brian Hunter, who is in the aforementioned Barnton Hotel team trying to repeat a 2001 triumph, a smile is guaranteed, win or lose tonight.
“The Braids is one of the nicest places in the world to play golf,” he declared, a sentiment shared by many, though hopefully it will be a little warmer up there tonight than Tuesday ended up.
4.30pm: Harrison v Barnton Hotel
4.50pm: Carrickvale A v Hailes A
5.10pm: Hailes B v BBT
5.30pm: Scottish Universities v Heriots