MARTIN HOPLEY filed his entry for The Open then helped Caermount stay on course for a successful defence of the Dispatch Trophy on a sun-kissed night at the Braids.
In four pretty one-sided quarter-final ties in the event’s 114th staging, the holders progressed along with Edinburgh Thistle, Carrickvale and Silverknowes.
Caermount, who bridged a 55-year gap when claiming victory 12 months ago, overcame having to make a substitution to beat Network Cooling 8 and 7 in the last match to finish.
Hopley’s partnership with Gary Henshaw was broken up due to the latter being away on business but he had an able deputy in Eric Mair, who plays at Bruntsfield Links and Gullane.
At the front, Ian Dickson and Luke Fisher also continued to gel, having been paired for this year’s event after Dickson’s son, Mark, missed out due to a tournament commitment in America.
“I’m not leaving Ian as many long putts as I did at the start of the event,” said Fisher, who’ll have special reason to celebrate if Caermount can go all the way again as tomorrow is also his 36th birthday.
Hopley probably feels all his birthdays are coming at the same time just now as he’s already had a week to savour.
“I’ve got down to scratch for the first time after trimming 0.7 off my handicap in five days,” reported the Mortonhall member.
“It means I can enter the regional qualifying for The Open and I’ve already filled in my form. It will be great just to part of The Open experience and it’s nice to achieve two lifetime ambitions at the same time.”
Standing between Caermount and a place in the final for the second year running are five-times winners Silverknowes.
“It’s great to be at this stage again and, having won it for the first time in 55 years 12 months ago, our aim now is to become the first Caermount team to lift the trophy back-to-back,” said Dickson.
Henshaw will be back partnering Hopley tomorrow, when Silverknowes will no doubt once again have the welcome backing of the Cramond players they beat earlier in the week.
Supported by those clubmates, experience proved the key as Silverknowes ran out easier winners than expected – 9 and 8 – against a Stewart’s Melville side that had Kevin Cattanach in for Ally Ritchie.
Helped by an eagle-2 at the fourth, Tam Caldwell and Keith Reilly overpowered 18-year-old duo Stuart McLaren and Scott Simpson.
“Experience counts for a lot up here and they started chucking holes at us,” said Reilly, who is finding it “strange” having to hit putts on different lines than he’s used to due to the greens being a bit on the slow side.
Graeme Robertson, who is partnering Paul Heggie in the back Silverknowes pairing, added: “Hopefully we can go all the way now but no matter what happens on Saturday it will still have been a good week.”
That view will definitely be echoed by everyone connected with Edinburgh Thistle after they conjured up some “magic” to beat Munro Heating B 6 and 5. Buoyed by a flying start – they birdied the first, third and fifth and also won the sixth – Donald Anderson and Simon Sumner finished five up on Alec McLean and Paul Middleton. By their own admission, Thistle’s Barry Anderson and Ian Cropley were “outplayed” by Clark Munro and Simon Smith at the back, but, helped by Anderson rolling in a couple of raking putts as well as chipping in at the seventh, they managed to come out on top as well.
“We had that big of magic tonight and that made the difference,” beamed 54-year-old Cropley.
Luck was also on the front Thistle couple’s side if Sumner’s drive at the 16th was anything to go by as it could have gone in the gorse yet finished ten feet from the hole.
“I’m delighted that we’ve secured a medal,” said Donald, the younger of the two Anderson brothers. “I first played in The Dispatch when I was 16 in 2000 and won a bronze medal – but I hadn’t even come close again until now.”
Carrickvale, hat-trick winners from 2007-2009, could prove a tough nut to crack tomorrow for the last Braids team standing.
They proved too strong on the night for Braids United, winning that one 7 and 6, as newcomers Craig Deerness and Thomas Beattie continued to click with Allyn Dick and Craig Elliot respectively.
“I’m used to the double foursome format from playing for Harburn in the inter-club and West Lothian Courier Trophy,” said Deerness, the beaten finalist in last year’s Lothians Championship.
“It’s good playing with Allyn and, though I’m obviously pleased to have secured a medal in my first appearance in the event, hopefully we can now go on and win it.”
Former Scottish Mid-Amateur champion Elliot said he was finding it a “joy partnering Thomas as he’s so relaxed,” which is saying something considering he himself is as laid back as Fred Couples on a golf course.