MY reply to being asked to pick out the most enjoyable event to cover in a jam-packed golfing season invariably provokes surprise.
Sure, it’s a great thrill to report on tournaments like the Open Championship, Scottish Open and, for the first time last year, The Masters.
It will also be fantastic to cover a Ryder Cup on Scottish soil and, if Gleneagles in September comes even close to matching the ‘Miracle at Medinah’, then we’re in for another treat as far as that event is concerned.
Just as rewarding – perhaps even more so – than working at any of those aforementioned events is covering the Dispatch Trophy up at the Braids.
Part of the reason for that is that I share the same passion for golf in Edinburgh and the Lothians as my predecessor as the Edinburgh Evening News golf correspondent, Ian MacNiven.
‘Big Ian’, as he was affectionately known in golfing circles, was at his happiest sitting in a clubhouse in or around the Capital – and sit he did!
In his later years, even before his mobility was significantly reduced, Ian rarely ventured out on the course. “They’ll know where I am and will come to me with the stories,” he declared and very few let him down.
It was in the mid-90s that I covered my first Dispatch Trophy and I’ll put my cards on the table here and now: with its double foursome format, at first I didn’t have a clue what was going on!
Once I’d worked it out, though, I quickly fell in love with both the event and the fabulous location of its home course. Over the past 20 years, I’ve probably made more friends through covering the Dispatch Trophy than any other event on my schedule. During that time, Silverknowes have lifted the magnificent trophy four times and it’s been a privilege to get to know the likes of Keith Reilly, Ian Doig and Tam Caldwell to name but a few.
The same goes for Carrickvale stalwart George Alexander, Harrison’s Ronnie Ackroyd, John Archibald of both Westermont and Heriot’s and the Hunter brothers, Brian and Steve, who helped Barnton Hotel come out on top in 2001.
The likes of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Ian Taylor, who always wore his lucky red trousers, Brian Tait of RICS and Keith Millar, turning out for Temple these days, all fall into the same category.
The Dispatch Trophy is an event all the aforementioned individuals have supported staunchly over the years and that will continue to be the case. Sadly, however, the entries for the tournament have fallen rather dramatically in recent years and some fresh blood is required to help ensure it doesn’t disappear from the fixture list. The Scottish Foursomes Championship, a similar team event but open to clubs all over the home of golf, fell by the wayside a few years back and is unlikely to be resuscitated.
The same fate, unfortunately, could befall the Dispatch Trophy unless some new teams start entering or, alternatively, some of the old ones that stopped playing return to the fold. Having dropped a full field of 128 entries in 1991 to less than half that over the last five years, nothing can be taken for granted as far as the future of the Dispatch Trophy is concerned.
This year’s event, the 115th staging, takes place from May 24-31.
It costs £70 per team to enter and, for the two teams that reach the final, it could involve six rounds of golf at the Braids when its gorse bushes are in full bloom.
Entries close next Wednesday (April 9), with the draw taking place on Wednesday, April 23. Carrickvale will go into the hat as the defending champions, having triumphed for the fourth time in seven stagings last year, but just as important will be the presence, hopefully, of teams like Ye Monks of Ye Braids, Portobello, Edinburgh Thistle, Hailes and so on. As some teams have dropped out of the picture, it’s been a bonus that clubs like Harrison, Temple, and Silverknowes have entered Senior sides.
What is needed more than anything else, though, are more players at the opposite end of the age ladder.
It’s why the minimum age was reduced to 16 and, over the next few years, it’s imperative that more youngsters are introduced to the special event that is the Edinburgh Evening News-sponsored Dispatch Trophy.
Who can enter the tournament
THE event is open to members of non course-owning clubs within the Lothians.
• Clubs must have a membership of not less than 20 and must have been in existence no less than a year prior to 1 February, 2014.
• Players must have been members of that club for six months prior to May 1, 2014.
• Clubs with a membership of more than 50 may enter a second team.
• • To enter, contact Dispatch Trophy Secretary Robin Mutch on 0131-443 7382.