David Miller overcomes frantic bike rides to become Royal Burgess champion
David Miller used some pedal power to add a first Royal Burgess club championship to his three titles across the city at Duddingston.
The 43-year-old reckoned a “new challenge” had fuelled his success at the Barnton club, where he beat George Sampson 5&4 in the 36-hole final.
But his week didn’t come without stress due to traffic trouble between his home in Blackhall and Royal Burgess.
“It was a nightmare,” said Miller, a former Lothians champion. “The journey from Blackhall generally takes five to six minutes to get there.
“But, on the Tuesday, my wife was taking the girls to their dancing class and she phoned me from the car to say that the traffic was absolutely horrendous and I should think about leaving early.
“I don’t normally practice, so I left about an hour before my tee-off time and I was in the car for 10 minutes and had only moved about 10 yards.
“I started to panic, thinking ‘I’m going to miss my tee time’. So I decided to turn around and head home, where I put my golf shoes on, put my clubs on my back and cycled to the Burgess.
“The traffic was so bad on Queensferry Road that I had to go on the pavement, so I was trying to avoid lampposts every 100 yards. I hit a couple of them and was worried I might have snapped the shafts.
“I’ve not cycled for a couple of years and my legs were killing me when I got off after arriving at the club. They were like jelly.
“Then, on the Wednesday, I thought I would give myself a bit more time, but it was the same problem, if not worse, so I did the same thing again.
“On the Thursday, things were back to normal traffic-wise and, being a wee bit superstitious, I was tempted to do it again, but I decided that would have been silly so I drove. It was a week of fun and games, that’s for sure.”
After qualifying as the top seed, Miller overcame a tricky first-round match against former world junior title holder Kenny Walker before beating defending champion Gregor Drummond.
“I was three up with three to play in that one and thought it was all over when I hit a 6-iron to 10 feet at the par-5 16th only for Gregor to hole a 7-iron for an albatross,” said Miller, who is the director of insurance broker Bluefin Sport for Scotand.
He then beat Alan Kerr, a former Duddingston member, in the semi-finals before finishing off the job by producing a polished performance against Sampson on the title decider.
“In the nine finals I have played over the years, that was the most solid I have played,” said Miller. “In 32 holes, I only had two bogeys and, over the five rounds, I had just six in total.”
At Duddingston, a new name is going up on the board after Andy Fairbairn, a recent recruit from Cawder, beat Ben Alexander, who was bidding to make it four in a row.
Fairbairn, who plays off plus two and won the Glasgow Golf Union Champion of Champions event in 2019, was four up after 18 holes and went on to secure an impressive 5&4 victory.
Other title triumphs have been landed around the Capital by Steven Armstrong, Keith Reilly and Anthony Blaney.
Armstrong claimed his ninth crown at Turnhouse with a 10&9 win over Lindsay Gordon, who won his first championship in 1969 and was back in the final at the age of 70.
“It was nice to win again after a few years,” said Armstrong, who set up his success by covering the first 18 holes in seven-under-par.
“It’s also nice to have your name on the board so often as it’s something that people can see and talk about in the future.
“Much the same way as I looked at the board when I was younger and saw names up there a lot of times and wondered who they were and how good they were.”
For Reilly, it was a 15th victory spread across five decades at Silverknowes as the 56-year-old beat Connor McWatt at the 36h hole.
“Delighted to win it again,” said Reilly, who sealed his triumph with a solid par-5 after being one up playing the last. “My first win was back in 1989, having lost in my first final in 1983.”
Blaney’s second triumph at Liberton, where he beat John Butler 3&2 in the final, came six years after the first one and also after he’d taken a complete break from the game.
“This championship meant a little bit more to me as I gave up for 3 years and never really played until after lockdown,” he said.
“Getting back into it was hard to begin with, but getting to where I am now is great and to win proves to me I still have some talent in the locker.
“Also one of my good friends at the club, Thomas Brock jnr, sadly passed away last year after losing his battle with cancer, so the win was for him and to be able to do it means a lot to me.”
The Ratho Park title has now fallen to Neil Sneddon eight times across four decades following his return to the club earlier this year from Royal Burgess. His first success was back in 1992.
Dougie Waugh claimed his sixth success at Baberton after edging Mark Riddell on the last hole while Scott Johnston beat James Fisken 5&4 to land the Prestonfield prize for the fourth time.
Extra time was needed to determine a new champion at Bruntsfield Links, where Ross Brydon eventually shook off Andrew Fernie - it was the second year in a row he’d fallen at the final hurdle - at the 39th after a ding-dong battle.
It’s been a productive spell for Bill Buchan, who followed his victory in the seniors’ event at North Berwick by claiming the main title at Mortonhall.
He’d already beaten two former winners in Ian Dickson and Greg Nicolson before capping a great week with a 6&5 victory over a third past champion in Duncan Hamilton.
At Kingsknowe, it was a second success for Gary Malone as he repeated a 2013 triumph by beating Euan Chancellor one up over 18 holes.