Two mouthwatering ties lie ahead in the semi-finals of the 118th Dispatch Trophy – Carrickvale taking on Silverknowes in one heavyweight encounter while Heriot’s and Watsonians will be battling for schools bragging rights as well as a final berth in the other clash.
As the nerves kicked in, the golf on quarter-final night may not have matched the dazzling weather at the Braids as the Golfclubs4cash-backed event got down to the nitty-gritty, but there’s no denying that both last-four ties are tasty affairs.
It was a classic nerve-jangling Dispatch finish as Silverknowes beat Harrison to stay on course for a seventh victory in the event and fourth in the last eight years. In a ding-dong affair, Silverknowes won the 16th in the back match to go one up with three to play overall only for the tide to quickly swing Harrison’s way.
Murray Paterson put Silverknowes’ tee shot at the front in the gorse at the last to lose that and, a few minutes later, Donny Munro had a short par putt at the 17th to get Harrison’s noses in front.
He missed it, though and, after Keith Reilly had then found the gorse with Silverknowes’ tee shot at the 18th, Allan Stewart committed a cardinal sin by doing likewise.
In the end, the hole was halved, with Paul Ross holding his nerve to hole a three-footer for Silverknowes, before a three-putt from the back Harrison couple at the 19th ended their hopes of a first victory since 1990. “If Donny had holed the putt at the 17th, it was probably tatties for us,” said Ross, who is playing in the event for the first time since he helped Silverknowes to a trophy triumph in 2010.
“Thankfully, I then managed to hole the wee knee-jangler at the last to keep us in it as I wouldn’t have slept if I’d missed that.”
Gelling well again, Paterson and Tam Caldwell finished two up at the front on Dougie Waugh and Stuart More.
“It was a bit tight and I certainly felt the pressure out there, but I’m certainly looking forward to Saturday,” said Paterson.
Bidding for a sixth success in the last 11 years, Carrickvale progressed at the expense of Murrayfield, who proved no pushovers for the holders and, all in all, gave a terrific account of themselves in their first appearance in the event.
Allyn Dick and Craig Deerness finished three up on youngsters Cameron White and Bobby Gibson at the front while Craig Elliot and Paul Cunningham ended up all square behind against Ali Thurlow and Australian Lloyd Dunlop.
“The difference was simply us having a bit more experience of playing up here, both in this event and the Winter League,” said Dick, a former Lothians champion.
“Bobby made an outrageous chip in at the 13th to get it back to two down but we then birdied the 15th and, in the end, it was pretty comfortable.”
Cunningham and Elliot found themselves two down early, went two up with birdies at the tenth and 11th, before their opponents got it back to square with birdies at the 15th and 16th.
“The Murrayfield guys played well, giving us a good challenge, but we just had a bit more knowledge of this place,” said Cunningham, who is enjoying having the laid-back Elliot as his partner again. “Once more, he’s played very little coming into this event, but he’s just Craig – he’s still got a good game,” added Cunningham, smiling.
Heriot’s, bidding for a first triumph since 1979, won the last hole in both matches to beat Swanston side Colinton Mains, securing a semi-final spot for the second year running.
“Hopefully, we can go at least one step further,” said Willem Kerr, who, like fellow youngster Rory Smith, is enjoying the opportunity of joining forces with two old warhorses in John Archibald and Dave Campbell.
Watsonians last lifted the trophy in 1976 but, in Richard Craig, Andrew Helm, Paul Francis and Greg Nicolson, they’ve got a side that has the bit between their teeth.
Both pairings won their matches in a 5&4 success over Edinburgh Western, with a Craig chip in at the tenth proving the turning point in the front game as he and Helm also won the next two holes.
“That was ten years before I was born,” replied Francis to the quartet being told of the schools side’s last victory, having triumped 13 times in total.
Silverknowes (T Caldwell and M Paterson 2; P Ross and K Reilly 0); Harrison (S More and D Waugh 0; D Munro and A Stewart 2).
Silverknowes won at 19th
Murrayfield (C White and B Gibson 0; A Thurlow and L Dunlop 0); Carrickvale (C Deerness and A Dick 3; C Elliot and P Cunningham 0).
Carrickvale won 3&2
Heriot’s (J Archibald and R Smith 1; W Kerr and D Campbell 0); Colinton Mains (G Millar and R Fergus 0; C McKinnon and K Brown 0).
Heriot’s won one up
Watsonians (A Helm and R Craig 2; P Francis and G Nicolson 3); Edinburgh Western (D Wilson and B Reid 0; A Rennie and B Kennedy 0).
Watsonians won 5&4