Silverknowes golfer Graham Robertson is back on the Dispatch Trophy trail this weekend after keeping track of the Braids event for the last three years from across the Atlantic.
Robertson hasn’t played in the historic tournament since claiming a fourth gold medal in the company of Tam Caldwell, Keith Reilly and Craig Scott in 2015.
He’s been working out in America but has now returned home and is looking forward to teaming up again with Caldwell, Reilly and Murray Paterson in this year’s Silverknowes side.
“My wife Linda and I were out in Kentucky, which is a great location to do some travelling in the States, and it was a great experience,” said Robertson.
“I’m still travelling back and forward a bit at the moment and I wasn’t sure if I was going to get the nod for the Dispatch Trophy, to be honest, as I didn’t play much competitively out in the States.
“I am very pleased that I have made the team because the Dispatch Trophy is still the biggest thing on the calendar as far as I am concerned.”
Silverknowes face Swanston in tomorrow’s first round and Robertson, a former Edward Trophy winner, added: “I am sure there will be a few wee nerves on Saturday morning, but I can’t wait to get going again at the Braids.
“I am looking forward to playing with Tam again and, though it might take me a little bit time to get used to it again, I am sure I’ll be familiar with a lot of the shots I’ll be faced with.”
The event has changed in some respects since Robertson’s last appearance, now being run by Edinburgh Leisure and with Loanhead-based Golfclubs4cash as the title sponsor.
Also, it now involves course-owning clubs, with the entries have risen by 11 over the last two years following that rule change.
“That was a great move because it has helped raise the level of competition and that can only be good for the event,” said Robertson. “There was a spell when it was either ourselves or Carrickvale in the final.
“And, as much as though I’d want that to be the case every for Silverknowes, it wasn’t great and the set up now is definitely better for the tournament.”
Silverknowes will be up against a Swanston side containing three players in their 60s – club captain Graeme Millar, Andy Hunter and Alex MacKenzie – with Simon Hermiston making up the quartet.
“As a traditionalist, I have made Colinton Mains, the non course-owning team, the priority in relation to selection,” said Millar of Colinton Mains champion Mark Evans teaming up with the Swanston champion, Scott Fergus, with Scott’s brother, Ross, and Callum MacKinnon making up the four.
“All four players are Swanston Summer League regulars and have experienced the Dispatch Trophy atmosphere many times so we are hopeful they will go further than last year’s quarter final,” added Millar.
“It is great to see an increase in the entry and we are all looking forward to the challenge of the Braids and the surprises that ensue, particularly with the foursomes format.”
Murrayfield made the last eight at the first time of asking 12 months ago and team manager Stephen Stuart says his players are relishing being back at the Braids. “Last year Lloyd Dunlop, our local Aussie, thought the whole tournament was fantastic and could not wait for this year to come around,” said Stuart.
Dunlop will be joining forces with Stu Mcrae, Ali Thurlow and Bobby Gibson as the Capital club start out this time against a Dunbar quartet of Stewart Black, Gregory Lynn, Jamie Duguid and Jack McDonald.
Hailes A have three survivors from the winning 2015 team – Marc Cairnie, Gary Malone and Steven McCulloch – joining forces with Hamish Hamilton as they start out against Broomieknowe.
Seven of the eight players involved in a tie between Munro Heating and Mount Vernon are Liberton members, the odd one out being Troy O’Connor, who used to play at Torphin Hill but now plays his golf at Niddry Castle in West Lothian.
Former Scotland and British Lions star Gavin Hastings is again in the British Rugby Club of Paris team, linking up on this occasion with Robin “Jasper” Carmichael, Chris Paterson-Brown and Charlie Maran
Among 11 teams to get byes, British Rugby Club of Paris face Kilgour Wealth Management in Sunday’s second round, with a tasty prospect lying in store for Hastings later in the event.
“If we make it to the quarter-finals, Watsonians or Gullane would be interesting opponents, with Gavin, our captain, also being a member of both these clubs!” said Jason Parrot.
For the first time, the Lothians Golf Association is being represented in the event – a Seniors side consisting of officials and the Juniors being made up of youngsters who have all come through its coaching programme.
President Paul Gibson and his predecessor, Allan Shaw, are in the Seniors side along with secretary Jani Balasubramaniam and Jean Macnab, the first woman to serve on the LGA.
“I’m looking forward to playing in the Dispatch Trophy, having followed it in the Evening News in the past,” said former West Linton club captain Macnab. She is just the second woman after Julie Douglas, who played for the Evening News in 2012, to tee up in the tournament since the 1920s.
The LGA Seniors face fellow newcomers the Glen while the Juniors – Ciaran Patterson, Calum Robinson, Jake Edgecombe and Neil Canavan – are up against Heriot’s Quad.
Carrickvale will be bidding to land a sixth success since 2007 without Craig Elliot, who is unavailable this year. Instead, Allyn Dick, Craig Deerness and Paul Cunningham are being joined by James Kerr.
Flying the West Lothian flag as newcomers this year are Kingsfield, who are being represented by Andy Corr, Nick Brookfield, Mark Irvine and Richard Drewett. “We are happy to be supporting such a great tournament,” said Kingsfield’s Peter Smith.
First round (Saturday)
7am Stephen Gallacher Foundation v Cramond; 7.15 Tantallon 1 v RICS; 7.30 Scottish Universities v Lochend; 7.45 Caermount v Kilgour Private Clients; 8.00 Dunbar Castle v Kilspindie; 8.15 Silverknowes 50+ v Silverknowes Generations; 8.30 Prestonfield v BBT; 8.45 Liberton v Harrison B; 9.00 Royal Bank of Scotland v Braids United; 9.15 Watsonians v Gullane; 9.30 Stewart’s Melville v Dunbar; 9.45 Kingsfield v Murrayfield; 10.00 Munro Heating v Mount Vernon; 10.15 LGA Juniors v Heriot’s Quad; 10.30 Harrison v George Heriot’s FP; 10.45 LGA Seniors v The Glen; 11.00 Hailes A v Broomieknowe; 11.15 Edinburgh Thistle v Hailes C; 11.30 Swanston v Silverknowes; 11.45 Johnston Carmichael Wealth v Edinburgh Leisure; 12.00 Harrison Generations v Carrickvale.
Second round (Sunday)
8.15am Kilgour Wealth Management v British Rugby Club of Paris; 8.30 Tantallon 2 v Merchants; 8.45 Colinton Mains v Bank of Scotland Edinburgh; 9.15 Hailes B v Turnhouse; 9.30 Ye Monks of Ye Braids v Edinburgh Western; 9.45 Mortonhall v Stewart’s Melville or Dunbar.