MAN OF STEEL Alan Mackay was Hailes’ hero as the Kingsknowe club bridged a 40-year-old gap to win the Dispatch Trophy.
Mackay chipped in from 40 feet for an eagle-2 at the 18th to secure a dramatic one-hole victory over defending champions Silverknowes in the event’s 116th staging at the Braids.
“It’s all a bit of blur,” admitted Mackay, a 32-year-old who sells steel, of a fitting way to settle a cracking final in the Edinburgh Leisure-supported team tournament.
“I landed it on the spot my caddie suggested, three feet from the hole it turned left and all I remember after that is wee Robbie rushing over to hug me.”
He was referring to the ten-year-old son of Hailes club captain Scott Sanderson and, if he’d been able, Graham Ewart would have rushed over to embrace Mackay, too.
Ewart, a well-kent figure in Scottish golfing circles, was among the ten Kingsknowe members that resurrected Hailes after the Second World War and it was nice that he was there to see the club’s first triumph in the event since 1975. “It feels wonderful,” he admitted.
That sentiment was echoed by Brian McNamara, a member of the winning quartet 40 years ago along with George Taylor, Dougie Anderson and Mike Malone. “I had a wee premonition they could do it and what a wonderful way to win,” he said.
Mackay’s chip-in saw him and Gary Malone finish all square in the back match on Keith Reilly and Craig Scott, who made a valiant attempt from a similar distance with his eagle attempt to force extra holes.
Earlier, they’d thrown birdies at each other, with Mackay, last year’s Kingsknowe champion, producing another important contribution as he rolled in a monster putt across the seventh green for a half in 3s after Reilly had hit Silverknowes’ second to three feet.
Scott almost chipped in for an eagle at the 16th then found the heart of the green at the next as the holders dug deep in their bid to claim the trophy for the fifth time in the last ten years.
Earlier in the day, Malone, 38, had hit a tee shot at the 18th to 15 feet to earn his side a one-hole semi-final win over Harrison. He described that as the “shot of my life” and Mackay’s will also go down in Hailes folklore.
“It’s every bit as good, if not better, than winning the club championship last year,” he added, while Malone said this triumph topped his success in that event in 2013 due to the fact “it was secured along with three great friends”.
It does indeed take a team effort to win the historic tournament and the front Hailes pairing of Steve McCulloch and Marc Cairnie also played their part from start to finish.
They produced a polished performance to finish one up on Tam Caldwell and Kenny Alexander, who found themselves three down at the turn after McCulloch rolled in a birdie putt at the ninth yet didn’t succumb until Cairnie, 40, kept his nerve to make par at the last.
“I played a lot of football and won the King Cup with Edinburgh City,” said Cairnie, a goalkeeper before hanging up his boots. “But I’d say this is more satisfying as it’s a smaller group and you are really playing for each other.”
For, McCulloch, the senior member of the quartet at 49, it was a case of going one better after he’d also been in the team that lost in the 1990 final.
“This means an awful lot, especially as I’d given up playing in the Kingsknowe Summer League team and thought opportunities like this had passed me,” he said. “We’ve not had bad teams in the past, but have just underachieved. This time we managed to get to know the course through winning a few games and it just snowballed.”
Apart from 2012 winners Caermount, Hailes are the only team to lift the trophy other than Silverknowes and Carrickvale in the last decade.
“You hear the same teams being talked about as the favourites every year,” admitted McCulloch. “But what we have achieved this week shows anyone can come up here and win as it is a unique event on a unique course.”
Silverknowes, who’d ended Edinburgh Western’s brave run in the morning semi-finals, handed credit to their conquerors. “Hats off to Hailes as they played really well,” said Keith Reilly. “They were also great sports, which is half the battle. But we’ll be back next year to try and win it back.”
Harrison (Dougie Waugh and Stuart More 2; Alan Stewart and John Cafferty 0); Hailes (Marc Cairnie and Steve McCulloch 0; Alan Mackay and Gary Malone 3)
Hailes won by one hole
Silverknowes (Tam Caldwell and Kenny Alexander 2; Craig Scott and Keith Reilly 5); Edinburgh Western (John Ralston and Gerry Curran 0; Danny Cameron and Dave Wilson 0).
Silverknowes won 7&5
Hailes (Marc Cairnie and Steve McCulloch 1; Alan Mackay and Gary Malone 0); Silverknowes (Tam Caldwell and Kenny Alexander 0; Craig Scott and Keith Reilly 0).
Hailes won by one hole