George Heriot’s got their hands on the Dispatch Trophy for the first time in 38 years after a thrilling end to its 118th staging, one that left the victors singing the praises of vanquished Silverknowes.
The start of a new era for the historic event saw a return to winning ways for one of its old teams as a Heriot’s quartet comprising of John Archibald, David Campbell, Willem Kerr and Rory Smith upset the odds in the final.
Silverknowes would have quietly fancied their chance of claiming the coveted prize in the Golfclubs4cash-sponsored event for a seventh time after coming out on top against holdfers Carrickvale in the stronger of the two semi-finals.
But, after going one better than 12 months earlier by beating Watsonians in another crunch clash as the medals came up for grabs at the end of another enthralling week at the Braids, Heriot’s had other ideas and, indeed, ended up as deserved winners.
As so often happens in this terrific event, the drama unfolded over the closing three holes after it had been nip and tuck until then, with Silverknowes just having their noses in front at the turn over the double foursome before it became all square.
Heriot’s then went one up when Murray Paterson, partnering Tam Caldwell in the front Silverknowes pairing, found gorse from the tee at the 16th only for Campbell to do likewise, although on the other side of the fairway, at the back.
Caldwell then dumped a tee shot into bushes to the left of the short 17th to lose that, but once again it was a short-lived lead for Heriot’s as Kerr found almost exactly the same spot in the second match against Keith Reilly and Paul Ross.
While those two holes may have been scrappy, the last can rarely have been played better in the event’s long history, especially under the circumstances.
Both front pairings drove to the left edge of the 262-yard par-4 before Paterson and then Smith held their nerves to roll in birdie putts from around three feet, leaving it to the players at the back to try and get a result in regulation.
After another two excellent tee shots, Campbell was left with an eight-footer and, with Silverknowes only two-and-a-half feet away and a renowned realiable putter in Reilly the man faced with that, it really had to go in. The huge smile on Campbell’s face as it did indeed drop was back shortly afterwards as he then holed for an eagle-2 at the first extra hole, where Heriot’s had already won the front match with a par.
“We had three for it and I said to Willem, ‘I just have to make sure I hit the ball and it was a relief to do so,” said the 52-year-old as he savoured completing an impressive set of team titles.
“I’ve been lucky over the years to win various things, including the Lothians Team event, the Edinburgh Summer League and the Edinburgh Inter-Club, and this was the last thing,” added the Ratho Park man.
“I was starting to think I was getting too old but, thankfully, I’ve been proved wrong and it feels fantastic – that is the only word for it.”
It was a third triumph for Archibald, who was in the Westermont team that won in 1989 and 2002, and he admitted: “It’s amazing to have done it again after all these years.”
The 59-year-old, who was playing in the event for a 42nd time, was quick to heap praise on not only the Silverknowes quartet but also their big band of supporters for being classy in defeat.
“After we’d won, I think every single one of them came over and shook my hand, which was brilliant,” he added. “It epitomised the Dispatch Trophy spirit but especially the Silverknowes spirit and all credit to them for that.”
In comparison to their two team-mates, Kerr and Smith are still quite wet behind the ears at the Braids, yet both have quickly caught that Dispatch Trophy bug from their playing partners.
“This feels really good,” said Kerr, a 22-year-old who is on course to graduate with a maths degree from Stirling University this year. “Archie and Dave are just ridiculously consistent and are great partners to have in an event like this.”
Fate played its part in Smith winning a gold medal at just 21 as he’d have been playing in the Brabazon Trophy at Woodhall Spa instead if he’d come through a qualifier for that event.
“I’d obviously loved to have played in the Brabazon as it’s one of the top amateur events in the UK, but it’s pretty damn good to be on the winning team in such a prestigious tournament as this,” said the double Dalmahoy champion.
Silverknowes have now lost three of the last six finals but had no complaints. “It was a good final and Heriot’s deserved to win, especially after Dave holed that great putt at the last,” said Reilly, magnanimous as ever.
Silverknowes (T Caldwell and M Paterson 0; P Ross and K Reilly 6); Carrickvale (C Deerness and A Dick 1; C Elliot and P Cunningham 0).
Silverknowes won 5&3
George Heriot’s (J Archibald and R Smith 3; W Kerr and D Campbell 3); Watsonians (A Helm and R Craig 0; P Francis and G Nicolson 0).
George Heriot’s won 6&4
Silverknowes (T Caldwell and M Paterson 0; P Ross and K Reilly 1); George Heriot’s (J Archibald and R Smith 1; W Kerr and D Campbell 0).
George Heriot’s won at 19th