Some old faces are returning to the Dispatch Trophy this weekend as members of the teams set to breathe new life back into the event for its 118th staging at the Braids.
No less than 11 sides are competing in the historic team tournament for the first time after a rule change opened the door for course-owning clubs to enter.
They include top East Lothians club in Gullane, Dunbar, Kilspindie and Tantallon, all of whom will be trying to emulate 2003 winners Rhodes by taking the famous trophy outside Edinburgh.
Gullane have been the dominant force in the East Lothian Winter League in recent years, claiming a title and cup double four seasons in a row.
Representing them in the Golfclubs4cash-sponsored event will be three players who are no strangers to the Dispatch Trophy, and one newcomer.
Alan Smith and Scott Walker, in fact, are both past winners, having been part of the Scottish Life team that triumphed in 1991. Robert Jack, meanwhile, cut his teeth in the event 45 years ago with Liberton club Kingston, helping them reach the semi-finals in 1978.
Making up the Gullane quartet for a first-round match on Saturday against Third, finalists in 2008, is another experienced campaigner in Kenny Wright.
“I’m looking forward to playing in the Dispatch Trophy again after a fair number of years’ absence,” said Walker. “It’s an excellent and fun tournament with a fantastic history, of course.
“I think it’s great that they are allowing more clubs to enter this year as it’s really important to keep such an historic tournament as healthy possible for many years to come.
“I have a lot of good memories from playing for Scottish Life and I’m hoping that we can represent Gullane well and create a few more fond memories to look back on in the years to come.”
Former Lothians champion Kevin Hastings is also turning back the clock thanks to the rule relaxation, which has halted a dwindling entry with 46 teams, four more than 12 months ago, set to take part.
He turned out for Scottish Widows in the past and will be returning as part of a Broomieknowe team after the Bonnyrigg club joined Turnhouse, Royal Burgess, Murrayfield, Liberton, Prestonfield and Swanston New in entering teams as well for the first time.
Hastings will have a fellow former Lothians champion, Sean Marc, as his partner in the double foursome event with Stuart Beck and Alan Sim making up that particular team.
“Broomieknowe are excited that the competition has been opened to course owning clubs and we hope to have a good run in our first attempt,” said team manager Scott Porter.
Leading the new teams into action on Saturday will be Kilspindie, who face RICS in the opening first-round tie and have an added incentive to try and lift the trophy at the first attempt. “We’re delighted to finally be able to take part in such a prestigious event in what is a big year for the club as we’re celebrating our 150th Anniversary,” said team manager Cameron Gray.
“It’s also a pleasure to say that we’ll be the first course-owning club ever to tee off in the illustrious history of the Dispatch Trophy.”
In doing so, Kilspindie will immediately bring the average age down as their line-up includes 14-year-old Aaron Hall and 19-year-old Rob Paterson.
That aspect alone will be intriguing as the East Lothian club take on a tried-and-tested RICS quartet in Brian Tait, Stuart Agnew, Mike Armstrong and Mike Corrie.
Adding to the long list of former Lothians champions in this year’s line-up is Steven Armstrong, who is joining forces with Lee McCathie, Steven Anderson and Jack McVey in the first team to represent Turnhouse.
“Steven is our only player who has played in this competition previously and that was with BBT, which is a club within Turnhouse,” said Moray Hanson, team manager of last year’s Edinburgh Summer League winners who face Watsonians on Saturday.