THIRTEEN years after meeting in the final, Keith Reilly and Mark Timmins are set for another tasty showdown in the Lothians Championship at Duddingston tonight.
The pair teed up the last-16 clash after using their vast experience to get the better of two younger opponents as the first round was completed in the LGA’s flagship event.
Silverknowes star Reilly recovered from losing the first two holes to come out on top against Bathgate’s Ryan Boyle.
“It was a case of knuckling down after the poor start and, in the end, I think I eventually wore him down,” recalled the Lothians captain.
Timmins, who came out on top in extra holes in that title decider at Royal Burgess in 2000, proved too strong for Andrew Loch in an all- Pumpherston tie.
The 48-year-old covered the first eight holes in four-under and only bogeyed the ninth as he splashed out of a fairway bunker instead of going for the green after his opponent had found the burn with his approach.
“The course is lovely,” declared Timmins afterwards of a venue he knows pretty well from his days playing there for Prestonfield in winter league matches.
Since joining Pumpherston after a short spell at Uphall, he’s claimed the club championship four times and now has his sights set on keeping this title at the West Lothian venue for another 12 months.
“I’ll certainly be trying,” replied Timmins when asked if he was determined to follow up clubmate Paul Drake’s triumph at Dalmahoy last year.
Host club hopes now rest squarely on David Miller’s shoulders after Gary Thomson, the only other Duddingston player among the 32 qualifiers, saw his hopes sunk by a great new water feature at the 17th.
All square against Baberton’s Alastair Macphail, the big-hitting Thomson was a bit unlucky to see his drive take a huge hop on the fairway and leap into the water. He then tugged his tee shot into trees at the last after Macphail had split the fairway and, despite a decent recovery from the home man, he was unable to secure the birdie he badly needed. “My short game kept me in it, to be honest, and Gary was a bit unlucky to lose,” admitted MacPhail.
Macphail now faces Ross Noon, the 2011 Lothians Order of Merit winner, after he triumphed in an all-Craigielaw clash against Martin Stein. “I’ve been a bit hot and cold so far this year so it was nice to get a couple of solid rounds under my belt in the qualifying last week,” said Noon, who is caddying at Muirfield at the moment.
Miller, who was only playing his second game at his home club in six months, was delighted to come through a tricky opening test against Keith MacKenzie from Bruntsfield Links.
Watched by dad Brian, the long-serving former pro at the Davidson’s Mains club, MacKenzie was two up after four but Miller had turned the tide by the turn.
He’s bidding to become the fourth Duddingston player to claim the title on home turf in succession after wins from Stuart Smith (1986 and 1993) and Brian Smith (2002).
“Hopefully that’s a good omen for me,” said Miller, who now takes on Greenburn’s Gary Corrigan after his thumping win over Uphall’s Andy Stevenson.
Also through is Royal Burgess stalwart John Yuille, who overcame the shock of losing the 16th after playing the wrong ball to beat Swanston New’s Jackson Bell.
But he’ll have to wait until tonight to find out his next opponent after Alan Anderson (Bruntsfield Links) and Ed Shannly (Linlithgow) took nearly four hours to complete their round then halved the 19th before darkness halted play.