Golf: Hunter brothers believe they can emulate success of 2001

BROTHERS Steve and Brian Hunter are hoping they've come up with another winning blend in the Evening News-sponsored Dispatch Trophy at the Braids.

Ten years ago they joined forces with Mark Kerr and Elliot Saltman to claim the coveted prize for Barnton Hotel before seeing that pair go on to become Tour professionals.

Now the Hunter brothers are back on the trophy trail in the event's 112th staging with another useful combination.

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Former Scottish Boys' champion Stephen Buckley, below, jumped at his chance to play in the popular team event for the first time.

And so, too, did fellow Royal Burgess member Varun Varadharajan, who gave a good account of himself in the recent Lothians Championship. "I think I would have been about 14 when I last played up at the Braids in the Lothians Boys' Championship," said Buckley.

"I have never been asked to play in the Dispatch Trophy before so I was delighted when I was given the chance by Stevie and Brian.

"It's a great format and the Braids is great, too, though it was certainly very tricky in the wind on Sunday."

The 'Barnton Boys' won at the 19th against former winners Rhodes in the second round and now meet Scottish Life in the last 16 tonight.

"While I have played at the Braids in the past this is my first time in the Dispatch Trophy," said Varadharajan.

"I made a few stupid mistakes but I will learn from them and the main thing is that we still got through."

Both members at The Renaissance, the Hunter brothers love playing in this event.

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"The Dispatch is brilliant," said Steve, who is playing up front with young Varadharajan.

"He's still to learn how to play the Braids but he's got a beautiful swing and hopefully he can progress just as Elliot Saltman and Mark Kerr have," he added. After scraping through at the 21st against Aegon in the first round, Scottish Life had to dig deep once again to get the better of Portobello.

Two-time Lothians Championship runner-up Scott Walker played at the weekend after coming in as a late replacement for Derek Wood.

But, with Walker unavailable himself later in the week to the fact he's heading north to play in a couple of Opens, former Scottish Boys' champion Alan Smith could be set to step in tonight.

The third round sees some tasty ties, the tone being set by the first match out between Bank of Scotland and Third.

Ian Taylor and Stephen Easingwood, the Bank's experienced duo, are joining forces on this occasion by Kenny Fee and James Tetlow.

"It's good to have 'Big Easi' back and if we could also get David Gardiner and AN Other for next year I'd like to think we could have another good crack at lifting the trophy," said multi-medallist Taylor.

"Having said that, you never know what might happen this year as both Kenny and James have come in and done very well for us so far."

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So, too, has Stuart Crookston, the only change to the Third team that reached the final three years ago, the survivors from then being David Marshall, Kevin Messer and Iain Campbell.

"Stuart was the professional at Brechin when Iain played there," said Messer of the reinstated Bathgate man coming into the side for Chris Brown.

After two relatively straightforward wins so far, defending champions Silverknowes can expect a tougher test tonight against a useful-looking Watsonian side. Paul Heggie, who has come into the winning Silverknowes side from 12 months ago for Paul Ross, is enjoying himself so far, especially with such a steady partner in Graham Robertson.

"He hits fairways all the time so I'm not feeling under any pressure," said the 25-year-old.

"I'm just delighted to get a chance in the team and I'm hitting the ball well at the moment. We're down to the nitty gritty now and I'm determined to help the team get as far as we can and, hopefully, hang on to that trophy for another year."

Justin White is pleased to see Harrison still standing in the last 16 and is hoping they can stay in the hunt at the expense of RICS tonight.

He's got a useful partner in former Scottish Golfer of the Year Scott Knowles while Mike Robson and Brian Byers also seemed to gel in two hard-fought weekend wins. "Scott is a calming influence and he's still a superb putter," said White ahead of a tough tie against the same RICS quartet that lost at the 19th to Silverknowes in the semi-finals last year.

Hailes started out with three teams and it's been left to the 'C' side to fly the flag, their next opponents being Carrickvale.

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"The club is really strong at the moment with 120 members," said captain Charlie Kivlin, who is delighted to be in the last 16 along with Paul Bradbury, Scott Sanderson and Stevie McMahon.

Temple have two teams still standing, with 'young guns' Stuart Smith, Keith Millar, David Miller and Gus Santana up against Heriot's once again, the two sides having clashed quite a few times now in recent years.

And, right at the bottom of the draw, Temple Seniors take on Munro Heating.

The remaining tie sees 2005 winners Riccarton take on Cramond, who have been regulars at this stage and beyond over the past few years.

"We've all been here before so we fancy our chances," admitted Kenny Alexander, who has Craig Scott instead of Stevie Adamson for company on this occasion with Iain Doig and Ian Randall up front.