“IT’S not much of a story,” claimed David Dickson, who clearly isn’t destined to become a Hollywood scriptwriter. He’d just knocked out one of the seeds, Craig Ross, in the Fairstone Scottish Amateur Championship and seemed almost apologetic about it.
“I feel bad about putting one of the SGU boys out as Craig is a good guy and doing well in this event is more important to him than me,” said the 36-year-old Bonnyton player after a 3&2 first-round win over his Kirkhill opponent.
Doing well in this tournament is more important to Craig than meDavid Dickson
Dickson, a joiner, then revealed that he’d missed this event 12 months ago after seeing his season ended prematurely by broken ribs. An accident at work? “No, socialising, shall we say,” he replied, smiling. Who was he trying to kid? His story was the best of the day, a miserable one weather-wise to start the first visit of the SGU’s flagship event to the East Lothian venue since 1968.
Ross, the No 8 seed and winner of the Chiberta Grand Prix in Biarritz earlier in the month, contributed to his downfall by playing what his opponent described as some “loose shots” early on. With his three-hole lead having been whittled down to one with four to play, Dickson admitted that winning the 15th with a par had been a “big turning point” and he duly sealed his win by hitting a 2-iron to three feet at the 186-yard 16th.
“I had never played here before my practice round yesterday and I was trying to swing as easy as possible on every shot out there,” said Dickson, a former club champion at Eastwood who only moved to Bonnyton last year. “My aim was to try to keep close to Craig because you never know what can happen in match play and I’m delighted to have come out on top today.”
David Sibbald, who also has an Eastwood-Bonnyton connection but the other way round, delivered another shock as he beat on-form Nairn teenager Sandy Scott. “I’d been reading all about him on the SGU website,” confessed the 30-year-old of Scott’s hot run of form coming into this event, which had included a wire-to-wire win in the Scottish Youths’ Championship at Royal Burgess last week.
Four up after five, Sibbald was probably wondering what all the hype had been about before Scott came roaring back and, in the end, took the contest the distance. “This is the first time I’ve played in this event and also the first time I’ve played at Muirfield,” said Sibbald, a greenkeeper at Deaconsbank in Glasgow, as he savoured a two-hole success.
Grant Forrest, the top seed and 2012 winner, was also in danger of being among the early casualties when he stood two after seven to Eyemouth’s Mark Collin. The Craigielaw man was still one down with six to play before he clicked into gear in the nick of time. “I can’t feel my hands or feet,” said Forrest of the unseasonal cold and wet conditions in this neck of the woods as he reflected on a 3&2 win.
His last competitive appearance here was in the 2013 Open Championship. Baked dry on that occasion, the course is completely different this time. “This golf course doesn’t take any prisoners when it is like this,” said Forrest, having lost a ball himself at the first. “I’ve seen the rough higher in the past but it’s thicker at the bottom than it normally is.”
It would be a shock, to be honest, if Forrest, especially on the back of reaching the final of the Amateur Championship at Carnoustie last month, hasn’t done enough already to secure a place in the Great Britain & Ireland team for September’s Walker Cup at Royal Lytham. He’s looking for a strong performance here, though, to make it impossible for him to be overlooked.
“I’d like to think I’m in already but nothing can ever be guaranteed,” he said. “There are a lot of players on the fringes that could do themselves a favour in either the Home Internationals or European Amateur. It’s no means done and dusted, therefore, so I’ve got to keep playing good golf and hope it takes care of itself.”
Forrest, who now meets Ayr Belleisle’s James Johnston, was joined in the second round by Thornhill’s Greig Marchbank, the player he beat in extra holes to reach the final of the Amateur Championship. Marchbank, the fifth seed, recorded one of the day’s biggest victories, crushing Ben Jamieson (New Club, St Andrews) 8&6.
Other first-day winners included Glenbervie’s Graeme Robertson – last year’s beaten finalist accounted for Bradley Neil’s older brother, Connor – and fellow seed Connor Syme, who was delighted with his hard-earned two-hole success over fellow Fifer Alan Sutherland. “It’s good to get that first match out of the way, especially when you feel a bit more pressure as one of the seeds,” admitted the 22-year-old Drumoig man, a member of Scotland’s European title-wining team.
Making his final competitive appearance at the venue where he once held the amateur course record – a 67 set in the 2005 British Mid-Amateur Championship – Morpeth’s Sandy Twynholm was another victor in the early jousts.