TEST Valley’s Stuart Archibald is confident Hampshire can mark the 60th anniversary of the first South East League Final by landing the Daily Telegraph Salver for the first time in 11 years when they face Berks, Bucks and Oxfordshire, on Sunday.
The three-time EuroPro Tour winner has been an ever-present in county captain Lawrence Cherry’s eight-man league side this summer, helping Hampshire to their first South Division title in five years.
Archibald, who claimed the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship back in 2006 and played for Hampshire in the English County Finals a year later before turning pro, has never played in a South East Final.
He will maintain his ever-present league record having recovered from illness this week. Two weeks ago, the 39-year-old won the County Foursomes for the first time.
The three-time winner on the EuroPro Tour teamed up with Hockley’s Luke Hodgetts, who played foursomes with Archibald, to win by a shot from Stoneham’s former county captain Richard Elmes and the rejuvenated Ryan Henley, the current county champion, at North Hants GC.
Archibald, who won last year’s English Mid-Amateur Championship, has been pleased with his form in 2023.
He finished fourth in the defence of his Logan Trophy, at Enville GC, back in July. And last month, Stuart was third in Sunningdale’s Gerald Micklem Trophy, the biggest 36-hole Over 35s Open in the country.
Archibald regained his amateur status three years ago. He narrowly missed out on a place in the last four when the county championship was reduced to four qualifiers – instead of 16 – for the matchplay knockout.
The winner of the 2021 Mike Smith Memorial Trophy at Brokenhurst Manor was recalled for the last league game of 2022, a month after winning England’s Over 35s title. That was 15 years after he last pulled on a blue shirt for his county.
Archibald played a key role in the victory over Sussex, in June, when Hampshire were trailing by a point after the morning foursomes.
Wearing black ribbons in memory of former Hampshire secretary and president Keith Maplesden – who had passed away suddenly a week earlier – the visitors stormed back to go unbeaten in the singles.
They left East Brighton GC after an impressive 8-4 victory.
Stuart then claimed a crucial half against Surrey captain David Corben, who ironically taken Archibald’s English Mid-Amateur crown, when the two counties clashed at Blackmoor, in August.
Archibald said: ”I was a member at Blackmoor for many years – as far back as when I won the county championship.
“David was two-up after chipping in at the ninth, but I hung in there and fought back winning the last with a conceded birdie.
“Although we lost 7½-4½, we ended up taking the South Division title on game points difference after they then lost to Kent a couple of weeks later.
“We had half-a-point more than them over the three matches,” Archibald added. “It was a real battle with David just as it was at the English Mid-Am. I have to be pleased with finishing fourth in my defence of the Logan after winning at Liphook last year.
“I got called-up for the Surrey game last year after winning the Logan, but I was not sure about playing this year.
“I didn’t really see the point of taking a younger player’s place and denying them the experiences I gained more than 15 years ago.
“But I had a good, long chat with Lawrence and his vice-captain Toby Burden at the start of the year.
“I played in the friendlies in the winter and spring and committed to make myself available for the league matches.
“When I missed the cut at the Brabazon Trophy at Sunningdale, on the last Friday in May, Lawrence asked me at the 11th hour to play against Kent, at Liphook, on the Sunday – everyone was buzzing after we won 8-4.
“Lawrence’s predecessor Neil Dawkins, from North Hants GC, had brought the younger college players into the team during his two years – including Charlie Forster, who is now a member at Basingstoke GC, Bramshaw’s Joe Buenfeld and Jersey’s Jo Hacker, who won the county championship in 2021.
“We now have a very hungry young set of players , who are also very mature. They’ve mixed in very well with the older players and conducted themselves brilliantly on-and-off the course.
“The atmosphere has been right at every game, despite the loss at home to Surrey – everyone wanted to win for each other and the county.”
Cherry has had to dig deep in his squad this week – without his three US-based college players, and North Hants’ Robert Wheeler, arguably the most improved golfer in the county, who is in his final year at St Mellion’s The Tournament College, and his weekend lectures he cannot miss.
Archibald, who won six out of 12 points in three matches, added: “After our win in the County Foursomes, Luke Hodgetts is back in the team – we formed a very good partnership against Kent and the Channel Islands.
“It didn’t quite click in the other two games when I played with Robbie and Jo, but foursomes is the hardest form of golf as you saw with the Ryder Cup last weekend.”
Blackmoor’s Sam Parsons, who made his debut in the last final and was in the last match out when Essex clawed a half to take the trophy, is recalled after more than a year our, while Stoneham’s Harrison Pake, who lost a play-off in the Hampshire Open – against the cream of the county’s club professionals – at Royal Winchester, in July, will make his debut at Kent’s Wildernesse GC.
Stuart added: “John Gough – who played in the Walker Cup at St Andrews last month – has turned pro.
“He is playing in the Alfred Dunhill Championship in Scotland, this weekend, while his brother Conor, the 2021 English Amateur Champion, is back at college in the US.
“So both teams are missing some of their best players but I am confident we have more strength in depth and it’s just about executing our game plan on the day and producing the performance we need to win.”
Hampshire are going for a 10th win, having played in 15 finals over the last 59 years. Only Kent (12) and Surrey (16) have won the Telegraph Salver more.
SQUAD: Lawrence Cherry (capt), Ryan Henley, Harrison Pake (all Stoneham); Toby Burden (Hayling); Martin Young (Brokenhurst Manor); Darren Walkley (Liphook). Sam Parsons (Blackmoor); Luke Hodgetts (Hockley); Stuart Archibald (Test Valley).