MARK Burgess will be hoping the hard work put in so far this year by the Hampshire first-team squad will boost his chances of becoming just the second player ever to win the Selborne Salver twice.
Burgess, who delighted scores of Blackmoor members at the East Hampshire club with his win in 2009, would love to match the record of two-time Amateur Champion Peter McEvoy.
The latter is the second most-capped England international of all-time, who played in the Masters three times in the late 1970s, and went on to captain Great Britain and Ireland to back-to-back Walker Cup victories in 1999 and 2001. And his back-to-back Selborne Salver victories in 1979 and 1980 – the last two years he played at Augusta – has never been matched.
That is despite an honours board featuring plenty of Walker and Ryder Cup stars of the future – including Gordon Brand Jnr, Ross Fisher, Andy Sullivan and Matt Fitzpatrick, plus former Hampshire junior Jack Singh-Brar, who was picked for the Walker Cup team against the USA in 2017, alongside former county team-mates Harry Ellis and Corhampton’s Scott Gregory, who are both now playing on the European Challenge Tour.
Burgess, along with many of the top Hampshire players who have competed well at national level in the intervening 40 years since McEvoy set the bar, would argue that the early date in the amateur calendar negates any extra advantage from knowing the course well.
Victories by England squad members in 14 of the last 22 Selborne Salvers suggests that warm-winter training and competitions in Australia, Spain, Portugal and South Africa in the first four months of the year, have given them a bigger advantage.
Mark’s appeared in three English County Finals for Hampshire
But Burgess has great belief in his ability, despite now being 45 – some 25 years older than the current crop of young England stars. Mark dismissed any idea that the biggest win of his career had increased the pressure and expectation of another Salver win – when no other Blackmoor member has ever got his hands on the trophy.
He said: “ I don’t think that winning increased my expectation in future Salvers as I appreciate that it is a significant tournament which attracts some of the best players in the country, most of whom are full-time golfers.
“What it did do, however, was give me the confidence that when I play my best I can win any tournament I’m likely to play in. Unfortunately I haven’t had my best stuff in April since but it has definitely helped me elsewhere since.”
Before his win 13 years ago, Burgess had broken into the Hampshire side after his first Courage Trophy win in the county’s strokeplay title in 2006, a victory he repeated in 2010. He has played for Hampshire in three English County Finals, including their first title win in 21 years in 2017, at Trevose GC.
Mark Burgess also guaranteed Hampshire a share of the Daily Telegraph Salver when clawing out a half to tie Hertfordshire in the South East League Final at the end of the 2009 season and his big breakthrough win.
But the winner of 11 club championships at Blackmoor, who claimed the Justin Rose Mid-Amateur Trophy at North Hants last summer, is playing well as the 2022 season gets under way, having now fully recovered from the long-standing back problems that finally forced him to have an operation some three-and-a-half years ago.
County captain Neil Dawson has been putting the Hampshire squad through their paces with monthly practice sessions including foursomes matches at Southampton’s Stoneham, another heathland course like Blackmoor.
Captain Dawson impressed by first team squad’s early season displays
And Dawson has been surprised and impressed by the scoring. He said: “Stoneham is a course the guys know well and is scoreable for our players even in winter.
“But playing alternate shots is hard, it is very strategic and requires great course management, but the form the guys have shown, including Mark, so far has given me a lot of confidence for the season,” added the captain who will be a keen observer at the Salver, and the Hampshire Hog at his home club North Hants 24 hours later.
Mark Burgess agreed with his skipper. “Matchplay, either foursomes or singles, is very different to strokeplay. But any competitive golf helps prepare you for the next tournament.”
Of course the pandemic means this weekend will be the first time the Salver has been held in three years, and Burgess can’t wait. He revealed: “It was tough in 2020 in that a lot of the usual tournament schedule was cancelled.
“The bright side was that it meant I actually got to play regularly at Blackmoor throughout the summer which I really enjoyed. During the course of a normal year I play far more rounds away than I do there. The course has been great the last couple of years.
“This winter has seen bunker remodelling on five holes with the rest to be completed over the next two winters. They are now open and looking really good. ”
Hampshire’s Burden, Robson, Moody and Roope also in Salver field
Other Hampshire players in the Salver field include former county champions Hayling’s Toby Burden, and Tom Robson, from Rowlands Castle, and former county captain Colin Roope, a former Blackmoor member, who is now at Rowlands.
Burgess’s fellow first-teamer Ryan Moody, from Stoneham, the winner of the Courage Trophy in 2020 – and the runner-up to Burden in the Hampshire Order of Merit – is the fifth member of the county team in the field.
As in 2019 when Tiger claimed his fifth Green Jacket, the Masters is being played the same weekend as the Selborne Salver and Hampshire Hog, with the Hampshire Salver going to the player with the best 72-hole score.
Play gets under way at 8am on Saturday, with the second round of the Selborne Salver starting at lunchtime at the club in Whitehill. Play should be finished by 7pm, unless a play-off is required. To see the draw sheet for the first round click here – the second round draw is here.
Burgess’s memories of special day in Selborne Salver history
SO WHAT does the 2009 Selborne Salver winner remember of the day he made competition history after shooting two rounds of 66 to finish the day on six-under par?
Mark, who works in the drinks trade for William Grant, as a commerical finance manager, said: “The key thing that most often comes to mind is that I birdied the seventh and eagled the eighth in both rounds – which certainly helped.
“The wind was from the north east and most of the field have only played the course in the prevailing wind from the other direction, which gave me a big advantage.
“The toughest moment was when my playing partner Ryan Henley got to within one shot on the 15th tee in the afternoon. Fortunately a strong finish got me over the line, and also all of my friends from Blackmoor coming out to support in the afternoon, really helped,” added the Blackmoor veteran, who plays off plus-one.