JOE Buenfeld shot his lowest competitive round at Stoneham to win the Southampton club’s Stoneham Trophy, which counts to towards the Hampshire Order of Merit.
A stunning 64 in the opening round gave the Bramshaw GC member a six-shot lead at lunch – and followed that up with a hole-in-one at the eighth in his second round.
Although he picked up five more birdies in the afternoon along with that ace, the 2019 European Junior Open winner also made four bogeys and a double, to end up winning by one from fellow Stoneham member Alex Talbot, who charged home in 64, having carded a level-par 72 in his first round.
Buenfeld, the Texas-based US college golfer, will miss out on the chance of claming the Cullen Quaich awarded to the leading player at the end of the domestic season as the player whose home club is Bramshaw GC, heads back to San Antonio this weekend.
The final event of the 2023 Hampshire Order of Merit is the Courage Trophy, being held at Barton-on-Sea, early next month.
The 21-year-old – who lost the final of the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship against his best friend James Freeman at Stoneham last summer – felt his play had been building up towards another win since his return from the States at the end of May.
Joe, who lives in Romsey, said: “I have played quite well in my second year in Texas, without quite matching the success of last year.
“I had two top fives in eight events, and finished 19th at the end-of-season Southland Conference, and since I got home, I have been playing steadily with the results generally heading in the right direction.”
Buenfeld has become a fixture in the Hampshire South East League team over the last three summers, and was joint lowest scorer in Hampshire’s South East Qualifier when captain Lawrence Cherry’s six-man team were runners-up to Kent, last month.
And having finished third in the English U25s Championship at Woburn in the build-up to the Six-man qualifier, it was no surprise to see the Cardinals 2022 Southland Conference Player of the Year bag his first Stoneham Trophy.
Starting from the 10th, Joe picked up a birdie-four at the 12th, before making another four at the par-five 14th, and a birdie-three at the 15th to make a flying start.
He then birdied the next two par-fives – the 18th and the first – before completing a hat-trick at the short second, adding another two at the seventh after chipping in from off the green.
A three at the ninth completed his 64 having made four birdies on each side of the course, set in an old deer park, next to the M27.
Buenfeld said: “I played very steadily and it’s always nice to have a bogey-free card, especially when you shoot a low one.
“I got to the turn and made those three in a row, and did start to think a bit about how low I could go. It does cross your mind, but it didn’t really affect me.”
The quality of the round was emphasised by the fact Buenfeld was the only player to break 70 in the 60-strong field of nearly all the best amateurs in Hampshire.
Indeed, last year’s English Mid-Amtaeur Champion Stuart Archibald, from Test Valley, was the only other player to break par with his 71.
Archibald and Buenfeld were paired in the same three-ball but the lunchtime leader looked to carry on where he left off, with birdies at the first and second to stretch his lead by one.
But the three-time EuroPro winner, who won the Mike Smith Memorial at Brokenhurst when it was reduced to one round by rain, two years ago, picked up three birdies in the first five holes to cut the lead back to five.
Both players dropped a shot at six, and the leader frittered another shot at the seventh, before responding in style with his ace at the 163-yard eighth.
Joe said: “We could not see the ball go in the hole from the tee, but the pitch mark was right next to the hole.”
That took Buenfeld to 10-under but he gave the two shots back with a double at the par-three 10th.
Talbot in the group behind was now the real danger having got to the turn in three-under with five birdies and two dropped shots.
Buenfeld found three birdies in a row from the 12th, to get to 11-under, but Talbot responded, making three at the short 13th and eagling the 14th to get to six-under in total,
The leader finished with two bogeys to post nine-under, leaving Talbot needing an eagle on the last to force extra holes, but his own 64 marked a turning point after three difficult years at Boise State University, even if he was disappointed to end up a shot shy.
But the 2016 Hampshire Junior Champion did have the satisfaction of winning the Solent Salver for the best 72-hole aggregate, having finished fifth in the Mike Smith Memorial Trophy at Brokenhurst Manor, 24 hours earlier.
Talbot’s total of four-under par was one better than Buenfeld, who was 10th in the New Forest. Eleven players have won both the Stoneham Trophy and the Solent Salver in the same season, since the aggregate prize was introduced in 1994,
Buenfeld joins six previous Stoneham members to have won the trophy since its inception in 1982 – Alan Mew (1988), Peter Dedman (1991), Andy Haworth (1996), Darren Henley (2000), Shaun Justice (2003), Ryan Henley (2001, 2004, 2012, 2013 and 2016).
Two Ryder Cup players have captured the Stoneham Trophy – Steve Richardson in 1987 and 1989, while Justin Rose won it in 1995. But it eluded two of Stoneham’s most successful amateurs of the last 30 years, Richard Bland and David Porter.